There had been intimidating fast bowlers from the Caribbean before him. But none was more vicious than Jamaica’s Patrick Patterson.
In India,they still remember him as the train that wrecked the hosts in New Delhi with his fire and hostility. And of course for that bowling action,menacing,threatening and nasty. It started with him pawing the ground thrice like a horse setting off on a gallop and ended with his front studs pointing at the batsman before he delivered his thunderbolt.
In 28 Tests,he charged in with pace and terror and racked up good numbers: 93 wickets at an impressive strike-rate of 51.9. Then,after an errant tour to Australia in 1992,Patterson was dropped. Never to return,he disappeared from the face of the earth. Where is Patrick Patterson? For close to two decades,its been one of the biggest mysteries in West Indian cricket with no definitive answer yet.
Over the years,there have been many versions regarding his whereabouts as well as what hes believed to be up to. The most common among those is that Patterson was lost to the bush,as they say in Jamaica,drifting away into the wilderness due to drug abuse and destitution. Some say hes been in a mental asylum,while there are even those who believe that the 51-year-old has now shifted base to the USA.
His parents,Emelda and Morris,still stay up in the tiny,quaint town of Hectors River in the district of Portland. The Pattersons abode is right off the main road and is still popular among the locals here. According to Emelda,not many people come around asking about their son anymore.
Away but in touch
They may be doting parents,septuagenarians now,but they accept that their dear Patrick isnt quite where he or they expected him to be in life. Like everyone else in Jamaica,they too havent seen their son for many years.
But he does keep in touch with us, says Emelda,welling up. She believes Patterson stays in Harbour View,a down-scale community in the eastern border of Kingston,where,in her words,he does nothing.
We have never lost sight of him. There are many things that are said about Patrick. But hes always been a good boy. For now,were just happy that hes alive, says Morris,who lost a foot due to diabetes a few years ago.
Theories abound in Kingstons cricketing circles about how Patterson went astray mainly as a result of not being able to handle the fame and money that came his way when he was at his pomp. Emelda doesnt quite buy into the theory. She instead blames her sons plight on the treatment meted out to him by the West Indies cricket administration.
He just became very frustrated and slipped into depression. And hes never been able to come out of it. Morris was a good father,who provided whatever Patrick and his sisters needed growing up. Its not a rags to riches story. Its just a case of him never coming to terms with how badly he got treated by West Indies cricket, she says.
He became so disillusioned,she says,that he hasnt moved out of Harbour View in a number of years,not even to visit his children,a boy and a girl,who are growing up in Canada. In fact,Patterson is supposed to have even turned down requests from his former teammates for a meeting.
Viv Richards came looking for him a few years ago,and Patrick insisted that he didnt want to meet him or do anything with cricket. The same with (Courtney) Walsh and others. The government does try and help him at times. They gave him a job to try and coach at nearby schools but he turned that down too, says Emelda.
Morris,who spent a majority of his working life in Orlando,doesnt say much about his sons present state and these days spends his time sitting on the verandah and watching kids in the village play cricket and football on the streets. He recalls what he says is the best time of his life,when his son was renowned as the fastest and most feared bowler in world cricket.
He got that pace from his grandfather. I could bowl quick too when I had both feet. In the early 80s,Clive Lloyd came to Jamaica looking for fast bowlers. Patrick and Walsh were selected to bowl at Lloyd,and our boy broke the legends thumb with his first ball,leaving him very impressed, he says.
Soon after,Michael Holding went down with an injury,and Patrick was called in as his replacement for a Test against England in Kingston. There was no looking back, says Emelda,who would make it a point to go to Sabina Park when her son was playing or spend hours listening to commentary on the transistor.
The Pattersons also reminisce about the time they were the most talked-about family in the whole of Portland,with hundreds crowding their house whenever Patrick was tearing down a batting lineup in some part of the world. Cricket also ensured that their son moved away,to the big,bad world outside. Little did Emelda and Morris know that they would never see him again.