Legendary all-rounder Chris Wilkins, who passed away at the age of 74 following a period of deteriorating health, has been described by former Proteas all-rounder Dave Callaghan as a cricketer who was ‘ahead of his time’.
A farmer in the Harding district of KwaZulu-Natal, Wilkins had been an aggressive opening batsman as well as an all-rounder of note during his playing days. He represented Border, Eastern Province and Natal and also had a stint with Derbyshire in the County Championship, scoring almost 11,000 first-class runs (18 centuries) and taking 142 wickets during his career.
In addition to his batting prowess, he bowled prodigious away swingers at a lively pace and was extremely competent in the field, either as wicketkeeper or slip catcher.
It was, however, as a limited-overs cricketer that he made his biggest impact during his time with Eastern Province when his ability to fearlessly hit the fastest of bowlers over mid-on and mid-off that made him a feared competitor. In many ways, he could be described as the original pinch hitter. He would have been a certain selection for any South African limited-overs team during the 1970s.
Former Proteas all-rounder Callaghan, himself well known for his big-hitting exploits, recalls Wilkins as a hero from his youth.
‘When we knew Eastern Province were batting, we would jump on our bikes and ride down to St George’s Park to watch Wilkins bat. He was incredibly exciting to watch as he was really ahead of his time. He would have no worry about trying to hit the first ball of the innings for six if it was there to be hit,’ said Callaghan.
In first-class cricket, he formed a formidable opening partnership for Eastern Province with Simon Bezuidenhout and on one occasion they managed to score the first batting bonus point before the lunch interval. This amounted to them putting at least 175 runs on the board.
‘On behalf of the CSA family, I extend our deepest condolences to his family, his friends and his many cricketing colleagues,’ commented CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe.
Batting and fielding statistics
|Mat||Runs||HS||Ave||100 / 50||Ct / St|
|First-class||198||10966||156||32.63||18 / NA||211 / 6|
|List A||91||2396||104||27.86||1 / 15||46 / 0|
|Runs||Wkts||BBI||Ave||BBM||Econ / SR|
|List A||2092||80||5-40||26.15||5/40||4.01 / 39.1|
Photo: Facebook/Chris Wilkins