If King Viv earned the nickname Smokin’ Joe for his evocation of the fearless, aggressive boxer Joe Frazier, Runako Morton should have been called Ivanhoe, for his evocation of glamorous, country-boy-in-the-big-city anti-hero Ivanhoe Martin from Perry Henzell’s dazzling film, The Harder They Come. Runako had the presence and look of a film-star, and a backstory not short of the kind of run-ins with authority that Jimmy Cliff portrayed so memorably in that film.
From the tiny island of Nevis, Morton’s talent was identified early, but disciplinary problems derailed his progression through the ranks to senior honours and he never quite established himself in the West Indies XI. He had the kind of game that you see more in club cricket than first class – not much that looked like it came from the coaching manual, but an eye like a dead fish and a willingness to hit the ball very hard. In more stable times, the West Indies could have discovered their own David Warner.
Runako is gone now at 33 – if it’s not too trite to point out, the same number as his ODI average – but he won’t be forgotten, despite a modest international record. Those who saw him will remember the frisson of excitement when he walked to the crease – a dangerously raw presence in a game in which coaching, media training and the cushion of wealth knocks most of the edges off men long before the public get to know something of them. Runako made his own choices, for good or ill, and took the consequences without complaint – his friends and the public sensed that (as they always do), and respected him for it (as they always do).
(Also published at sportsobituaries.wordpress.com)