8 Top cricketer

8 – Robin Roussel

THERE have been few finer sights in Island cricket than watching RCN Roussel with his eye in. One word – glorious – sums it up. Vernon Collenette, cricket master at Elizabeth, had seen something special in the tall and languid batsman from early on in his college days. ‘A batsman of promise … can hit the ball very hard,’ which is something he most certainly did as both he and third-wicket partner Chris Fitzgerald achieved a record stand in the home clash against Victoria in June 1953. The pair put on more than 200 for the third wicket and in the final half hour before the declaration, they added 105, Roussel finishing undefeated on 107 and the fast-bowling all-rounder 105.

That was Rousel’s middle year in the first XI and in the final season he took another half-century off Victoria as well as a superb unbeaten 113 against the OEs.

In the years to follow, there were regular big scores from a player who, as he got older, was content to play himself in and build slowly before going on the attack. Although that style and strategy was not best suited to the shorter game, he played one of the finest ever Evening League innings for Cobo in 1970, having moved from Pessimists where he had played initially. That evening at KGV he built the innings slowly before moving into top gear to demolish the bowling of champions Rovers A. In the closing overs he gloriously leant into some delicious on-drives which saw the ball soaring through the top section of the poplars which then existed on the eastern side of the ground. Rob Batiste, the paper’s long-serving sports editor, who was there as a young fan that evening, still rates the innings as the best evening knock he has witnessed.

Revisiting the match report of that game it seems Cobo had not enjoyed the best of starts until Roussel opened his shoulders. Then he took the bowling apart and four sixes sailed into the trees at long on off Ricky Mills’ bowling. His 88 dominated a 16-over total of 127. Roussel ‘specials’ arrived most summers, either for Cobo, for whom he played sporadically rather than regularly, the Guernsey Cricket League XI, GICC or OEs. All this while, he took the sport in his stride without a high level of commitment, much to the frustration of his Cobo captain and the Island selectors, who would often lose out as he sailed off for weeks on end in the school holidays.

His playing career over, he helped develop future generations of Island batsmen with a coaching style which was always carried out with a lovely personable nature. For Guernsey he played 13 times against the Caesareans, the first of those in 1954 while at the College. It was a forgettable day for the graceful No 3 who went for a duck, bowled by the long-serving Jersey star Gordon Newton. It got better, though, and three times he was involved in 50-plus partnerships in totalling 303 against the Caesareans. His best knocks in the big game were a 53 batting at No. 3 in the Guernsey 1963 victory, and an undefeated 51 at No. 4 in the drawn game of 1965. There were frequent 30-odds but the very big score eluded him.

They were often reserved for matches against touring sides. One such gem was a 96 against the very strong Hampshire Hogs in a golden 1970 August. As well that superb knock and the 88 off Rovers, he guested for the Wine Trade and took 91 off the GlCC attack. It is worth noting that in that game with the Hampshire Hogs, Roussel’s 14-boundary star turn was surpassed by the 7ft tall ATC Allom who ended the game unbeaten on 118 out of the 169 needed to win.

He was no. 79 in Rob Batiste’s top 100 sports people.

Other notable scores:

1952 – 86 EC v GICC, 69* OE v GICC; 1953 – 111 EC v RNVR, 76* EC v GICC; 1954 – 113* EC v OE; 1955 – 98* HV Stone XI v GICC; 1956 – 71* Pessimists v Rovers; 87* GICC v Nomads; 1959 – 70 Pessimists v EC, 98 Pessimists v AE Wilkinson XI, 77 OE v OV, 116 GICC v JICC; 1960 – GCL v Queens College, 88 GICC v Jsy Beeches; 1961 – 107 OE v OV; 1963 – 87 OE v EC; 1966 – 120* GICC v Forty Club; 1968 – 115 GICC v Forty Club