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Flash in the Pan as the Fastest Bowler of World Cricket Roy Gilchrist Lasted Just One Season

MG is an air warrior with a distinguished career and now a corporate advisor, writer, and intrepid traveler and novelist


Roy Gilchrist

In 1934 was born one of the fastest bowlers in the world of cricket ever. He was Roy Gilchrist. He was born at Saint Thomas in Jamaica and died at the age of 67 in 2001 of Parkinson's disease.

Gilchrist played only 13 tests and took 57 test wickets. The figures do no justice to the man who was terribly fast. The fact is the career of Gilchrist ended prematurely and the last test he played was the age of 24 and he was never called again to the West Indies team. Gilchrist remained unsung all these years and when he passed away nobody really took any notice about it. Perhaps his mercurial temperament had something to do with his banishment from the cricket arena.

Gilchrist made his debut against England in 1957 and then played the series against Pakistan at home in 58-59. Among the galaxy of pace bowlers from the West Indies Gilchrist holds the record as a tearaway pace bowler who was potent and fearful.

Gilchrist was only 5 ft 8 in tall, but he had long legs and used them to great advantage to generate tremendous pace. Chandu Borde the Indian batsman who faced both Wes Hall and Gilchrist rated Gilchrist the faster bowler than Hall. Gilchrist was indeed a very pacy bowler, but he had a mean streak in him and that proved his undoing.


Gilchrist in India

The West Indies cricket team toured India in the winter of 1958-59. The captain of the team was Gary Alexander and there were many star players in the team like Garfield Sobers and Rohan Kanhai. Gilchrist was selected as the spearhead of the pace attack along with Wesley Hall.

The first test was played at Bombay at the Brabourne Stadium. The wicket was dead but even then Gilchrist worked up a fearful pace. During this Test match, Gilchrist at times bowled what is called 'Beamer' at the Indian batsmen. A beamer is a full toss almost aimed at the head of the batsmen. Alexander the skipper warned Gilchrist on bowling Beamers and he was dropped for the second Test at Kanpur.

Gilchrist it appeared had a mean streak in him and unlike his other partner Wesley Hall who never intimidated the batsmen, Gilchrist was the exact opposite. He bowled beamers and at his lethal pace, it is a wonder that no batsman suffered a serious injury. Despite being admonished by Gary Alexander, Gilchrist maintained that in the laws of cricket there was nothing to prevent a Beamer from being bowled.

In the next three test matches, Gilchrist was at his fiery best. In the Calcutta test, he shell shocked the Indians with an exhibition of fast bowling and took nine wickets sending the Indians to an innings defeat. In the fourth test match at Madras, he was again lethal and the Indians could not negotiate the pace of Gilchrist and lost Roy the Indian opener when facing Gilchrist in the Calcutta test reportedly commented that facing Gilchrist was like facing bullets.

His mean streak came to the fore in the fourth Test at Nagpur, A.G. Kripal Singh had struck three consecutive fours to him and taunted him. Then Gilchrist’s bad temper annoyed him and he deliberately overstepped by six meters and sent a ferocious bouncer which hit the Sikh batsman on the head and dislodged his turban.

The fifth test match was played in Delhi which the Indians were able to be draw but reports were coming in of friction in the West Indies team and conduct of Gilchrist who refused to listen to the captain.

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Banned for life

The volcano erupted after the fifth test match during a first-class match between the West Indies team in Punjab. The Punjab team was led by Swaranjit Singh who was the classmate of Garry Alexander at Oxford.

Gilchrist knew that Swaranjit Singh was the classmate of Gary Alexander. He decided to get at Alexander by bowling Beamers to Swaranjit Singh. The flashpoint came when Swarnjit Singh drove Gilchrist for 4. This incensed the West Indian pace bowler, who bowled 3 beamers at Singh's head. Singh was lucky to survive as the tremendous pace directed at the head was enough to decimate any player. Alexander who was the captain and wicketkeeper watched and then took Gilchrist off. He told him he would be sent home.

Gilchrist was packed on the next flight back to West Indies. There were reports of a fiery showdown with Alexander and some reports suggest Gilchrist pulled out a knife. He was restrained by other players who caught him. That was the end of Roy Gilchrist the West Indies cricket Board never selected him for the West Indies team again. In a way, Gilchrist cooked his own goose. Gilchrist lived a quiet life after being banned from test cricket. He married and had seven children.

Gilchrist however as a pace bowler was sublime. The great Hanif Mohammed who faced Gilchrist later remarked that he was terrified of Gilchrist's pace. Gilchrist was indeed fast, maybe as fast as Shoib or Larwood. But the sad part is that because of his maverick ways Gilchrist had to bow out of test cricket. But for that brief period in 1957-59, Roy Gilchrist did enough to be rated as one of the fastest bowlers of all time.


MG Singh (author) from UAE on July 10, 2020:

Thank you Devika for your comment

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 10, 2020:

MG Singh it is a surprise to read this hub. You haven't written much in a while. Cricket is a popular sport among different nationalities and learning about Roy Gilchrist is new to me

MG Singh (author) from UAE on July 08, 2020:

Eric, thank you for commenting

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 08, 2020:

Really interesting. I knew nothing of the sport. Your history was cool on Gilchrest. Thank you.

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