Seymour Nurse was an outstanding batsman | Daily News
Great West Indies side of the sixties

Seymour Nurse was an outstanding batsman

 Seymour Nurse batting against the Duke of Norfolk’s XI at Arundel Castle in 1966, on the tour of England that established his place in the West Indies team.
Seymour Nurse batting against the Duke of Norfolk’s XI at Arundel Castle in 1966, on the tour of England that established his place in the West Indies team.

Nobody has bowed out from international cricket on such a high note as the elegant and flamboyant West Indies batsman Seymour Nurse, who has died aged 85.

An exciting talent even by the standards of the gifted West Indies batting lineups of the 1960s, he scored 258 in his final Test match against New Zealand in 1969, a world record for anyone in the last innings of their international career. Although only 35 at the time, and one of the top five batsmen in the world, he had already announced his retirement and stuck to his decision, despite averaging 111 in his last series.

At the age of 26, Nurse had come late to Test cricket and would have seen plenty more games at that level if he had decided to play on. But he was a family man and, in an era when cricket’s financial rewards were small, no longer wanted to be parted for long periods from his wife and children.

As a result he played just 29 Tests in all, which was a poor return for someone of his stylish ability. In any other era he might have clocked up twice that amount, but it was a time when the West Indies had a superabundance of middle-order batting resources, from Rohan Kanhai and Garfield Sobersdownwards.

Although he made his debut against England in 1960 in Jamaica, it was not until 1966 that Nurse established himself in the team. Aside from the intense competition for places and some frustrating injuries, his restless batting style sometimes worked against him.

If he had been able to make more of the chances he had to open the batting he might have starred on the Test scene earlier and more regularly. But he had no interest in patting the ball back down the wicket.

A powerfully built right-handed batsman, he was forever seeking an opportunity to score brisk runs in fluent, wristy style. When he was chosen as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1967, the cricketing bible hailed him as “a stroke-maker fit to line up with credit beside the likes of George Headley, Frank Worrell and Everton Weekes”.

Born at Jack-My-Nanny Gap in Bridgetown, Barbados, Nurse was the youngest of two boys and two girls, and his father was a carpenter. Although good academically, he left school at 16 to make a living and to pursue his interests in sport. He played football for Barbados and quickly established himself as an exuberant batsman at the famous Empire cricket club in Bridgetown, where he learned much from the great Weekes.

Barbadians at the time were the royalty of West Indian cricket, and Bridgetown the capital city that hosted them. Nurse was able to benefit from the assured, confident cricketing atmosphere that prevailed in his home town, and to flourish in the company of many gifted contemporaries.

His talent came to general attention in December 1959 when, with only four first-class games for Barbados under his belt, he scored 213 in six and a quarter hours against the touring MCC. An ankle injury to Worrell allowed Nurse to squeeze into the third match of the subsequent home Test series, in which he scored 70 in his first innings. He had arrived at Sabina Park in Jamaica with only a patched up, broken bat, and had to be lent an unfamiliar new one. But he used it to good effect, hitting his first ball, from Brian Statham, to the cover boundary.

Nurse was subsequently taken on the 1960 tour of Australia, but played a low-key role, partly because of injury. He made little more impact when the West Indies visited England in 1963, despite having picked up valuable experience of English conditions playing as the professional for Ramsbottom in the Lancashire League during 1961 and 1962.

In 1965, during the home series against Australia, he finally made his mark with 201 in the third Test in Bridgetown, and despite doing little else in the series, was picked for the next year’s tour to England.

Prior to this point, as Wisden noted, “there was … a nagging thought that, while a delight to the purists, Nurse had a temperament not really suitable to the rigours of international cricket.” That all changed in 1966. He became the heartbeat of the team throughout the summer, hitting a joyous 137 at Headingley and a majestic 93 in difficult circumstances at Trent Bridge. For the first time he played throughout a Test series, amassing 501 runs at 62.62 and reaching 50 or more in five of the Tests. His excellent close fielding was a standout feature of the tour. A quiet international schedule gave him only one Test in 1967, and by 1968, when West Indies visited Australia and New Zealand, Nurse had told his captain, Sobers, that he would call it a day at the end of the Australian leg. He was persuaded to stay on for New Zealand, and made 558 runs in the three Tests there, hitting 168 in 215 minutes during the first before his record breaking effort in his last innings.

Nurse’s truncated Test career had yielded 2,523 runs, including six centuries, at 47.60 per innings – statistics that still make him one of the leading West Indies batsmen of all time. He finished playing first-class cricket in 1972, with an average of 43.93 from 141 matches. But there remained a feeling of potential greatness unfulfilled.

After retiring as a player, Nurse coached cricket in schools for the National Sports Council in Barbados, served as a selector for the national team, played club matches well into middle age, and helped subsequent generations of West Indies Test players with their techniques.

Celebrated as a cricketing artist in the island of his birth, he appeared on a special Barbados stamp in 2007.

He is survived by his twin daughters, Roseanne and Cherylanne. – the guardian


 

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