Neil Manthorp – 29/04/2001
Normally a sports sponsor will hire a team of creative geniuses to conjure up a good reason to make a cash award to a deserving player. They may go so far as to create a ‘category’ of award for him to win, as Standard Bank did with their ‘achievement awards’ for players reaching 100 wickets, 3000 runs and 100 caps etc…
Sometimes, though, very occasionally, they just don’t bother. There is no need. Courtney Walsh fits into that last category. At every ground during the test series he was presented with an award by the local cricket board, making five ‘local’ awards in total. There were three more from various governments and the West Indies Cricket Board making eight. Most involved the handing over of cash.
Apart from the money, there were the titles. He is “Ambassador at Large” of Jamaica and sports personality of the year/decade on several islands. The Antiguan government even had to change their constitution in order for a non-national to receive the country’s highest. civil award along with Antiguan hero Curtly Ambrose.
So pity the poor sponsors of the Test and one-day team in the Caribbean, Cable & Wireless. By the time they came to honour the much-honoured Walsh there simply wasn’t much left to say. So they didn’t!
At a function to honour Walsh immediately after the Test series a representative of the telecommunications giant simply handed over a cheque for US$20,000 (R160,000) as “…a token of our appreciation for all you have done for cricket.” Nice one!
But perhaps the most moving tribute to the enduring, ever-popular fast bowler was paid by Air Jamaica who managed to produce giant billboards across the country, seemingly within hours of his retirement, paying their respects.
Life as a legend has well and truly begun for Courtney Walsh and as long as he is anywhere near his beloved Jamaica, or anywhere in the Caribbean for that matter, the awards and tributes are likely to keep flowing. He may have signed a million autographs already, but he has another million to go. At least.
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