By John L. Aaron
This Saturday evening, Atlantis Cricket Club – NY will honor legendary Barbados and West Indies Test cricketer, Sir Charlie Griffith and bestow upon him honorary life membership. The New York based cricket club is also celebrating its 52nd anniversary as a cricket and community centered organization.
Sir Charles Christopher Griffith is the 16th former West Indies Test player to be so honored by Atlantis. The list includes Clive Lloyd, Lance Gibbs, Alvin Kallicharran, Sir Curtly Ambrose, Sir Andy Roberts and Michael Holding. Stephanie Power a former Trinidad & Tobago and West Indies women’s Test captain and Assistant Coach is the only former female Test player among the list of those previously honored by Atlantis.
Charlie Griffith, as he was known throughout most of his cricketing career was made a Knight of St. Andrew last December, and is now known as Sir Charles Griffith. He is one-half of the much feared fast bowling duo of Hall and Griffith; with the Reverend Sir Wesley Winfield Hall as his pace partner in Test cricket. The pair is among fellow Barbadian Test cricketers, Knighted by Her Majesty the Queen. The others are Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Conrad Hunte, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Clyde Walcott and Sir Everton Weekes.
Opening at one end with Wes Hall at the other, Charlie Griffith was one of the most feared fast bowlers in the arsenal of West Indies cricket, in an era when Test cricket was considered the apex of the sport and fast bowling was used as a lethal strategy against the opposition. It was also a period when Test cricket drew some of the biggest crowds at venues around the world. During the 1960-61 Test series West Indies vs. Australia at Adelaide, the attendance record was almost 91,000. Today’s attendance at Test matches are nowhere near such incredible numbers.
Charles Christopher Griffith, was born on the small island of Barbados, in the Parish of St. Lucy, in the West Indies. In the early days, while he played club cricket he was a right-arm spinner but unfortunately for many batsmen, Charlie Griffith switched to right-arm pace bowling and during a club cricket match he captured 7 wickets for one run. Yes! Seven wickets for one solitary run. Thus, emerged one-half of the future fearsome duo.
One year before Charlie Griffith was born at Pie Corner, in St. Lucy, another Barbadian baby was born on September 12 in the Parish of St. Michael, some twelve miles away. Like Walsh and Ambrose, Marshall and Garner, and Holding and Roberts, the names Hall and Griffith were synonymous with fast bowling and West Indies cricket. Charlie Griffith named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1964, played 28 Test matches and 96 First-class matches; capturing a combined total of 426 scalps along the way. However, it was between 1960 and 1969 that Charlie Griffith seared his way into the memories and other soft tissue of opposing batsmen.
One cannot mention the ferocious bowling of the 6’ 3” Charlie Griffith without mentioning Indian Test cricketer Nari Contractor who dared to face the gentle, fast and fearless Barbadian Phenom. The encounter was not a pleasant one for the then Indian captain, as Contractor was on the receiving end of a vicious delivery and a very serious head injury. During the Test career of Charlie Griffith, the fast bowler did not escape controversy, as some questioned his bowling action. However, an equal number of pundits and those with a discerning eye dismissed any such claims.
The criticism of some in the media and the Australian and English teams at the time, may have had an effect on the ferocious nature of Charlie Griffith’s bowling, nonetheless he still struck fear into the hearts of batsmen awaiting his lengthy run up to delivery. The giant fast bowler has a heart of gold and was very remorseful over the Nari Contractor incident, although later breaking the nose of another Indian batsman Vijay Manjrekar.
Despite the opposition to Charlie Griffith’s bowling attack and his belief that it was a plot to get rid of him, he wrote in his 1970 memoir that the world of cricket was still good to him, adding, “It afforded me an opportunity to achieve reasonable economic stability and, at the same time, improved the lot of my parents and family.”
One of eight children, Charlie Griffith made his Test debut on March 25, 1960 against England at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and played his last Test match against New Zealand on March 13, 1969 at Christchurch. Charlie Griffith recalls his first Test match – the 5th and final Test of the 1959-60 West Indies series against England. It was the then 20-year old second First-class match and he recalls wondering what on earth he had gotten himself into, when then Honorary Secretary of the Barbados Cricket Association arrived at his home and asked the young Charlie Griffith if he was ready, to which the broadly shouldered young man replied, “Yes!” He however, believes that experience of being thrown into the “deep end”, helped him deal with adversity and overcoming obstacles later in his life, making him a stronger person along the way.
Despite retiring from First-class cricket, the athletic Charlie Griffith continued to play cricket and toured England and Australia well into the 1980s. A true testimony to his fitness as a bowler and disciplined approach to a healthy lifestyle. He has been very instrumental in the success story that is the Barbados Cricket League, and served as President of Empire Cricket Club in Barbados, as well as Chairman of the Barbados Senior Cricket Selection Panel.
Last December, the Pie Corner, St. Lucy lad Charles Christopher Griffith, was made a Knight of St. Andrew, in recognition of his enormous contribution to sport, particularly cricket, entrepreneurship, leadership, and business development. He is also a 1992 recipient of the Barbados Silver Crown of Merit. Sir Charles joined an elite group of fellow Barbadian Test Cricket Knights – Sir Conrad Hunte, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Garfield Sobers, and Sir Everton Weeks.
Atlantis President, John Aaron, said, “West Indies cricket owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to a pair of cricket soldiers – Sir Charles Christopher Griffith and his 6’ 5” pace bowling partner The Reverend Sir Wesley Winfield Hall, for their contributions to cricket, when pace bowling was an early lethal weapon in the arsenal of West Indies cricket.”
The 52nd Annual Awards Presentation Dinner will be held at Glen Terrace Ballroom, 5313 Avenue N, Brooklyn, NY 11210 with cocktails at 9:00pm and the awards ceremony and dinner at 10:00pm.