Wisden Obituary

Simpson Guillen

Sammy Guillen breaks the stumps to dismiss Lindsay Hassett, Australia v West Indies, 4th Test, Melbourne, January 1, 1952
Sammy Guillen dismisses Lindsay Hassett in the Melbourne Test in 1952 © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Sammy Guillen

GUILLEN, SIMPSON CLAIRMONTE, died on March 2, aged 88. "Sam" Guillen is the only West Indian to win Test caps for two countries. He played three in Australia and two in New Zealand on West Indies' 1951-52 tour, taking over as wicketkeeper after Clyde Walcott injured his back. He liked New Zealand so much that he emigrated there a few months later.

His keeping, supplemented by useful runs for Canterbury, earned him three caps for his adopted country, satisfyingly against West Indies on their return visit early in 1956. The West Indies Cricket Board of Control raised no opposition to his selection, as they might have done for reasons of insufficient residential qualification.

"When I came out to bat all the West Indian boys gathered round, raised their caps and raised three cheers," he wrote in his autobiography, Calypso Kiwi. "Words can't explain how I felt." It was a rare occasion when Guillen was at a loss for words. All-rounder Gerry Gomez, a team-mate for Queen's Park, Trinidad and West Indies, described him as "a humorous and good-natured man, respected and liked as much for his happy disposition and comedy as for his considerable skill"; to Walter Hadlee, New Zealand's venerated captain who facilitated Guillen's move from Port-of-Spain to Christchurch, he was "an ebullient and ever-cheerful character [with] a fund of stories". An all-round sportsman, he was a cycling champion in Trinidad, and kept goal for Western FC in New Zealand's provincial Chatham Cup final in 1954.

It was Guillen's stumping of Alf Valentine at Auckland in March 1956 which completed New Zealand's first Test victory, after 44 attempts spread over 26 years. Surprisingly, though, this was his last act in international cricket, despite several more successful seasons for Canterbury. He seemed certain to tour England in 1958, but was omitted from the trial matches. In his autobiography he claimed that the chairman of the national selectors had told Canterbury not to select him, an instruction they ignored.

Sir Everton Weekes, team-mate then opponent in the two New Zealand series, described him as "a very good wicketkeeper, but one who thought more of his batting". His 54 at Christchurch in 1952 was his highest Test score; his three first-class hundreds were all for Canterbury. However, sent in as nightwatchman at the MCG in 1951-52, he went out to the middle without his bat, causing much mirth.

Cricket was in the Guillen family's DNA. His father, Victor, played for Trinidad and umpired England's Tests at Port-of-Spain in 1934-35 and 1947-48; his brother Noel and great-nephew Justin also represented Trinidad; and a grandson, Logan van Beek, was in the New Zealand teams for both the Under-19 World Cup and the basketball world championships. Although resident in New Zealand for 60 years, where he and his wife Val (also a wicketkeeper, at provincial level) raised a family of four, Guillen never lost his Trinidadian accent or his affection for his native island. He also belted out calypsos in a rich baritone.

© John Wisden & Co.