Joe Solomon: Digicel Cricketer No. 32
JOE Solomon was a right-handed middle-order batsman, a slow-medium bowler who sometimes pedalled leg-spin and an excellent fielder who played 27 Test matches for the West Indies between 1958 and 1965. He was a product of the Clyde Walcott-led coaching programme on the British Guiana sugar estates in the 1950s and represented the Port Mourant Cricket Club alongside other budding stars Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher and Ivan Madray.
Before long he was in the Berbice side to contest the Inter-county tournament and in 1956 he clinched a place in the national team to challenge for the regional first-class title. In his first match against Jamaica at Bourda, he stroked an accomplished undefeated 114 from number seven in a strong Guyana batting lineup that included centuries by Butcher (154 not out), Kanhai (129) and Bruce Pairaudeau (111) in a massive first innings score of 601 for five wickets declared. When he engaged Barbados at the very venue in his next match, Solomon chalked up another century (108) which influenced the selectors to ticket him to India and Pakistan for the 1958-59 tour.
In his debut Test in the second match of the series at Kanpur he contributed 45 and 86 run-out in a clinical West Indies victory by 203 runs and in his next game at Calcutta he registered an unbeaten 69 as West Indies romped home by a massive innings and 336 runs. At Delhi, in the fifth and final game of the series, he recorded his first and only Test century - an even unbeaten hundred - as he aggregated 351 runs at the remarkable average of 117.00 runs per innings.
He produced two more half-centuries on the three-match tour of Pakistan which followed the Indian trip but by the time the Englishmen visited the Caribbean in 1960 he was only picked for the second and third games of the five-match rubber. Even so, in the Trinidad Test he was tested as an opener in partnership with the late Conrad Hunte but could have only eked out scores of 23 and nine to give the visitors victory by 256 runs and a 1-nil lead in the series. In Jamaica he reverted to the middle-order position but returns of eight and ten not out were nowhere near enough for him to retain his place in the team.
However, Solomon was chosen as a member of the late Sir Frank Worrell’s team to Australia on the highly successful and rewarding tour “Down Under” in 1960-61 and played in all five Tests. In Brisbane, he made a compact first innings 65 before he was dismissed ‘hit wicket’ then returned later to put together a solid 47 so that the West Indies could have set the Aussies a tricky target of 233.
His heroics with the bat aside, he etched his name into the pages of history by running out Alan Davidson for 80 when the Australians were well on course for victory and then scored a direct hit to run-out Ian Meckiff for two to claim the first tied Test in history.
He did nothing of note in the rest of the rubber (except that he was dismissed ‘hit wicket’ again in the second Test at Melbourne when his cap fell onto the stumps) nor in the 1962 home series against the Indians but he did compile two solid half-centuries on the 1963 tour of England one of which helped the regional team to secure a 221-run victory at Headingley.
His final international engagement was in 1965 when the Australians visited the Caribbean for a five-Test encounter and he was involved in the first four games of the series. In the first match in Jamaica he made a resolute second-innings 76 which eventually propelled West Indies to a comprehensive victory.
In a team with great strokemakers, Solomon understood his role and oftentimes he was the one to repair the damage and bat with the tail if things went awry at the top. As a bowler he captured 51 wickets in first-class cricket - four of them at the Test level. Two of them were well-established batsmen - the Australian Bill Lawry and the Englishman Ken Barrington.
After he left the Test arena he continued to represent Guyana until 1969 and then switched his attention to cricket administration. Solomon currently resides overseas.