Everything Under the SunAlex Fensome |
Author: Stollmeyer, Jeff
Publisher: Stanley Paul
Rating: 3 stars
Jeff Stollmeyer is not a well known figure in the history of West Indies cricket. A white man from a privileged Trinidad cocoa planting family, he never had to face the challenges experienced by the black and Asian cricketers he played with. Yet he was at the heart of West Indian cricket as it transformed from a loose and fractious coalition of colonial teams to become one of the greatest sides cricket has ever seen. Stollmeyer himself became captain of the West Indies and saw at first hand the waning Headley; the blossoming of the genius of Worrell, Weekes and Walcott; and the feats of Ramadhin and Valentine. After retiring from cricket, he enjoyed a long career as an administrator. This self-penned 1983 autobiography tells the story of his career.
It is fair to say Stollmeyer did not possess much literary talent; the prose throughout is rather bland. But the interesting story makes up for this.
Stollmeyer was a good batsman, capable of scoring over 2,000 test runs with an average of more than 40 in tests, though he devotes little time to discussing his own achievements. He does not elaborate much upon his 104 for West Indies against Australia in 1951-52, where he faced up to an Australian attack that had been dominating even the more talented players in his side. He is more concerned with the successes of the team. It was particularly interesting to read about the development of Ramadhin and Valentine during the 1950 series in England- Stollmeyer describes that watershed tour at length. Worrell, Weekes and Walcott also feature prominently and it is obvious how much respect Stollmeyer had for them both as batsmen and as people.
It was also revealing that Stollmeyer’s mentor on the 1939 tour of England was George Headley, who taught him more about cricket than anyone. The book is an insight into the attitudes of white West Indian cricketers like Stollmeyer and his friend Gerry Gomez, both of whom played a part in making the white establishment accept it was time for a black man to be the captain of the West Indies, though Stollmeyer doesn’t deal with this at much length in the book, which was surprising. He does however include chapters about the South Africa situation of the time and the Packer years, when he was President of the West Indies Cricket Board.
As with any book published many years ago, it was intriguing to read about the things that concerned Stollmeyer for the future. Two things struck me; first, that even in 1983 football was overtaking cricket as the main sport in many of the islands. Second, a warning that as each island became more independent the West Indies team might fracture under the pressure of politics and inter-island rivalry. In his playing days Stollmeyer had seen the Windies come together as a united force, and he feared a rise in nationalism within the game, for ‘without unity we will count for nothing in the world of cricket.’ Both of these observations seem very astute given the present sad state of the West Indies team.
I came to this book not knowing much about the history of West Indies cricket or indeed the region itself and it is definitely very informative. Though it doesn’t hit literary heights it is enjoyable, and would be of interest to anyone interested in the history of cricket in the Windies.