Born on October 30, 1962, Courtney Andrew Walsh is a former West Indies fast bowler and a legend of the game. Hailing from Jamaica, Walsh was a member of the great West Indian fast bowling quartet that took the Caribbean cricket to the pinnacle of the world cricket. He was a part of the West Indies team for the period of 1984 to 2001.
Walsh was born to parents Joan Wollaston and Eric Walsh and raised on Molynes Road in the Half Way Tree area of Kingston, Jamaica. Walsh played his early cricket for the same cricket club for which another West Indian great Michael Holding also played. For a club based in Jamaica, it had a rather amusing name – The Melbourne club.
In the year 1979, when he was aged 17, Walsh took all 10 wickets to fall in an innings playing for the Excelsior High School’s Sunlight Cup Cricket team. The team at the receiving end was Camperdown High School’s team. Three years later, he was playing First-Class cricket for Jamaica.
Though Walsh was fondly called as ‘Mark’ or ‘Cuddy’ by his friends and relatives, he got the nickname ‘Duracell’ by his team-mates at Gloucestershire, an English county club for which he played for 14 long years. He got the name because of his ability to bowl long spells.
Walsh’s Test debut came in the year 1984 against Australia during the first Test of the Frank Worrell Trophy at Perth. He made his debut alongside the legends such as Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Joel Garner and had little to do in the first innings. The pace-trio skittled the Australians for a paltry 76, with Holding taking six wickets and Garner and Marshall two each. Walsh was a mere spectator on the field. He, however, got a chance to bowl in the second innings and he picked up two wickets. Batsman Graeme Wood was his first international victim in the match that West Indies won by an innings margin.
Against Sri Lanka in December 1986, during a One-Day International (ODI) match at Sharjah, Walsh took five wickets conceding just one run. He was used as a fifth bowler in the match that West Indies won by 193 runs. Walsh ran through the Sri Lankan tail, registering the cheapest five-wicket haul in international history. He finished with a dream spell of 4.4-3-1-5, his solitary five-wicket haul in the format.
During the 1987 World Cup Walsh won millions of hearts when he refused to ‘Mankad’ Saleem Jaffar – a gesture that ultimately cost West Indies a World Cup semi-final berth for the first time. The famous incident happened when an unplayable Walsh was coming running to bowl the fourth ball of his over at the crucial stage of the match and found non striker Jaffar already leaving the crease to take the next run. Walsh, despite having all the time in the world to just knock down the stumps at the non striker’s end and run Jaffer out, just stopped bowling and signalled him with his eyes to get back into the crease. This act of magnanimity from the legendary fast bowler cost West Indies the match, as Abdul Qadir scored the winning runs. Walsh received a hand-woven carpet from a local fan and was hailed for his true sportsmanship.
Walsh became the first bowler ever to take a Test hat-trick spanning over two innings in the first Test of the Frank Worrell Trophy at Brisbane in the year 1988. His victims included Tony Dodemaide in the first innings and Mike Veletta and Graeme Wood in the second.
In the earlier stages of his career, Walsh played second fiddle to the likes of Marshall, Holding and Garner. Later on, he formed a deadly partnership with Curtley Ambrose and the two together took 412 wickets between them at 22.10 in 52 Tests.
In the year 1998, Walsh went past Marshall’s Mark of 376 Test wickets to become the West Indies leading wicket-taker during the first Test against South Africa in Johannesburg. In 1999, he became the first West Indian and only third bowler in Test history, after Kapil Dev (434) and Sir Richard Hadlee (431), to take 400 test wickets. Soon he went past both Kapil and Hadlee and eventually became the first man to reach the milestone of 500 Test wickets.
Walsh also holds the record for the most “not outs” in Test cricket — 61 times. He had an unbreakable body, for he holds the record for most balls bowled by a fast bowler in the history of Test cricket — 30,019. He has been honored with awards like being one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1987 and West Indian Cricket Cricketer of the Year in 1988.
During the 2000 series against England, when Walsh was at the fag end of his career, he produced a famous slow yorker in the Old Trafford Test with which he completely out-foxed England batsman Graham Thorpe.
He played his last Test against South Africa in 2001 where the West Indies team won the match. In January 2000 he played his last ODI against New Zealand. After he retired he was contracted as Bangladesh’s bowling coach. He was included in ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in 2010.