Dr Rudi Webster/SGU Photo

ST GEORGE’S, May 14, 2017 – A former West Indies cricket administrator was among honourees at the Commencement Ceremony of the St George’s University (SGU) on Saturday.

Dr Rudi Webster received SGU’s Distinguished Service Medal for commitment to the advancement of cricket in the international community and to the University in establishing the Shell Cricket Academy of St George’s University.

The cricket academy, launched in 2001, was an annual, intensive 12-week course for about two dozen young cricketers from the region. It was heralded as the way forward for the region’s cricket that has been in decline since the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, by 2005 the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) was forced to dispense with it because of what it said was lack of funding.

However, SGU praised the effort of Dr Webster and his team for establishing the academy.

Rudi V. Webster MBChB, DDR, MRACR, FRCR

Rudi Webster’s work spans the professions of medicine, sports, diplomacy and politics. He attended Harrison College in Barbados and was a champion track and field athlete there.

Fifty years on, one of his track records still stands. He won the Barbados Scholarship in Science and went to Scotland to study Medicine at Edinburgh University and was the first student to be exempted from the first year of the medical course in the 291-year history of the Medical School.

He did his medical postgraduate training in Diagnostic Radiology in New Zealand and Australia and later taught at the University of McGill in Canada, the University of Miami in the USA, the University of Lund in Sweden, and the Universities of Melbourne and Monash in Australia. 

While at Edinburgh, Dr Webster played cricket for Scotland and was voted sportsman of the year. On his debut for Scotland he established a unique world record by taking a wicket with the first ball he bowled in each innings – the first time that had been done in the two centuries of First Class cricket.

He also played professional cricket for the County of Warwickshire in England and holds the second-best career bowling average in the 135-year history of that club – 234 wickets at 19.36 runs with a strike rate of 45 and an economy rate of 2.5 runs per over.

Working in Medicine and in a live human sports laboratory it was only natural for him to become interested in Sports Medicine, particularly in the mental component of that specialty. 

In Australia, where he lived for 17 years, he did pioneering work in the mental preparation and mental conditioning of athletes and was affectionately known as the “guru” and “witch doctor”. He was best recognised for his work in Australian Rules football where he helped to prepare and condition the minds of players in teams that won the 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984 and 1985 Grand Finals.

The Grand Final is the equivalent of the American Super Bowl. His impact on the game and his influence on coaches were such that in the quarter time break in a Finals game two head coaches fought each other over him, a sensational incident that stunned the 80,000 spectators at the ground and the millions of TV viewers around Australia.

Dr Webster also worked with many of Australia’s best athletes including Dennis Lillee one of the world’s greatest fast bowlers, Greg Chappell Australia’s cricket captain and star batsman, and Greg Norman the world’s number one golfer for 331 weeks before Tiger Woods came on the scene. In his book, My Story, Greg Norman describes how Dr Webster got him out of a performance slump on the European Tour and turned his career around. He claimed that the money he spent calling Dr Webster from England was the best investment he ever made. 

Dr Webster was the manager and mental skills coach to the West Indies cricket team in Kerry Packer’s World Series of Cricket and saw first-hand the birth and development of that great team that dominated world cricket for fifteen consecutive years: a team that has been heralded as one of the best teams in the history of sport.

Dr Webster also worked with the national cricket teams of India and Sri Lanka and with the Kolkata Knight Riders who won the 2012 Indian Premier League (IPL) Final in Chennai. 

One of Dr Webster’s proudest achievements was the establishment of the Shell Cricket Academy of St George’s University in the late nineties in concert with Dr Ted Hollis, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, who was the driving force behind the project. The Academy received wide coverage from the press and as a result St George’s University became a household name throughout the Caribbean.

Each year 24 students were chosen from Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Jamaica, Antigua, St. Kitts, St Vincent, Dominica, St Lucia and Grenada to attend the Academy. Many of these students went on to play cricket for the West Indies, notably Darren Sammy who became captain of the team and led it to two T20 World Cup victories; an amazing achievement.

The Academy course revolved around cricket improvement but great emphasis was also placed on self-discipline, self-motivation, self-belief and a good work ethic, factors that were somewhat lacking in West Indies cricket. Most of the coaches and teachers were from the Caribbean but others came from countries as far away as the United States, Cuba, Venezuela and Australia.  

Dr Webster left Australia in 1986 and returned to the Caribbean where he worked with Prime Ministers Errol Barrow and Erskine Sandiford of Barbados. He was later sent to Washington as Barbados’ Ambassador to the United States of America and Barbados’ Ambassador to the Organisation of American States. While in Washington and with the blessings of Nelson Mandela, Dr Webster helped to set up diplomatic relations between South Africa and Barbados during South Africa’s transition period. Barbados was the first Caribbean country to do so.

In 1994 Dr Webster was a special political adviser to Gamini Dissanayake who was running for the Presidency of Sri Lanka. Tragically, Mr Dissanayake was assassinated by a suicide bomber at a political meeting; a fate that Dr Webster who usually sat close to him on the political platform miraculously escaped.  Sixty-three people were killed including everyone on the platform.

Dr Webster is the author of two books, Winning Ways: In Search of Your best Performance and Think Like A Champion. He has written several articles on the state and fate of West Indies cricket. 

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