John Watkins of South Africa, who was the world’s oldest living male Test cricketer, breathed his last at the age of 98 in his home in Durban on September 6, 2021. The all-rounder was laid low by the Covid-19 virus 10 days ago.
Watkins was born on April 10, 1923, in Durban, Natal, and had a few deformities, leading to him undergoing multiple surgeries after his retirement from the game. He also served in Second World War in Italy at first as a trainee Spitfire pilot, but his being discovered as colorblind led to his transfer to air traffic control.
John Watkins’s fulfilling career in Tests
John Watkins, who made his Test debut versus Australia in Johannesburg in 1949, was well-known for bowling with amazing control, capsulized by his economy rate of 1.74. Watkins was a forceful right-hand batsman, accurate away-swing bowler and a fine slip fielder, who played in 15 Tests between 1949/50 and 1956/57 despite being unavailable for tours of England in 1951 and 1955 due to business reasons.
He picked up 15 scalps and aggregated 612 runs in 15 Tests. The highlight of his Test career came in the 1952-53 season in Australia when he scored 408 runs and ended up with 16 scalps. His highest Test score of 92 came against Australia in a Test in which he also scored another fifty, helping South Africa beat the Kangaroos in the fifth Test in Melbourne in the 1952/53 season.
Watkins played his final Test match versus England in the 1956-57 season. Watkins made his first-class debut for Natal versus Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) on the New Year’s Day in 1947 in the Currie Cup and went on to play 59 more first-class games. He finished with 2158 runs and 96 wickets in first-class cricket.
“On behalf of the CSA family I extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and cricketing colleagues,” commented CSA Acting Chief Executive Pholetsi Moseki.
Neil Harvey, 92, Becomes Only Test Cricketer Alive To Play Cricket In 1940s
John Watkins’ demise leaves fellow South African Ron Draper, 95, as the oldest surviving Test player. Also, Australian batting great Neil Harvey, 92, becomes the only player still alive who played Test cricket in the 1940s.