Clive Lloyd

18th January 2008 at 00:00
A hard-living and generous man looked after this world-class cricketer, became his mentor and paid his school fees.

Education is, I believe, key to everything in life. Specifically in sport, where you need a brain to work out complicated situations. Without any proper schooling there are only certain jobs that you can accomplish and it is imperative, at all times, to give our future generations the best education possible.

My children attended private schools in this country and did extremely well. I wanted to give them the opportunities that I did not have growing up in the 1950s in British Guiana - as it was known during my formative years. That said, if you look closely, a number of significantly successful people with a Guyanian background have integrated themselves into the highest echelons of British society: Baroness Valerie Amos, leader of the House of Lords, Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, and David Lammy MP are just a few examples.

One such prominent individual, arguably one of the best scholars in the country - and certainly the brightest person I knew - was Frederick Wills, a lawyer and, later on in his life, a renowned diplomat. Most of the contemporaries he studied with went into politics. Fred was also captain of Demerara Cricket Club in Georgetown. He recognised something special in me and reinforced that through constant encouragement: "You'll hear about this young man," he would say, "who I'm sure will be a great cricketer one day."

When I was 14 years old, my father died unexpectedly. Fred took it upon himself to look after me and became an important mentor. In the lead-up to my school exams, he regularly spent time helping with my homework and giving free tutorials. Even though he had been working all day in court, he still had the time, energy and enthusiasm to go through what I needed.

His main subject was maths, particularly geometry. Thanks to his photographic memory, Fred could draw all the necessary diagrams on the page. Occasionally he would progress too fast - "Sorry Fred, I didn't follow that very well" - but he had the patience and intelligence to slow down. Having a good teacher in this regard was crucial and the information I was taught has stayed with me ever since.

Fred also paid for my school fees. On the cricket pitch, he would challenge all the youngsters. "Whoever scores 100 runs today will get 30 dollars." This was the equivalent of, say, three school terms and even if you lost your wicket quite close to that proposed target, he would still pay out. Given my family's financial situation, Fred often stepped into the breach to fund my scholarship.

In fact, he remained a "teacher" of sorts throughout my life. When I was captain of the West Indies, in the late 1970s, I was asked to address the United Nations, giving a speech about apartheid and the international sporting ban on South Africa. Fred had travelled around the world, experienced different cultures and spoke a number of languages. In one telephone call, I had enough sensible input to construct exactly what I was going to say.

What was most revealing about this hard-living character - he was a drinker, a smoker and the ladies were never too far away - was his extraordinary generosity. He was a giver and a competent manager of people. An attitude that was evident throughout my cricketing career

Clive Lloyd led the West Indies to two World Cup victories and a run of 26 successive Test matches without defeat. Supercat: The Authorised Biography of Clive Lloyd is on sale now. He was talking to Rob Maul.

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