Forty Years Later

As Elquemedo Willet sat down at NTV studios for a brief exclusive interview, he appeared calm and composed.

However he spoke to the ‘nerves’ he felt almost 40 years ago on a very significant occasion for himself, for Nevis and the Leeward Islands.

There are still a few more days to go because the actual date is the 9th of March.

That is when history was created. Elquemedo Tonito Willet at age 19 became not only the first Nevisian but even more significantly, the first Leeward islander to break into the West Indies cricket team.

Willet remembers clearly that he was representing the Combined Islands in a match versus Jamaica been played in St.Vincent. He was in the process of completing a six wicket haul against a strong Jamaica team in the second innings. Suddenly, there was an unusual buzz in the crowd which signaled that something had happened. Alf Coriette fielding on the boundary was the one to pass on the message. A radio announcement had just been made that Elquemedo Willet was included in the second test match in the ongoing series versus Australia.

Willet does not remember returning home. ‘I think I travelled directly to Barbados but stated that he received numerous telegrams from back home congratulating him and wishing him well. ‘Those days we did not have cell phones—it was telegrams,’ he laughed.

He noted that he went to Barbados as part of a 13 member team but felt within himself that he would make it into the final 11. Asked about his feeling during the night prior to the test match, Willet laughed. ‘I think I slept well. I was not worried about anything and although there were no other Leeward islanders in the squad, the other guys welcomed me and made me feel comfortable,’ he said.
However, the big day March 9th was another matter. “I think it was Captain Rohan Khanai who broke the news to me –or maybe it was the Manager but that announcement was not made until about an hour before the start of play.’

That is when the great man admitted that he suffered from a bout of ‘nerves’. He indicated that when he walked out on the field of play, his legs felt wobbly. ‘There were butterflies in my stomach. I was nervous,’ he admitted.

Willet cannot remember how his first ball went but vaguely remembers that his first over was a maiden. He said that as he continued to bowl, he settled down nicely and then fully got into his game.

He remembers his first wicket. He clean bowled bowling all rounder, Kerry O’Keefe. ‘That was a proud moment,’ he said with a smile.

Willet is happy that he was able to clear the path for great cricketers such as Sir Vivian Richards and Andy Roberts, among others and was also quick to point out that no fewer than six other Nevisians have made it to the prestigious team since.

He pointed to Saeed Williams (son of Stuart Williams) as probably the most likely to be the next best bet for Windies colours but also mentioned Ross Powell and Philo Wallace and a few others who have the potential to go all the way.

His advice to the youngsters: ‘Set yourself goals and work at it. In my day we concentrated on playing cricket. Keep away from bad company. Do the hard work—training, practice—you will make it,’ he admonished.

Asked if he will be doing anything special come Saturday, the man who now claims that he cannot even get his bowling arm above his head, again smiled and said, ‘nothing special. I am just taking it one day at a time.’

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