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West Indies legend Seymour Nurse dies

LEGEND: Seymour Nurse in action

SEYMOUR NURSE, who has died on May 6 aged 85 years, was a spectacularly powerful stroke-player, and exceptional close fielder, whose style of batting would have been purpose-made for the World Cup, the latest competition for which starts later this month.

Unfortunately, his career preceded by a decade the institution of this trophy. The Barbadian was outstanding in the Golden Age of West Indies stroke-play in the 1960s.

Nurse first came to international attention by hitting 213 – and a 306 runs third-wicket partnership with Garry Sobers – for the island against the England touring team over the 1959/60 New Year festival, and closed with 258 against New Zealand in the Test match at Christchurch in March 1969.

As he had hit 95 and 168 at Auckland earlier in the same series, Nurse’s retirement from the international game on the eve of the tour to England a couple of months later was a surprise. At the time he had a justifiable claim to being the best, and certainly most exciting, batsman in the world.

Why then is Nurse sometimes overlooked in the Caribbean pantheon of greatness and had to wait until 1966 before he could confirm his place in the West Indies team?

One answer is that he had to contend for selection with what was probably the greatest array of middle-order batsmen ever seen – Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher and Frank Worrell. It was only the last-named’s retirement that opened up the permanent vacancy for him.

Nurse’s performance in his early years was also uneven. He scored an impressive 70 on his Test debut against England at Sabina Park in 1960, only to be dropped for the next match while the selectors persuaded recently-retired legend Clyde Walcott to come back into the side for the rest of the series.

Nurse came back for the Test at Melbourne in 1961, scoring 70 again as he and Kanhai shared a third-wicket stand of 123 in the debacle total of 181.

He didn’t pass fifty again in the rubber at the end of which he lost his place to his left-handed compatriot Peter Lashley with whom he would compete for selection whenever a vacancy occurred.

Nurse played only once in the 5-0 whitewash of India in 1962 and as a supporting act missed out on the historic Test series in England the following year, in spite of some storming performances against the counties.

Worrell’s retirement at the end of that tour gave Nurse his chance in the home rubber against Australia in 1965, but not immediately. He was dropped again after being tried unsuccessfully as an opener, before being recalled into his regular middle-order position.

The Barbadian came back with a vengeance by hitting 201 on his home pitch in Bridgetown which enabled West Indies to force a draw after the Australians had scored 650-6 dec.

Nurse forced home his credentials in England in 1966 with an unusually even achievement of making 93 and 53 at Nottingham, 137 (in a 265 runs fifth-wicket partnership with Sobers at Leeds), and a couple of other half-centuries along the way. His deeds won him recognition as a prestigious Wisden Cricketer of the Year after that the selection was his.
He contributed 136 to West Indies’ commanding position against England at Port of Spain in 1968, which beguiled captain Sobers into making a premature, and losing, second innings declaration.

After a comparatively quiet start to the Australasian tour in 1968/69, Nurse exploded into form by hitting 137 in the concluding Test against Australia at Sydney and, as we have seen, rampaged through New Zealand. Then it was all over.
As far as international cricket was concerned Seymour MacDonald Nurse picked up his bat and walked off – though he did play on for Barbados for a few more years.

Mere figures cannot convey the panache and sheer power of Nurse in full flight at the wicket. Perhaps those who saw Collis King, another Barbadian, annihilate England’s attack with an array of hitting in the World Cup final of 1979 would have some idea.

Seymour Nurse was born at Jack-My-Nanny Gap, Black Rock, St Michael on 10th November 1933 and died at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, Bridgetown on May 6 2019.

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