Wilf Slack

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Wilf Slack
Personal information
Full nameWilfred Norris Slack
Born(1954-12-12)12 December 1954
Troumaca, St Vincent
Died15 January 1989(1989-01-15) (aged 34)
Banjul, Gambia
NicknameWilf, Slacky
Height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
BattingLeft-handed batsman
BowlingRight-arm medium
RoleBatsman
International information
National side
Test debut (cap 516)7 March 1986 v West Indies
Last Test19 June 1986 v India
ODI debut (cap 87)4 March 1986 v West Indies
Last ODI19 March 1986 v West Indies
Domestic team information
YearsTeam
1977–1988Middlesex
1981–1983Windward Islands
Career statistics
Competition Test ODI FC LA
Matches 3 2 237 183
Runs scored 81 43 13,950 4,639
Batting average 13.50 21.50 38.96 30.32
100s/50s –/1 –/– 25/75 3/31
Top score 52 34 248* 122*
Balls bowled 1,519 1,766
Wickets 21 45
Bowling average 32.76 30.04
5 wickets in innings 1
10 wickets in match
Best bowling 3/17 5/32
Catches/stumpings 3/– –/– 174/– 36/–
Source: CricketArchive, 27 November 2008

Wilfred Norris Slack (12 December 1954, Troumaca, St Vincent – 15 January 1989, Banjul, The Gambia)[1] was an English cricketer, who played in three Test matches and two One Day Internationals for England in 1986.

A left-handed opening batsman, Slack was a victim of mysterious blackouts while playing, and died, apparently of a heart attack,[2] while batting in The Gambia, aged 34.[1]

Early life[edit]

Slack's family migrated from the Windward Islands to High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, when he was 11 years old.[3]

He was a left-handed opener and played county cricket for Middlesex between 1977 and 1988. He also played for his native Windward Islands in their opening seasons of the West Indies domestic competition in 1981–82 and 1982–83, at the request of Michael Findlay, the former West Indian wicket-keeper to whom he was distantly related.[4]

He spent time playing cricket for various local sides, progressing into the Buckinghamshire team in 1976, at the age of 21, becoming the minor county's leading run-scorer for the season, with 748.[5] The Middlesex coach, Don Bennett, marked him as first-class county material, and he was signed by them the next year.[5]

Middlesex career[edit]

Slack made his Middlesex debut in 1977, but failed to establish himself in the side, in part because he played out of position, in the middle order.[3]

When Mike Brearley, Middlesex captain and batsman, was recalled to the England side in 1981, Slack was called on to replace Brearley and open the batting for Middlesex against Kent at Lord's; he scored his maiden first-class century, 181 not out.[3] The unbroken stand of 367 by Slack and his partner (Graham Barlow) was a Middlesex record. In the following game he made 248 not out, against Worcestershire; both were scored in the second innings. He finished the season with 1,303 Championship runs at 48.25.[4] This auspicious opening with Barlow foreshadowed their profitable partnership, one of the best opening pairs in the County Championship circuit of that era,[6] until Barlow retired in 1986, which along with domestic problems affected Slack's form. Slack completed 1,000 runs in a season eight times. In 1985 he bettered his effort of four years earlier by making 1,900 runs at 54.28, and was rewarded with a tour of Sri Lanka with the England B side.[3]

Simon Hughes wrote of him in A Lot of Hard Yakka: “Wilf Slack, a reserved Windward Islander who never betrayed any nerves despite the daily task of standing up to some of the fastest bowlers in the world, rarely said anything when he came back into the dressing-room. He’d sit down, quietly unbuckle his pads, and carefully lay them to rest in his case, then stare glumly into space for a while. He was deeply religious, which was possibly an explanation for such contemplation.” Besides holding nearly 200 catches, many at bat-pad, he was always eager to bowl his military-medium pace, especially in limited-overs matches.[6]

International career[edit]

Whilst in Sri Lanka, Slack was rushed to the West Indies during England's 1985–86 tour to replace the injured Mike Gatting. Slack made just two runs in the two innings of his Test debut at Port-of-Spain. As a result he was dropped for the next two Tests, but returned in the Fifth Test to make a tidy 52, partnering Graham Gooch in an opening stand of 127.

His third and final Test came at Headingley against India in 1986. He again failed to impress but had a successful county season by topping 1,000 runs once more. This won him a place in the England squad for the Ashes tour of Australia in 1986–87. He did not play a Test in the series, and was never again picked for England.

Ill-health and death[edit]

During the 1988 English cricket season, Slack suffered a number of blackouts on the field or in the nets, but exhaustive tests had failed to identify the cause.[1] One such incident, witnessed by Mickey Stewart, took place during a net session in Tasmania, during the 1986–7 England tour of Australia:[7]

One minute I looked and he was fine, the next minute he had passed out and we had to rush him to hospital ... There was no indication that what he was suffering from was life-threatening.

He died at the age of 34 after collapsing during a game in The Gambia.[1]

A popular figure in the game, his Wisden obituary commented on the response to his death:[3]

He was particularly popular among fellow-cricketers, who spoke feelingly of their respect and sorrow when he died. He was mourned, too, in New Zealand, where he coached in five English winters. Slack was buried in his prized England blazer, bat at his side, and as the funeral cortege drove past Lord's, the Grace Gates bore a sign reading "Farewell Wilf".

Legacy[edit]

Slack finished his first-class career having played 237 matches, with 13,950 runs at 38.96, including 25 centuries.

In a tribute to their former player, Middlesex renamed one of their outlying grounds in honour of Slack. The former Barnet Council ground in East End Road, Finchley was, in 1995, renamed the "Wilf Slack Ground, Finchley".[8][9][10] Middlesex play second XI and minor county cricket matches at the ground.[8] In the same year, Middlesex also introduced ECG testing for players during pre-season medicals.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Bateman, Colin (1993). If The Cap Fits. Tony Williams Publications. p. 148. ISBN 1-869833-21-X.
  2. ^ "Middlesex County Cricket Club". Archived from the original on 12 February 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Obituary – Wilf Slack". Wisden 1990. ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Carpenter, Brian (January 1999). "Wilf Slack: The Best Loved Cricketer". Cricket Lore, Volume 3, Issue 8. Other Shades of Green. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Wilf Slack ESPN Cricinfo
  6. ^ a b Mukherjee, Abhishek (December 12, 2016). "Wilf Slack: Tragic tale of Middlesex hero". Cricket Country. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Cardiac screening should be mandatory Cardiac Risk in the Young, (Cricket World – Winter 2002)
  8. ^ a b Arden Field, Finchley Cricket Archive
  9. ^ "Wilf Slack Playing Field". The Hall School. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  10. ^ Wilf Slack Memorial Ground, Finchley Cricket Archive

External links[edit]