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Basil Butcher

December 17 2019


Legendary former West Indian cricketer Basil Butcher passed away last night after a prolonged period of illness.

His son, Basil F Butcher Jr. announced his father’s passing on his Facebook page minutes after his death. In the post the son said “With a heavy heart I announce our Dad, Husband, Brother, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather and former Guyana and West Indies batting star Basil Butcher Sr. passed earlier this evening in Florida after a long illness.” He was 86.

Hundreds of fans extended condolences to his family as they learnt of his passing via social media.

Basil Butcher in full flow

Former Mayor of Linden Carwyn Holland told Stabroek News that Butcher was a man of the community and during his tenure as mayor he would always receive a scolding for affairs of the council that were not done right.

“I grew up hearing about Basil Butcher, my father would always tell me about him when we were talking about West Indies Cricket. Eventually I got to meet him firstly at his store where we used to buy beverages. In my early teens he ran a few coaching sessions and I adopted his batting stance which I occasionally used. From there we developed a great friendship. When I became Mayor of Linden, I had to take scolding for anything wrong in the town, especially for garbage collection.

Holland added that Butcher was a father figure to many and a legend to all. “Guyana and the West Indies have lost a valuable son. He will surely be missed,” he added.

The right-handed middle order batsman was born in Port Mourant and was the first person of Amerindian descent to represent the West Indies in cricket.

Butcher fought his way to Test level at a time when so many had been knocking at the door of West Indies cricket and failing.

He had made his mark in the County games when Berbice matched strength with Essequibo and Demerara, Stabroek News reported.

Butcher played for the West Indies during the tour of India and Pakistan when he chalked up his first Test hundred and featured in a 200-run partnership with  fellow Guyanese star batsman Rohan Kanhai.

ESPN described Butcher as a supple, wristy, resolute batsman, who became a consistently reliable performer.   While he had a  chequered career in his first Test series, against India in 1958-59,it was in the 1963 tour of England, when he made 383 runs in eight completed innings, including 133 out of 229 in the memorable draw at Lord’s that he shone.

After playing in two fine series against Australia led by Richie Benaud, he was considered the most difficult of all West Indians to get out. 

In First Class cricket from 1954 to 1972, he  amassed 11,628 runs at an average of 49.99 and this included 31 centuries while capturing 40 wickets. For the West Indies he played 44 Tests recording 3,104 runs at an average of 43.11 with 209 not out being his highest score.

He made 99 in his last Test innings and was given out caught behind. To this day, Basil will say, “I was out. The umpire said so”, reports said.

While Butcher was born on the Corentyne he lived for many years in Linden where he coached young cricketers.

Butcher was also a part of the group of persons who organised and planned the first republican celebration.

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Basil Butcher gave Guyana pride and honor. After he retired from cricket I was introduced to him in Georgetown and later visited his home/business place in Linden. My condolence to his family.

Basil Fitzherbert Butcher was born on September 3, 1933 at Port Mourant, Berbice, to Mr. Ethelbert Fitzherbert Butcher, a Barbadian who migrated to British Guiana, and his Guyanese wife, Mrs. Mathilda Elizabeth Lowe. His father worked at the Port Mourant Sugar Estate while his mother ran a bakery.

Young Basil attended St Joseph Anglican and Corentyne High School. The back fence of his home was right next to the Port Mourant Community Centre, the center of cricket in the community of about 5000, which boasted 24 cricket teams! The young boys of Port Mourant, using balls made out of wood and bats from branches of coconut and monkey apple trees, played cricket every day.

After leaving Corentyne High School, Butcher joined the Port Mourant Sports Club. Joe Solomon welcomed him and two other new members and future internationals - Rohan Kanhai and Ivan Madray. By the age of 18 Butcher was on the Port Mourant Estate cricket team. In 1954 he became the first player in Berbice to score a double century, a sparkling 215 against Mental Hospital, and he played for Berbice in the inaugural Jones Cup inter-county tournament.

Though John Trim of Port Mourant had played for the West Indies by the time Butcher joined Port Mourant, the young Port Mourant players, living far away from the capital Georgetown, never dreamt of playing for British Guiana or the West Indies.

That began to change, however, when former Test cricketer Robert Christiani was appointed Personnel Manager at the Port Mourant sugar estate at that time. By another stroke of good fortune, in the mid 1950s, Barbados and West Indies batting star Clyde Walcott was sent to British Guiana to coach and organize cricket on sugar estates.

