Three weeks since the end of the cricket season, Wednesday October 11th saw the return to The SSE SWALEC of the ever popular Winter Talks at the CC4 Museum of Welsh Cricket.
Alun Rhys Chivers reports on how "An Evening with Winston Davis and Greg Thomas" saw the return to Glamorgan of two of the county’s most prominent players from the 1980s and whose careers have largely mirrored each other.
Thomas from Trebanos and Davis from St. Vincent in the Caribbean both represented Glamorgan and Northamptonshire as well as their respective countries, England and the West Indies. Firm friends throughout their careers, it is maybe in more recent times that they have grown closer. After Davis became paralysed following an accident in his native West Indies, he subsequently moved to England to receive care.
Whilst Davis’ ascent into cricket began in the backyard and progressed via the beaches of his home island all the way to the top of Caribbean cricket, Thomas’ own rise came via the playing fields of his native Trebanos in the Swansea Valley. It is a village which boasts a wealth of sporting talent, including international golfer Blair Fisher and Welsh rugby internationals Bleddyn Bowen, Robert Jones, Arwel Thomas and Justin Tipuric. Indeed, if not for a back injury in his teens, Thomas may well have added his own name to that illustrious red jersey list.
Whilst Thomas was cutting his cricketing teeth in the Glamorgan ranks, Davis was waiting for his crack at international cricket in a bowling attack which included Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner. It was at the latter’s expense that Davis was given his debut at Antigua but as he admits, “Davis for Garner didn’t have a good feel in the Caribbean!” Despite having begun his career alongside the West Indian greats, it is Malcolm Marshall who he credits as being the best of the crop.
Having joined Glamorgan in 1982 after being recommended by Swansea’s Bill Edwards as a replacement for compatriot Ezra Moseley, Davis’ finest hour came a year later when he took 7-51 for the West Indies against Australia in the World Cup at Headingley, beating Gary Gilmour’s then record figures of 6-14 for Australia against England at the same ground in 1975. It was a record which stood until 2003, when it was beaten by Glenn McGrath. Last night was the first time Davis had ever seen the footage.
From John ‘Ponty’ Hopkins’ “sunny side up eggs with tomato ketchup” to scorer Byron ‘Dasher’ Denning’s quips to cheer up an occasionally gloomy changing room, Davis and Thomas went down memory lane to regale the audience with tales of the mid-80s, including Younis Ahmed’s 150 against Jeff Thomson using Thomas’ bat!
By 1984, Thomas was breaking through to the first-team, captained by Mike Selvey who Thomas remembered had deprived retiring Malcolm Nash of his 1,000 wickets. Thomas joined a bowling attack which included Davis and Moseley and quickly came to the attention of the England selectors, although he ultimately missed out on the Ashes later that year. Davis, meanwhile, left his mark on England that summer with a 77 in the 4th Test at Old Trafford, a game in which Davis the bowler broke batsman Paul Terry’s arm.
On comparing two West Indian captains, Davis remembered that “Clive Lloyd knew how to handle men, and Viv Richards knew how to handle the bat!” Richards certainly knew how to handle the bat, as Thomas found out to his own cost in a tale which has become part of cricket folkore when the former sent the latter looking for the ball!
From Glamorgan, Davis and Thomas joined Northamptonshire, where the latter achieved career best figures of 7-75 against his former county. While Davis retired in 1990, Thomas’ retirement came a year later.
Both careers ending long before the days of the glitz and glamour of T20 cricket, Davis and Thomas both acknowledged that they would have enjoyed the format – Thomas suggesting that going for eight or nine an over “was a pastime of mine!”, while Davis, although “not giving it much credence”, admitted that the 20 over mentality is a good fit for that of the West Indies in 50 over cricket.
A qualified teacher, Thomas turned to the legal world and is now based at Legato Legal Services in Northampton, where his son Will represents the county’s second eleven. He also followed in his father’s footsteps, spending the winters in South Africa.
Davis, a committed Christian, worked at a flour mill back in the Caribbean until tragedy struck when he was left paralysed after an accident while cutting tree branches on land which was being prepared for a new church. Lengthy hospital stays followed, firstly in Florida and then in his wife’s native England, where he has lived since 1998.
“Living this life has its challenges,” he admitted, adding, “It’s not the kind of life you’d want to wish on your worst enemy. But it’s a life you can live and still enjoy. I still wake up looking forward to the day. I still believe I will walk again.” It is this zest for life, as much as his big personality, which has endeared Davis to so many people. “There was a time I was coping, now I’m living. I’ve got nothing to complain about.”
Of Davis, Thomas added: “It’s fantastic to have an opportunity to talk with Winston Davis about the times we played together, our careers and the ups and downs that all sportsmen have. It’s always nice to come back to Glamorgan. It’s very sad what happened to him but you tend to meet people more through circumstance and maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much time with him if this accident hadn’t happened.”