By R. M. Austin
July 18, 2004
Patrick Legall was a gentle giant of a man; humorous, shrewd and honest. A sense of the ironies of life gave him balance and equanimity. These values enabled him to endure disappointments of life and to forgive those who trespassed against him. As he was balanced and equable of temperament, Pat Legall was blessedly free of personal rancour and bitterness. These were the characteristics that struck me about the man when I first met him and in the subsequent years of our friendship.
Pat Legall's phlegmatic nature stood in contrast to his capacity to enjoy life and to enjoy it fully. His friends can testify, as I certainly can, that in a social setting he was a wonderful and engaging human being, who had the ability to tease people in such a low-key manner that the victim was hardly aware that he or she was being verbally gored. Those who knew him well, such as his children and his brothers, loved and respected him. In sum, he was a fine human being who could give substance and meaning to a friendship. Paraphrasing Shakespeare, I would like to say that the elements were so finely mixed in him: "that nature might stand up and say to all the world: this was a man!"
Patrick Legall was born 65 years ago on March 2, 1939, the fourth of seven children, to Patrick and Dorothy Legall. He has pre-deceased his mother who is still alive in New York at the ripe old age of 93. As a boy he took to playing games and was proficient at football, a quality he held in common with other Malteenoes players such as George Green and 'Bruiser' Thomas. Like them he was persuaded to play and acquired a deep love for cricket. Joining the Malteenoes Cricket Club in the 1950s, Pat Legall rubbed shoulders with some of the finest cricketers in Guyana. I refer to players such as Ossie Gibson, Glendon Gibbs, Rex Collymore, 'Bruiser' Thomas, Terry Cadogan and John Trim.
Not much is written about Glendon Gibbs these days. It seems lost to the public that he played for the West Indies against Australia in 1955 and had the misfortune of dropping Arthur Morris at 13. He was banished from West Indies cricket for his pains. But Gibbs will always be remembered for his partnership of 390 for the first wicket with Leslie Wight against Barbados at Bourda in 1951. Ossie Gibson, was among the first of a generation of talented school boys cricketers, who was called to trials at the young age of 18. Rex Collymore toured India with the West Indies and then departed the test scene. 'Bruiser' Thomas was something of a genius at ball games, representing Guyana in no less than five of them. Leon Stewart has told me that Terry Cadogan was one of the finest school-boy cricketers he has known. The memory of Terry Cadogan square cutting the first ball in an over from Pat Legall at the DCC in the 60's will always be with me, as it was a stroke that was beautifully timed and exquisitely executed. These are some of the men, endowed with an enviable knowledge of the game, who passed on that knowledge and the art of playing to Pat Legall.
Patrick Legall put to good use the knowledge he had gained from his mentors. He learnt the art of fast bowling. Legall must have learnt quite a lot from John Trim, who bowled with him at Malteenoes and who had toured with the West Indies in 1948. In time, his development as a fast bowler was good enough for him to be selected for British Guiana. Bowling fast, he was partnered at various times by Wilfred 'Sonny' Edun and Charlie Stayers, who represented the West Indies in the 1962 test series against India. Pat Legall's first trip abroad was to the goodwill tournament, which was held in Antigua in 1955. He subsequently played in the quadrangular tournaments of 1955 and 1956. An explanation is necessary here.
It is often forgotten that at this period only the major territories played competitive cricket. The establishment of the Shell Shield Cricket in 1966 enlarged the possibilities for the game and its players as the Combined Islands was added to the number of teams playing the tournament. In the former situation, very little cricket was played, while the latter offered most capable and talented cricketers an opportunity to show off their wares. Pat Legall was caught up in the former circumstance but yet he was good enough to be called up for the West Indies in the Test series against Pakistan in 1959. To understand the significance of this development, one has to pay attention to the fact that the West Indies was looking for quality fast bowlers.