Walcott set about improving cricket facilities at Port Mourant and other Berbice sugar estates, appointing groundsmen and providing cricket equipment to the local teams. He also organised competitions between sugar estates.

Butcher, who was by then captain of the Port Mourant Club, and other ‘Port Mourant boys’ like Rohan Kanhai and Joe Solomon, benefited immensely from Walcott’s stint in British Guiana. So much, in fact, that the ‘country boys’ could finally dream about representing their country. Walcott invited teams that included national players to Port Mourant regularly and Berbice players began to be noticed by national selectors.

Early in 1955 Butcher made 0 and 9 on his debut for Guyana against Barbados in Barbados, followed by scores of 34 and 62 against the same opponents. In the 1956 Quadrangular Cricket Tournament at Bourda, Basil Butcher excelled with an unbeaten 154 runs against Jamaica, but could only muster 4 runs in the other match against Barbados. British Guiana, however, won the Quadrangular Tournament and the Guiana players could now truly dream of playing for the West Indies.

In the Quadrangular Tournament, Butcher had played against Roy Gilchrist, Conrad Hunte, Cammie Smith, Garry Sobers and others and felt confident that he was ready for Test cricket. Despite his gallant showing in the Quadrangular Tournamnt, however, he was not called to trials in Trinidad for possible selection to the West Indies team.

His Test break eventually came when the West Indies returned from England and the Pakistan cricketers came to the West Indies. Butcher and Joe Solomon made hundreds for British Guiana against Pakistan and we were picked to go to India in 1958-59.

[From the 1970 Wisden] Butcher had an excellent Test series in 1958, scoring 28 and 64 not out on debut. He scored his first century in his third Test, getting to this landmark before his famous teammate Rohan Kanhai, who made 256 in the same innings. He scored another century in his next Test innings - the first time a Guyana batsman would do so in Test cricket. He scored a single fifty in the next Test series, in Pakistan, a difficult one for the West Indies.

He had a poor series in England in 1960, however, and was the most notable omission from the great tour of Australia under Sir Frank Worrell. In 1962 joined Lowerhouse as a professional and was outstanding. He returned to the West Indies side for the memorable tour of England in 1963, and his 1,294 runs at an average of 44.6 and his average of 47.8 in Tests made him a fixture.

Richie Benaud rated Butcher as the most difficult of all West Indians to get out and, in fact, Butcher's grim, resolute approach to the game is typically Guyanese -- and even more typically Berbician. He has been known to smile during an innings, but rarely before the four-hundredth run.

At Trent Bridge in 1966 West Indies were 65 for two, still 25 runs behind England's first innings total, when Butcher joined his fellow-Berbician, Kanhai. Two and a half hours later the score had been advanced by 73, England's rosy prospects of victory had faded and the Sunday sports pages were filled with sarcastic obituaries on the death of calypso cricket.

Butcher went on to the highest innings of his career; he shared in three successive century partnerships, reached 209 not out (twenty-two fours) and effectively won a match that seemed lost when he faced his first ball seven and a half hours earlier.

At Headingley in 1969, when West Indies needed 303 to win and square the series, Butcher went in at 69 for two to play the last Test innings of his career. A little more than two hours later West Indies were 224 for three, Butcher 91 not out, seemingly irremoveable, and, with Sobers and Lloyd, among others, still to come, the match was as good as won.

Playing forward to Underwood, the ball lifted and turned and Butcher was adjudged caught behind. West Indies, all out for 272, lost the match and the rubber by 30 runs. (And Butcher blames nobody but himself: "Anybody who brings his bat down as I do is liable to get his shoulder in the way.")

Butcher himself rates the best innings of his life as his 133 (out of 226) at Lord's in 1963, in the second innings of what was perhaps the greatest Test match of all. And with good reason. It was the third day of the match and just before leaving the hotel Butcher was handed a letter from his wife, the first letter from her since leaving a Guyana still smouldering with the threat of widespread violence. His wife expecting their first baby.

For one reason and another Butcher did not open the letter until lunch -- by which time, Trueman having dismissed McMorris in the last over, West Indies were 15 for two and Butcher was next man in. He opened the letter. The first paragraph told him his wife had had a miscarriage, and that was as far as he got. "I was" said Basil, as much a master of understatement as any Englishman, "very upset."

In the next seventy minutes Butcher and Kanhai put on 49 runs. One twenty-minute spell produced exactly one run. A twenty-five minute spell with Sobers brought another. Sobers reached eight, Solomon five and when Worrell joined Butcher shortly after tea West Indies were 104 for five. Such was the quality of the bowling.

