Caribbean cricket; the two words when said together roll off the tongue as if they were blessed by God himself.
With their fast paced bowling attack of Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Curtly Ambrose, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding, cricket in the mid 1970’s to the early 1990’s belonged on the shores of the Caribbean.
Their ideology of cricket to be played by fit young men, paved the way for modern cricket to be coached how it is today, but since their fall from grace in the early 90’s the question remains: will the ‘Windies’ ever make it back to greatness?
The West Indies rise to greatness began in utter failure - the ill-fated tour of Australia in 1975-1976, where the West Indian batsmen took a physical battering from the great pace duo of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson and an equally scaring verbal hounding from more than one loud mouth Aussie in the stands.
But from this utter humiliation rose a cold, hard fury; no longer would they be known as the happy-go-lucky ’Calypso Cricketers’- a rather patronising, racially insensitive nickname – that had branded them for years before.
And so, under the captaincy of David Lloyd, and the watchful eye of Viv Richards, the West Indies said farewell to their persona as the ’Calypso Cricketers’, emulating the fearsome bowling styles of Lille and Thompson effectively reinventing themselves as ruthless, fast bowlers.
But cricket had a deeper meaning for the West Indians; cricket was a way of striking back at their old colonial masters. The ball was their bullet, if a small bruise was inflicted, a rib or two broken; that was seen as slight payback for the suffering of their ancestors under the harsh grip of slavery.
And so, between March 1980 and May 1995 the West Indies played 29 Test series, of which they did not lose one.
It is worth noting that the mood of the whole region became bleaker and more fragmented around the time of their decline. Reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund cut wages and reduced life expectancies. The crusading zeal of the Caribbean ebbed away, as its people realised that they still remained at the mercy of the western world.
And when your teams’ very soul is fuelled by a great sense of nationalism, when the morale of your country dies, so does a part of your team.
So the question remains: will the West Indies ever make it back to greatness in Test cricket?
With success in the latest ICC T20 World Cup, the West Indies strength definitely lies in the limited overs game. The big hitters in their team such as Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard’s concerns lie in scoring runs quickly rather than building an innings..
Arguably the West Indies only real Test match batsman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, is now coming to the end of his career at age 38. I believe the only way the West Indies will ever make it back to the top is if they revaluate their batting line up and look for more progressive batsmen suited to the Test game.
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