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Passing of ‘Master Blaster’ mourned

  • Crowd pleaser: Glenn Blakeney Jr was widely respected as the finest batsman of his generation on the island

Glenn Blakeney Jr, a hard-hitting and record-breaking batsman, has died after complications from a five-year battle with cancer.

Colleagues and friends paid tribute to his talent, acknowledged as unparalleled in Bermuda.

His father, Glenn Sr, the owner of Inter-Island Communications and a former Progressive Labour Party Cabinet minister, confirmed the news on Monday.

Mr Blakeney said that his son, who would have turned 46 on January 22, had died surrounded by close family members at the Stony Brook University Hospital in Long Island, New York.

Glenn Jr, officially Glenn Smith Blakeney, rose to prominence as a skilful young left-hander with Hamilton Parish Workman’s Club in the late 1980s.

His early prowess on the field left little doubt of his future in the game, and Mr Blakeney did not disappoint.

He followed in the footsteps of leading Hamilton Parish players such as Ricky Hill, Terry Burgess and Corey Hill, and moved a few miles farther east to Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club.

He took advantage of the broader stage at Sea Breeze Oval and gained selection for Bay in the Eastern Counties Cup, which propelled him into the reckoning for Cup Match and a Bermuda call-up.

In 20 Cup Match innings between 1991 and 2012, he scored 621 runs at an average of 34.50 with a top score of 104. Amid a flurry of runs both here and overseas, Glenn Jr enjoyed a prosperous 1995 summer in England with club side Benwell Hill in the Northumberland County League.

Fellow Bermudians Clay Smith, Dean Minors and Gregg Foggo also had stints at the club in the North of England.

But it was on home soil where he is best remembered as the only modern-day cricketer to make three scores in excess of 200 — 245 for St David’s against Willow Cuts in August 2001, 303 not out for St David’s against Bailey’s Bay in August 2002, and an Eastern Counties record 218 for Bailey’s Bay against Flatts in August 2011.

All of which earned him the nickname “Master Blaster”.

Charlie Marshall, who was among the Bailey’s Bay greats Blakeney sought to emulate, said he was “small in stature but could change a game in a matter of minutes with an explosive but flamboyant batting display”.

Mr Marshall said Mr Blakeney was “a true gladiator and a legend” who loved fishing as well as assessing the opposition’s bowling attack with him on the morning of each game.

He added: “Despite all of his success, he remained humble, and at times it seemed he was embarrassed that people made such a fuss over his ability.

“He definitely was a team player and never ran from any challenge. Glenn was in a class of his own and will be missed.”

Mr Marshall offered condolences to Mr Blakeney’s wife, Twynika, and their three children. Ricky Hill said Mr Blakeney was “quiet and very focused on whatever he tried — Bermuda has been denied a rare talent”.

He added: “He was a person that people came to see. He was magnificent to watch, in a class of his own. He showed such devastation; he was so precise — it was a joy to watch.”

Mr Hill added that the younger athlete had been at ease in his talent and “always comfortable and sure of himself”.

Mr Minors said he had been proud of his time in England with him.

He added: “He left a legacy over there as well. The people absolutely loved him. Glenn had a lot of respect from people — he was genuine and cool with everybody. His talent was beautiful; it was a legacy cut short.

“I wish that he would have gone to the World Cup with us and taken that journey — with him, we would have performed much better.”

Mr Minors likened his late friend’s skill to Brian Lara, the former West Indies great.

He said: “He was that good — Bermuda has lost a gem.”

Mr Blakeney was also a good footballer.

Mr Minors said: “He had amazing hand-eye co-ordination. He was a left-handed batsman as well, so I would learn from him.”

Mr Smith added that Mr Blakeney was “an exceptional talent”.

He said: “Glenn and I played in England two years together, and we were roommates. I witnessed some of his innings that were mind-blowing; just phenomenal. I remember him scoring 303 not out for St David’s against Bailey’s Bay, and he actually broke a record for the Northumberland league. He had an unbelievable confidence in his ability.”

Mr Smith added: “He was without a doubt the top batsman I witnessed, played with and coached. He’s going to be a huge miss, and I just wish his family the best moving forward.

“It’s sad to see him go. He has been fighting for some time now. Cricket will definitely be less without him, but he has left his legacy behind for others. They can learn from what they saw of him on and off the field.”

Lloyd Smith, president of the Bermuda Cricket Board, said in a statement released this morning: “The BCB extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Glenn Blakeney Jr. Glenn was blessed with an incredible natural talent that allowed him to entertain local and overseas fans with exceptional stroke play.

“He represented Bermuda many times, playing at first-class, one-day international and other international level as a top-order batsman who could also keep wicket and bowl leg-spin. He is the only cricketer to have scored a triple century in domestic 50-overs cricket, a fitting highlight to a career in which he dominated local bowlers with consummate ease.”

Kidney cancer was diagnosed in March 2013 and the young man who had dominated on the cricket field for so long accepted that he was in for another battle.

Glenn Sr said his son had fought a “brave” battle over the years since he became ill.

In an interview with The Royal Gazette in 2013, the younger Blakeney said he was taking his illness “one day at a time”, buoyed by support from friends and family.

He added: “I didn’t realise how many people I’ve actually touched through my cricket.

“I’ve had lots of well wishes and prayers, which has just been overwhelming.

“You get people who hail you up all the time, but it took something like this to make me realise how much people really appreciate you.”