Then in what remained of the day's play Butcher and Worrell added 110, of which Worrell made 33. Butcher reached his 100, made out of 154, and at the close West Indies were 214 for five, Butcher 129. Typically, only four of Butcher's seventeen boundaries were made on the off-side. Equally typically, he was eventually out leg before.

It would surprise nobody, least of all Basil, to learn that he had been dismissed lbw more often than not during his career. He attributes this, in his own sardonic fashion, to lack of coaching. "My bat comes down from somewhere about mid-off," he says, without a smile "so probably I am playing across a lot of the time. Maybe if I'd had a coach I'd only have been clean bowled." [From the 1970 Wisden].

The second time he was allowed to bowl in a Test, Butcher took five English wickets for 34 runs, during a high-scoring game at Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1968. He bowled again in two other Tests – in the next Test at Bourda and a year later at Lords.

Butcher also played professional cricket for Bacup in 1964 and was a professional in the Lancashire League for many years.

After retiring from Test cricket Butcher remained busy, playing a major role in developing cricket in Linden, a bauxite mining community of about 60,000 residents 65 miles up the Demerara River, where he now resides. He was influential in developing the careers of cricketers such as Keith Cameron, Clayton Lambert and Vibert Johashen.

He is a former national cricket selector, a former Chairman of the West Indies team selection committee, in 1968, Vice-president of the Guyana Cricket Board and also its Assistant Secretary. Along with Rohan Kanhai, he was among the first inductees into the Berbice Cricket Board Hall of Fame in 2008.

The father of seven has a son (Basil Jr.), a fitness expert, who helped to coach the US women’s cricket team.

RIP. Great man. Leme gee ayoo wan brain teaser. Sobers, Haynes, Garner, yu name dem great Bajan cricketers. Dem live Barbados and when dem dead dem bury deh. After 60 plus year of PPP and PNC weh all Guyana hero live? All dem live FL. Shiv Chandra move FL. Hooper deh Australia. And ayoo still jumping and waving foh vote foh ayoo race mattie next eleckshun...hey hey hey. 

Kanhai, Croft, Lloyd, etc...dem live in farrin. Croft and Kanhai deh FL...Lloyd deh in de white man England. Abie woulda be better if dem deh still colonial Guyana...If dem vote Labba is de fuss to de pollin station foh get back British Guiana...hey hey hey.

Basil Butcher obituary

Batsman whose determined character and solid defence held together many West Indies Test innings
Basil Butcher in May 1969 on the West Indies tour of England, after which he retired from Test cricket at the age of 37.
Basil Butcher in May 1969 on the West Indies tour of England, after which he retired from Test cricket at the age of 37. Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty Images

In the dashing era of 1960s Caribbean cricket, Basil Butcher was the sturdy backbone around which many a fine West Indies score or victory was built. Although a stellar batsman in his own right, the unassuming Butcher, who has died aged 86, was generally content to play second fiddle in the middle order to whoever was at the crease – confident in the expectation that when the big guns were gone he would still be there, pushing the total to respectability and beyond.

In this vein he was at the very heart of the Frank Worrell-led West Indies team that established the Caribbean as a premier cricketing force and captivated the Commonwealth with the vibrancy of its play. While not technically as correct as some of his colleagues, he possessed a tremendously solid defence as well as a good eye and an ability to punish the bad ball – qualities that allowed him to build many substantial innings. In his 44 Test matches from 1958 to 1969 he scored 3,104 runs at an average of 43.11, including seven centuries.

Usually appearing at No 4, Butcher’s most important asset was his ability to glue together an innings and to act as a calming buffer (at the behest of Worrell) between the belligerent figures of Rohan Kanhai at No 3 and Garfield Sobers at No 5. A modest and intelligent man, he had no difficulty adapting to what some might have seen as this diminished role, which he rightly viewed both as a privilege and as of great value to the team.

Along with Kanhai and Joe Solomon, Butcher was one of a triumvirate of outstanding batsmen to emerge in the late 50s from the remarkable, progressively run sugar plantation of Port Mourant, remotely situated in the low-lying, backwater fields of what was then British Guiana (now Guyana). Under the watchful eye of the great Barbadian batsman Clyde Walcott, who was employed by the local Sugar Producers’ Association as a cricket organiser at Port Mourant and other estates, he blossomed into a prodigious if slightly unorthodox talent.

