By Neto Baptiste
Former prime minister and former national athlete, Sir Lester Bird, believes that had he not chosen to take up a scholarship offer to the University of Michigan in the late 1950s, he could have gone on to represent the senior West Indies cricket team.
The former long jump athlete who represented Antigua and Barbuda as a fast bowler, said he was forced to make a decision between cricket and university at a time that could have been a turning point in his career.
“I was picked for the Leeward Islands, but you know what happened? Bad luck, again; and I had to make a choice between the scholarship to Michigan or playing cricket against Pakistan and there was no choice really because my mother said to me, ‘you can’t be serious, you got to go to Michigan’, and so I chose to go to Michigan and that was the end of my cricket career,” he said.
Sir Lester, who won a bronze medal in the long jump event during the 1959 Pan American Games in Chicago while representing the British West Indies, relived one of his first matches with the senior national cricket team against a neighbouring island.
“In 1956, we went to Montserrat and I was only 18 years of age and we won the tournament with me as the lead fast bowler. I took the new ball and I only took two wickets, but there was a guy called Mahorn and when we started the game, Leo Gore threw the ball to me and after I bowled the first ball, you won’t believe this: he came forward because these guys don’t have any regards for a 19-year-old boy, and I bowled him a bouncer and the ball hit him in his forehead and plucked out a piece of his flesh. They had to take him to the hospital and that was the end of his tournament; Mahorn,” Sir Lester said. The Antiguan completed his law studies in Britain and was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn in 1969. Sir Lester went on to become the second prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, serving from 1994 to 2004.