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The Classics

Hon George Alphanso Headley’s legacy

Published:Friday | December 1, 2023 | 7:44 AM

Cricket's esteemed figure and a proud son of Jamaica, the Hon George Alphanso Headley’s career boasted remarkable achievements, including scoring 703 runs in a four-match series and becoming the first West Indian to achieve separate centuries in a Test match. Headley's exceptional contributions earned him honours such as the MBE, the Norman Manley Award, and the Order of Jamaica. A true cricket icon, his legacy extends beyond records, making him the greatest sportsman from the region, in terms of contribution and impact.

PUBLISHED THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1983

George Headley, world-acclaimed cricketer, is dead

THE HON GEORGE ALPHANSO HEADLEY, OJ, one of cricket’s immortals and an outstanding son of Jamaica, died yesterday shortly after midday at the age of 74.

A legend in his time, Headley had been ailing for many months before he slipped away quietly at his home, with his wife Connie and a few close friends at his bedside.

Headley, known as 'Mass George' to his army of admirers around the West Indies, and to others as one of the world’s greatest batsmen in the history of the game, first played for the West Indies in 1930 against England and immediately became a hero, growing into a legend even before World War.  A career that had just reached its zenith with the fleet-footed diminutive master just 30 years old.

Headley was like Moses to West Indies cricket, the first great player produced by the islands, the little man who set the stage for the present dominance of the West Indies in world cricket.

In his first Test match, against England in 1930 at Kensington Oval, Barbados, Headley became the youngest batsman, at 20 years and 230 days of age, to score a century on his debut, when he hit 176 in the second innings.

In the Third Test at Bourda, Guyana, he scored 114 and 112 to become the first West Indian to score separate centuries in a Test match, and, in the Fourth Test at home at Sabina Park in Kingston, he scored 223 and remained the youngest batsman to score a double century, until 1976 when Pakistan’s Javed Miandad, at 19 years and 141 days old, hit 206 against New Zealand in Karachi.

In what was a fantastic debut, Headley scored 703 runs in the four-match series and remained the only batsman to have scored four centuries before his 21st birthday.

The years following saw Headley totally dominating West Indies cricket in a manner which earned him at home the pseudonym ‘Atlas’, which left the world comparing him with the great Australian Don Bradman, recognised then as the greatest batsman in the world.

One of Headley’s memorable achievements came in the last series against England before the start of World War II in 1939, when he scored 106 and 107 in the first Test at Lords.

The great cricketer, with a career record of 22 Test matches, 40 innings, four times not out, 2,190 runs with 10 centuries, a top score of 270 not out and a West Indies best average of 60.83, won many accolades for his brilliance on the field.

In 1955, he was awarded the MBE,  in 1973, the Norman Manley Award, and, in 1979, the Order of Jamaica.

A member of Lucas Cricket Club, Headley, at his death, was a life member of Lucas, Melbourne, Kensington, Kingston, Queen’s Park Club in Trinidad, Haslingden, Bacup, and Dudley in England, as well as of the MCC.

Born on May 30, 1909, Headley last played for the West Indies in 1954 when the public of Jamaica called for his inclusion and contributed to his return home from England.

At the height of his career, the pundits rated Headley along with Australia’s Bradman and Victor Trumper, and England’s Jack Hobbs, as the four best batsmen in the history of the game. There is no doubt, however, that he is the greatest batsman ever produced by Jamaica, the West Indies, and in terms of contribution and impact, the greatest sportsman from the region.

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