The only son of seven children born to Matilda, a Guyanese of Amerindian descent, and Ethelbert, a Barbadian who had migrated to British Guiana, Butcher was born in Port Mourant and went to Corentyne high school, where he harboured ideas of attending university. But he came to the conclusion that he might gain a wider education, and perhaps a better living, through cricket. Biding his time variously as a schoolteacher, a public works clerk, an insurance salesman and a welfare officer, he honed his game at Port Mourant sports club and made his debut for British Guiana against Barbados in 1955.

His first game for the West Indies came three years later at the age of 25 in late 1958, when he scored 64 not out against India in Bombay (now Mumbai), despite sustaining a leg injury that prevented him from running properly. He finished the tour of India and Pakistan with two centuries and 619 runs at an average of 56.27. After three poor scores in two home Tests against England in 1960, he spent a difficult period in the wilderness until re-selected for the 1963 trip to England, where he picked up on his earlier form.

In the second Test at Lord’s that year he made a memorably gritty 133 in his team’s second innings total of 229, securing an against-the-odds draw in the process and, arguably, laying the foundation for a West Indies series win. That towering display, which he rated as the best of his life, was all the more remarkable for the fact that a few minutes before walking out to bat he had received the distressing news that his wife, Pam, had suffered a miscarriage.

Averaging 47.87 in the series, Butcher thereafter became a fixture in the side. Rated by the Australian captain Richie Benaud as the most difficult of all West Indians to dismiss, he was a sometimes grim counterpoint to the stereotype of carefree “calypso cricket”, and was a fiercely determined fighter for the team cause. Wisden noted wryly that “he has been known to smile during an innings, but rarely before the 400th run”.

His highest score, 209 not out against England at Trent Bridge in the third Test in 1966, typified Butcher’s obdurate, resilient approach; it was a seven-and-a-half-hour marathon that brought West Indies a surprise victory when defeat had seemed more likely. Even in his last Test match, against England at Headingley in 1969, he had looked poised to engineer another remarkable turnaround, until he perished on 91. During that tour he had the misfortune to be acting captain in the absence of an injured Sobers when West Indies were bowled out by Ireland for 25 on a rain-sodden pitch in Sion Mills, County Tyrone.

Aged 37, Butcher called a voluntary halt to his Test career at that stage, and as a valedictory gesture was chosen as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1970. In his first-class career he had played 169 matches with a batting average of 49.90, and had taken 40 wickets with his occasional leg-spin, producing a best return of five for 34 against England in the fourth Test at Trinidad in 1968. Although he never played for an English county, he had appeared with distinction as a professional in Lancashire league cricket with Lowerhouse and Bacup during the 60s.

Back in Guyana after his cricketing career, Butcher worked in public relations for a bauxite company in the town of Linden, where he also ran a sports goods shop. Although his children later set up home in the US and he died in Florida, for a number of years he remained committed to his homeland when others migrated during tough economic times.

Always interested in politics, for a period he was part of a Guyanese civic movement that attempted to bridge the divide in the country between those of Indian and African descent, a schism he had experienced painfully in 1964 when a racially motivated arson attempt on the family home led him to leave Port Mourant. He also became involved in cricket administration as a West Indies selector, and personally funded a trust fund bearing his name that helped young players in the Berbice region, which contains Port Mourant.

He is survived by Pam (nee Liverpool), whom he married in 1962, and by his children, Brian, Bruce, Basil Jnr and Blossom.

Basil Fitzherbert Butcher, cricketer, born 3 September 1933, died 16 December 2019

Nehru posted:

My condolences to the family. May his soul RIP. He was a Master stroke player. Watched many innings with him and Kanhai in the Shell Shield series and Internationals.

RIP!  Meh hear he was good but never see he play!  I always thought he from McKenzie!

Nehru posted:

Born Berbician BUT DEm Indians, his own neighbors burn dem house and cause him to run to Linden.

Mi see!  Some bad ass Coolie!  

Mi see why me nevva see he play.  He retired when me bin still live Bush!

Bibi Haniffa posted:

Condolences to the family of Basil Butcher.  Another great son of Port Mourant along with Rohan Khanhai, Joe Solomon, and Cheddi Jagan.  A life well lived.

Missy, Yuh like Cheddi now?

Last edited by Baseman
Baseman posted:
Bibi Haniffa posted:

Condolences to the family of Basil Butcher.  Another great son of Port Mourant along with Rohan Khanhai, Joe Solomon, and Cheddi Jagan.  A life well lived.

Missy, Yuh like Cheddi now?

Bai, in the spirit of Krismuss, leh de lady ress. You prappa disgusting.

Last edited by Former Member

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