Basil Butcher

Full name: Basil Fitzherbert Butcher
Born: 03 Sep 1933, Port Mourant, Berbice, Guyana
Batting: Right-hand batsman
Bowling: Leg-break
Teams: Berbice (2in: 1954-1971); Berbice (FC: 1960-1971); Guyana (FC: 1955-1971); Guyana (ListA: 1973) West Indies (Test: 1958-1969); All teams
Club: MacKenzie Sports Club, Linden
School: Corentyne High School, Berbice
Wisden Cricketer of the Year: 1970
Lists of matches and more detailed statistics

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.

Batting and Fielding Averages
Team Format Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 Ct St
Berbice Co FC 1 1 0 30 30 30.00 0 0 0 0
All Berbice FC 3 4 1 234 131* 78.00 1 1 1 0
Guyana FC 35 55 4 2979 203* 58.41 12 7 13 0
All FC 169 262 29 11628 209* 49.90 31 54 67 0
Guyana List A 1 1 0 8 8 8.00 0 0 0 0
All List A 5 4 1 107 57 35.66 0 1 1 0
West Indies Test 44 78 6 3104 209* 43.11 7 16 15 0
Bowling Averages
Team Format Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4wI 5wI 10wM
Berbice Co FC 1 1 84 30 2 2-30 2/30 15.00 2.14 42.0 - 0 0
All Berbice FC 3   84 30 2 2-30   15.00 2.14 42.0 - 0 0
Guyana FC 35   913 424 10 4-30   42.40 2.79 91.3 - 0 0
All FC 169   2193 1217 40 5-34   30.42 3.32 54.8 - 1 0
Guyana List A 1 1 12 10 1 1-10 1-10 10.00 5.00 12.0 0 0 -
All List A 5   12 10 1 1-10 1-10 10.00 5.00 12.0 0 0 -
West Indies Test 44 6 256 90 5 5-34 5-51 18.00 2.10 51.2 - 1 0