Tall and strapping, Sylvester Clarke was a right-arm fast bowler with a strange, in swinger’s action in which his arm came over rapidly and very high. Despite the fact that the batsman saw the chest instead of the left shoulder in the delivery stride. Genial off the field, Sylvester Clarke was the man to have on your side. Very fast and hostile when fit and firing. He played a prominent part in Surrey’s first success in a county competition for many years in the Benson and Hedges Cup 1982.
Sylvester Clarke was born in Christ Church, Barbados, on Dec 11, 1954. Clarke first played for Barbados in 1977-78 and against Trinidad that season his 6 for 39 in an innings included a hat trick. in his first Test, against Australia in 1977-78 he took 3 for 58 and 3 for 83. The only injury to which, despite his powerful physique, he was prone and prevented him from playing farther games in the series.
In India, in 1978-79 he headed the Test bowling average with 21 wickets average 33.85. And he made the tours of Pakistan in 1980-81 and Australia in 1981-82. Although he did well on the tour of Pakistan taking 14 wickets average of 17.28 in four tests and hitting an important 35 not out in 30 balls with three consecutive sixes at Faisalabad.
But he seriously blotted his copybook when furious at being pelted by oranges and other missiles. When fielding on the boundary during the last Test in Multan. He picked up a brick being used as a boundary marker and hurled it into the stands and a spectator, hit by it. He was taken to the hospital. Who was seriously injured? Fortunately for Clarke, he recovered and the bowler, normally a genial man, escaped with a short suspension by the West Indies Cricket Board.
An unashamed hitter as a batsman he made a rapid 100 not out for Surrey against Glamorgan in 1981. In the 1982 season, he took 85 wickets average of 19.95! But the following winter he burnt the boats of his career for West Indies signing to play for Transvaal and for the unofficial West Indian team in South Africa.
He was an outstanding success, equaling a Currie Cup record with 58 wickets at 13.00 in 1984-85, but a serious back injury prevented his reappearance for Surrey in 1985. He recovered and continued to bowl with great success for Surrey and Transvaal. Sylvester Clarke’s career was ended in 1989-90. Clarke played only 11 Tests for the West Indies taking 42 wickets at an average of 27.83 with the best figures of 5 for 126 against India at Bangalore in 1978-79. He also captures three hat tricks for Barbados in the regional Shell Shield Competition.
Speaking about his Test career. Clarke once said he felt he did not get the break he deserved in the West Indies team. I don’t think I was fairly treated by West Indies selectors. I got the most wickets in India and they picked Malcolm Marshall for the next tour to Australia. All I want to do is play cricket.
In South Africa Clarke also represented Northern Transvaal and Orange Free State in the first-class competition they’re. His career-best bowling figures were 8 for 62 against Northamptonshire at the Oval in 1987.
His record in all first-class crickets was a fairer indication of his qualities. In 238 matches he captured 942 wickets cost him only 19.52 runs each. As a batsman, he scored 3,269 runs average of 14.79, and while fielding he held 146 catches.
Clarke also appeared in 10 one-day internationals for the West Indies from 1978 to 1982. In this time he had taken 13 wickets at just 18.84 runs apiece and conceding a mere 2.80runs per over. His best figures were three for 22 against Australia at Melbourne in 1981-82. His highest score was 20 against Pakistan at Lahore in 1980-81. A carpenter by trade, Clarke was still an active club player at the time of his death.
The fast bowler Sylvester Theophilus Clarke collapsed and died suddenly at his home in Barbados on Dec 4, 1999. Sylvester Clarke who would have celebrated his 54th birthday later in the month was a contemporary of Marshall’s.