After the combination of Constantine and Martindale in the 1930s, no great West Indian fast bowler emerged until 1958 when Roy Gilchrist's hostility and accuracy raised him to the level to one of the finest of the period. But the interim was not a season rich in good or great fast bowlers. Michael Manley as usual captured the situation well: "Only John Trim of British Guiana and Prior Jones of Trinidad could claim fast bowling legitimacy to which neither could add a lien on distinction". In these circumstances young Patrick Legall at 20 appeared to be a good prospect for the test series against Pakistan. But disappointment was in store. Called up for the test match in Trinidad, he was bitterly disappointed when he was omitted and replaced by Jasrick Taylor, a Trinidadian. This was insularity at its worst.
The manner in which this act of bad faith was executed is illustrative of the state of West Indian cricket at that time. His brother Ron Legall has told me that Patrick confided to him and other members of the family that several members of the then West Indies team entered the dressing room initially and congratulated him on his inclusion in the team. However, when the selectors appraised the situation and realized that the crowd was small they decided to select Taylor in the hope that it would increase, a decision that made little sense, given the fact that the West Indies had already won the series. Pat Legall was devastated. More disappointment was to follow.
The opportunity to play for the West Indies again eluded Pat Legall when he was placed on standby for the 1958-1959 tour to Pakistan to Wes Hall, who had not played in 1956 quadrangular tournament but was invited to the trials in Trinidad in 1956. Pat Legall learnt to live with his disillusionment but recognised that he had much to give to the game.
Limiting his ambition and focus to local and regional cricket, he represented his club, Malteenoes, with an enviable commitment and dedication. No game was won against Malteenoes in the First-Class division once Pat Legall had the ball or the bat in his hand. He could turn a game around by casting the top batsmen in the opposing team with his famous 'in ducker' or he could render opponents impotent by hitting them fearsomely for a quick 50 or 60. Pat Legall could be called upon to bowl long spells but he is best known at this level for his epic encounters with Cammie Smith of Barbados. It was well known that Smith, a batsman of naked aggression, was Legall's 'bunny'. The scorecards record this intriguing story. It is interesting that Cammie Smith who could reduce Roy Gilchrist to 'innocuity' (thank you J S Barker) at Bourda and maul MCC bowlers in Barbados in the 1960s could only manage a highest score of 72 against Pat Legall in some six innings.
After playing for Guyana and his club, Pat Legall turned to the management of our youth cricketers and latterly to the senior team. It is clear from the foregoing that he brought great strengths of knowledge, technique and an understanding of the players. His patience, his knowledge and his understanding were to pay handsome dividends, as he won, at the youth level, six consecutive tournaments. Yet this achievement was not regarded as a monument to his ability and his commitment to the game by the powers that govern the administration of the game. There was a move on to sack Pat Legall and only resolute opposition averted this catastrophe. It says everything about our cricket administrators that at the very moment that they were seeking to cashier Pat Legall, the governments of Trinidad and Jamaica sent representatives to him on a personal basis, so that he could enlighten them about his formula for success as a manager. Chambers, the Jamaican leg spinner, spent hours talking to Pat Legall about the requirements for successfully managing the youth team. And justice came in the form of his selection as manager of the West Indies Youth team in 2001.
I found that his judgment of players could be sound and accurate. Some five or six years ago Patrick Legall invited me to address a group of young cricketers. At the end of the event, I asked him if there was any young player he thought might emerge as a national or test player. Pat Legall pointed to an extremely young player who was sitting at the back of the room. I asked his name. He relied laconically: "Sarwan". One had to see him with the young cricketers to realize that his ability to elicit from them was based on a high degree of respect and trust. And I wish to make the point with the greatest degree of firmness as I can, that the respect and trust that I speak of occurred across the racial divide. Patrick Legall was manager to all his players.
The death of Roy Fredericks from cancer some four years ago caused the cricketing fraternity a great deal of pain and anguish. Now Pat Legall has gone to the great beyond, struck down by the same disease. Even though his death was expected, as he has been ailing for some time, it nevertheless caused me pain and reminded me that the grim reaper has been having a very good time recently. Yet it is hard to accept. It is hard to believe that he is gone; that he wouldn't be there to offer some insightful and incisive judgment about the game. Most of all I will miss the chuckle and the shake of the head as he listened to some new disaster in West Indies cricket or as he discussed the shortcomings of many of his Guyanese wards. No anger, no bitterness, no hatred; only understanding and empathy.