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FERREL ‘BAM’ CHARLES

He was once rated the fastest bowler in the cricket playing Caribbean, the only St. Lucian to have come close to gaining selection on the West Indies team until that time. Ferrel ‘Bam’ Charles’s achievement of the ultimate goal of every young cricketer was thwarted by two factors- his election to further his studies in Canada and the bias of the then West Indies selectors against ‘small’ island cricketers.

When 19 year old Charles burst into the regional cricket scene in 1965, the Australians under Bill Johnson were rampaging through the West Indies. By the end of the fourth Test in Barbados, they were leading the series 2-1 and scoring on excess of 500 runs per match. It was only the dogged batting of the West Indies stars, the three Ws- Weekes, Worrell and Walcott, Dennis Atkinson and Clairmont de Pieza, which kept them at bay. The West Indies were on the hunt for penetrative bowlers.

Then came the Windward Island leg of the tour. The small islanders were playing their first big match against the most powerful side in the world. There were reports of batsmen backing away from the pace of the young six foot four speedster, and the Australian captain was quoted as describing the young St. Lucian as the fastest he had ever seen.

Charles’s exploits were highlighted all over the region, and he was eventually invited to participate in the centenary match against the Aussies, which was due to take  place in Montego Bay, in Jamaica. Ferrel Charles did not make the West Indies side for the match. However, it may have given him a small measure of consolation to know that he would have been spared the punishment meted out to the West Indian bowlers in that fateful final test.

He did not stay in the West Indies for another cricket season, instead he opted to further his studies in Canada and the West Indies lost a potentially world class bowler.

Like most College boys of his period, Ferral Charles was exposed to sporting activity in the structured atmostphere of the school’s division system. He represented St. Mary’s College in the Wade Shield school series as a footballer, no less, and moved up the ranks in cricket mainly on his pretensions as an opening batsman. Two ducks in the 1950s inter school’s tournament brought an end to his ambitions as an opener so he began paying attention to his bowling.

It was not easy for him to reach the heights he did, plagued as he was by an irregularity in his bowling action. He returned to St. Lucia in 1959 and the following year moved back into active playing. He moved gradually into administration and in 1961, was elected President of the National Cricket Association, replacing former stalwart, Dr L. Bristol. During his tenure as captain, he led St. Lucia to the championship of the Winwards series in 1961. Increasing business involvement saw Charles take reduced involvement in active cricket, although he continued in occasional club matches.

‘Outstanding Sports Personalities of St. Lucia’ By Rupert J. Branford

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