By:St.Clair Sazam Hull
There is always that one moment in life, where an individual can capture a person’s imagination. About four years ago, I was present at the Cultural Village looking at a bunch of kids practicing cricket on the hard court. It started to drizzle and practice was halted for a little while. The kids sheltered under a booth owned by Sandy from Brown Hill. The drizzle lasted for a short period and when it was over, practice resumed. The very first ball on resumption was an ominous bouncer, it whizzed past the batsman’s head and he decided to call it quits, where his batting was concerned.
Cricket, in general is a dangerous sport but it can be more perilous, when a ball is traveling at express speed towards your body. Many have suffered broken bones and some have even lost their lives. The hard court is not a place to be taken lightly. I have seen players such as Stuart Williams, who many considered to have been equipped with ‘Eagle Eyes’, took evasive actions on the hard court. The sound of balls smashing into the windows behind the stage is never welcoming to the ears.
To my dismay, this young player, who seemed frightened by nothing, said he was going to take a knock. I warned him about his decision, because when the court gets wet balls usually travel at Patrick Patterson’s speed. He responded by saying, “Don’t worry man everything safe”, I said, “Okay den if you say so”.
First ball he received was short of a good length and he defended it on the offside. Second ball he stroked it effortlessly passed the bowler and posed on the shot for about ten seconds. The bowler saw him posing and to be quite honest, even I standing from the sidelines was eager to see what would have happened next. Two more balls were delivered from two different bowlers, he was beaten by one and the other was cut ferociously in similar fashion to that of Gordon Greenidge, the former Barbados and West Indies opening batsman.
Then the moment arrived. The bowler who had gotten the straight drive opted to bowl the ‘inevitable’, a bouncer which was dispatched over a booth, over the wall and down into the park. It was hit with supreme authority and to make the spectacle more interesting, the young batsman came down and tapped the court as if he was batting on a cricket pitch.
Shortly after, all the bowlers were delivering vicious bouncers. He ducked under some; a few missed his head only by millimeters while treating the others with complete contempt by either hitting them out of the playing area, or smashing them against the installed booths. His brilliance was displayed with both front and back foot. Although his name was unknown to me at the time, I knew I was witnessing a very special talent, and he had bookmarked himself in the annexes of my mind forever.
When practice concluded, I asked him what his name was and he told me “Philo”. I said, “You bat like a guy from Barbados whose name is Philo Wallace”. He pointed out that his last name was Wallace also and that Raffie is his father. From what I had witnessed, I had every reason to believe that he was going to play for West Indies, and I showed no hesitation by saying it to him. Being the humble lad he was, all he did was laughed and I made my departure shortly afterwards.
From that day onwards, I followed his progress until he was no more. Philo was the consummate cricketer who excelled in every aspect of the game. He was a highly skilled off spin bowler who mesmerized batsmen with his guile and cunningness. He was also a well accomplished batsman, who choose to play his best innings when his team was in adverse situations. Philo graduated from the junior ranks of under- 13, under -15, under -17, and under -19 teams right up to Nevis’ senior team.
He also represented the Leeward Islands at the under -15 and under-19 levels. Even though his talent was evident, it came as no surprise since he came from a traditional family cricketing background.
His father Raphael ‘Raffie’ Wallace represented Nevis and the Leeward Islands teams. His cousins, the Willett brothers, Tonitto and Akito are seasoned Nevisian Cricketers. He played for Government Road All Stars, a team that has produced a number of Test and First Class cricketers.
Philo was also a person who condemned injustice. A few months ago, when the Leeward Islands under-19 team traveled to Jamaica, one of Philo’s teammates who played for Nevis, Shelton Forbes was left out of the touring party. Philo felt as though he was unjustly treated and insisted that I should speak about it. He was of the perspective, that by scoring the second most runs in the tournament, Shelton had justified his selection and should have definitely been on the team. In that same tournament, Philo topped the batting aggregate with a total of 345 runs scored from 5 innings. He also grabbed 15 wickets with his deceptive off spinners.
In the wee hours of Saturday, October 17, 2015, Philo lost his life tragically at a local bar in Charlestown. The country has been saddened by his passing. Family and friends are trying to cope with his untimely demise. Such a gifted talent snuffed away in the wink of an eye. Death has done all that death can do and as Philo goes on his way, we are only left with the joyful memories that he shared with us. Memories that are worth our tears. There was no doubt that once he had kept a steady head between his shoulders, he was bound to go all the way. Years from now, we will look back and say a boy was deprived of maximizing his full potential because of an unfortunate incident.
May God continue to bless Philo Wallace, and I trust and hope that his young soul rest in eternal peace.