Test cricket is a format made exclusively for the toughest blokes out there. It truly justifies ‘ Survival of the fittest ‘ concept which is why it is cluttered with an extensive number of players who played one game and then disappeared as they failed to make a mark in their only assignment. And there are also a few who made their mark, impressed everyone but still got overlooked for selection any further. One of those was Rodney Redmond from New Zealand who scored a 100 and a 50 in the 2 innings of the only Test he played but failed to play anymore because of his inability to adjust with his contact lenses.
And then there was Andy Ganteaume, whose story wasn’t as tragic as Redmond’s but it was more obscene. Ganteaume was a Caribbean cricketer who started his Test career in 40s before playing first class cricket for Trinidad as the wicketkeeper-batsman. He started his first class career without any formal coaching. He came at 8, scored 87, went to continue his job for Trinidad civil services & represent their soccer side.
In those days, West Indian cricket was obsessed with the idea of making wicket keeper batsmen open the inning because they used to have an awareness about the wicket already due to keeping the wickets. It was absurd, but it forced Andy to become an opener against his will in West Indies’ tour of England in 1947.
When England came to West Indies, Ganteaume scored 101 and 47 not out in the first tour game giving signs of his capabilities but he was adversely criticized for his slow batting. He took entire day to score his 100 and the match ended in a draw. He followed it up with scores of 5 and 90.
” No praise for a batsman who in these beautiful conditions takes a whole day to make a hundred. ” – writes an English journalist after watching him bat.
It was because of this alleged slow batting approach, selectors preferred George Carew over him for the second Test. Carew had played his last Test 13 years earlier. However, Andy got lucky as he was drafted in the side for the second Test due to an injury to one of his teammates.
Responding to England’s 362, West Indies ended the Day 2 on 160-0 thanks to a brisk 100 from Carew’s bat. Ganteaume was again criticized for batting slow in that partnership but his argument made a lot more sense than the criticism he got. He claimed that he deliberately gave his partner more strike because any thinking batsman will keep his end up and push singles to give his partner the strike while he is running hot.
On Third day, he scored a 100 and became the first Trinidadian to score a Test 100. It came in only a little under four and a half hours which is pretty normal even as per the latest standards. He again faced criticism for getting slower nearing his 100 to reach that milestone. Captain Gerry Gomez sent him a note to force the issue (play quicker) which read, “I want you to push on now. We are behind the clock and need to score more quickly. ” And in that attempt, he lifted a ball straight to extra cover. His inning ended on a score of 112.
West Indies couldn’t win the game as they were set to score 141 runs in only 57 minutes. Andy’s so called conservative kept him out of reckoning in the second inning as he wasn’t sent to open the inning. West Indies finished on 72-3 and the match ended in a draw. Had they won the game, things would’ve been different for Ganteaume, his slow inning would’ve been overlooked but it didn’t happen.
He was dropped from the next Test even though Stollmeyer was still injured. They replaced him with John Goddard who was in poor form prior to the series. He only managed to score 4 runs in both the innings.
10 Years later, he was again picked for the West Indian side to tour England. After missing international cricket in his peak years due to non selection in the national side, he played a little representative cricket in England scoring 800 runs in the season at an average of only 27 due to which he was not picked in the playing 11 on that tour ending his career with 112 runs at an average of 112 which is the highest average ever in the history of Test cricket, even better than Bradman’s 99.94.
He was a victim of obtuse racial politics that prevailed in colonial British West Indies. The lost but famous one Test wonder died in this week of 2016, on Feb 17, precisely.