Farewell, Pat. A tribute
by RONALD AUSTIN
July 16, 2004
I was a very close friend of Pat Legall. I wish therefore to make the following observations and to point out that had he not been a victim of the insularity of the time, he might have become a Test fast bowler. How good? We will never know.
I have read too that many journalists believe his claim to fame was that he won six consecutive titles as Manager of our youth team. Now he must have had both knowledge, acumen and an understanding of cricket and cricketers to accomplish this feat. Where did this knowledge and understanding come from?
Pat Legall loved cricket and started playing the game at a very young age. In making his way, he played against the best -- Kanhai, Butcher, Solomon, Cammie Smith -- even though very little cricket was played in those days.
He was magnificent in the 1956 Quadrangular Tournament and when Pakistan came to the region in 1958, he was identified as a potential Test player. Called up for the Test in Trinidad, he was cruelly disappointed when the selectors chose Jaswrick Taylor, a Trinidadian, instead of him.
Pat Legall was only 19 and was fit and ready and rearing to go. He was cruelly disappointed and confided his misery to his family. This was not all. He was placed on standby to Wes Hall for the return tour to Pakistan; but the former did not play the 1956 tournament and only turned up to play the trials in Trinidad before the tour. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
I believe Pat decided to concentrate on regional and local cricket. At the former level, he had some epic encounters with Cammie Smith, a Barbadian known for his naked aggression. Pat always got him out because he could not play his inswinger. It was well known in cricketing circles that Smith was Legall's "bunny."
At the local level, it was always instructive to watch him bowling to the likes of Clive Lloyd and Basil Butcher. And as he was a fearsome hitter of the ball, he could make Lance Gibbs look less than great, even after his magnificent hat-trick in the 1960 Australian series.
Pat Legall entered the domain of management with a great understanding of the game and those who played it. He once invited me to talk to a group of young players. This was about five years ago. At the end of the event, I asked him if there were any national or Test prospects in the group. He pointed to an extremely young man sitting in the corner. I asked his name. Pat Legall replied laconically; "Sarwan."
I never again questioned his judgement in cricket matters again; never once.
Pat Legall was a gentle giant of a man; humourous, modest, shrewd and honest. I deeply mourn his passing. He was a dear and trusted friend.