By Nasser Khan (Author of History of West Indies Cricket Through Calypsoes)
From as early as the 1900s cricket has been a part of the lives of the West Indian people as it was adopted and commonly played throughout the region. As the game took its permanent root in Caribbean soil in schools and communities, it began to bear a crop of young players who brought their own homespun skill and flair to the field of play. Since achieving Test status in 1928, the Windies have become known for their rhythmic exhuberance and unique flair, eventually being dubbed the “Calypso Cricketers” and have captured the imagination of the cricketing world.
From Learie Constantine in the 1920’s to George “Atlas” Headley in the 1930’s, to Garfield Sobers, the greatest all-round cricketer ever, some of the teams’ players were so striking and influential that entire periods of West Indian cricket history have been labeled after them. Their presence and performances were so profound that an era of cricket began and ended with their professional cricketing journeys.
ERAS named after players:
1928-1940: the Learie Constantine and George Headley era.
1943-1963: the three W’s (Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott) and Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine. In his three years as captain, Worrell moulded a group of inspired but raw talented into the best cricketing team in the world.
1965-1973: the Garry Sobers era. “Who is the greatest cricketer on Earth or Mars….”
By the mid-1970s The Windies were heralded as a cricketing force to be “reckoned with”, adding some of the greatest batsmen and incisive bowlers to the game. They developed into the 1980s and 1990s a four-man fast and menacing bowling attack which gave the team many victories, along with their powerful batting line ups and electrifying fielding. When the West Indies went to England in 1976, little did people in the UK realise that Clive Lloyd’s team would go on to dominate world cricket for the best part of 20 years.
1980-1995: the era dominated by Clive Lloyd-led teams first (preceded by the 1975 and 1979 world Cup triumphs also led by Lloyd) and then by Vivian Richards-led teams…The Glory Days.
Appropriately the glory Days began with the West Indies win over England in the inaugural cricket World Cup in 1975, and although we lost 1-5 to Australia in the Test series down under from 1975-1976, we were back on top in late 1976 when we defeated India, 2-1 in a four-Test series.
The beginning of the glory days saw the arrival of several stars. In 1975-1976 Michael Holding made his debut displaying his quick bowling skill. Clive Lloyd was commander in charge as captain. Andy Roberts had made his entrance. Colin Croft and Joel Garner followed and Malcolm Marshall two years later. In a short four year period of 1975-1978, the Windies team boasted a line-up of bowlers with match-winning fire power. The momentum for the glory days were sustained by the arrival of other outstanding players, batsmen especially, to support the bowlers, including Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Vivian Richards, Alvin Kallicharran, Roy Fredericks, Jeff Dujon, Gus Logie, Larry Gomes, Richie Richardson, and even more bowlers in Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, and Ian Bishop.
The West Indies became the unofficial World and Test Match Champions.
Lloyd retired on the high note of successive victorious tours against Australia in the West Indies March – May 1984, 3-0; England in England June – August 1984, 5-0; Australia in Australia November 1984 – January 1985, 3-1.
1994-2007: the Brian Lara era
David Rudder “Cricket/It’s Over” 2007…’the crowds are gone and the arenas stand so silent’ where ‘every run, every rising ball is now a memory’…an exaggerated description of the post glory days.
Then to now: the modern Twenty20 era reflected by the West Indies winning the World Cups for that format the game in 2012 and 2016 under the captaincy on both occasion by Darren Sammy.
Of all these eras, the most dominant was from 1980 to 1995, when the sides led by first Lloyd, then Richards and, for the final few years, Desmond Haynes and Richie Richardson, didn’t lose a Test series, and won 20 of the 29 they played!
But while there are these selected masterful cricketers who have eras labeled after them, there are other great West Indian players who have through the decades placed West Indian cricket and indeed the Caribbean region on the world stage. The following is a list of the region’s greatest cricketers from 1928-2016. That a region as small as ours, compared to the vast regions and populations of the other top cricketing countries, can produce such great cricketing stars as the following is truly amazing.
SOME TOP WEST INDIAN CRICKETERS OF YESTERYEAR:
|George Challenor 1928||Learie Constantine 1928-39||Learie Constantine 1928-39||Gerry Alexander 1957-61|
|George Headley 1930-54||Manny Martindale 1933-39||Gerry Gomez 1939-54||Jackie Hendricks 1962-69|
|Clifford Roach 1928-35||Sonny Ranmadhin 1950-61||Garry Sobers 1954-74||Deryck Murray 1963-80|
|Everton Weekes 1948-58||Alf Valentine 1952-63||Carl Hooper 1987-2002||Jeff Dujon 1981-91|
|Clyde Walcott 1948-60||Wes Hall 1958-76||Bernard Julien 1973-77||Ridley Jacobs 1996-2003|
|Frank Worrell 1948-63||Lance Gibbs 1958-76||Keith Boyce 1971-76|
|Garry Sobers 1954-74||Garry Sobers 1954-74||Frank Worrell 1948-63|
|Rohan Kanhai 1957-75||Andy Roberts 1974-84|
|Conrad Hunte 1958-67||Michael Holding 1975-86|
|Seymour Nurse 1960-69||Joel Garner 1977 -86|
|Clive Lloyd 1966-85||Malcolm Marshall 1978-91|
|Roy Fredericks 1968-77||Colin Croft 1977-82|
|Lawrence Rowe 1972-79||Courtney Walsh 1985-2001|
|Alvin Kallicharran 1972-81||Curtly Ambrose 1988-2000|
|Viv Richards 1974-91||Ian Bishop 1989-98|
|Gordon Greenidge 1974-90|
|Larry Gomes 1976-87|
|Desmond Haynes 1978-94|
|Richie Richardson 1983-95|
|Brian Lara 1990-2007|
|Shivnarine Chanderpaul 1994-2016|
|Ramnaresh Sarwan 2000-2011|
More recent and today’s stars: Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Darren Sammy, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Samuel Badree.
The West Indies have won five major tournament titles: the World Cup twice, the Champions Trophy once, and the World Twenty20 twice. Both World Cups (ODI format) were won under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd, both World Twenty20 titles were under the captaincy of Daren Sammy while the Champions Trophy was under the captaincy of Brian Lara.
In 20 years, 1975-1995, The West Indies played 36 Test match series, winning 25, 9 were drawn and lost just 2. From 1980-1995, they played 29 Test match series, winning 20 and drawing 9…unbeaten in 15 years!
Quadruple and triple centurions in Test matches: 400 not out by Brian Lara against England at St John’s in 2003–04; 375 by Brian Lara against England at St John’s in 1993–94; 365 not out by Garry Sobers against Pakistan at Kingston in 1957–58; 333 by Chris Gayle against Sri Lanka at Galle in 2010–11; 317 by Chris Gayle against South Africa at St John’s in 2004–05; 302 by Lawrence Rowe against England at Bridgetown in 1973–74
The West Indies dominated cricket for much of the second half of the 20th century, mainly with the teams led by Frank Worrell, Garfield Sobers, Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards. Two of those legendary West Indians, Sobers and Richards, were chosen among the five greatest players of the 20th century by a panel of 100 experts polled by Wisden at the end of the last millennium.
SOME FIRSTS, CHAMPION PERFORMANCES AND VICTORIES:
1808 FIRST recorded instance of organized cricket (Bridgetown Gazette) in Barbados
(Officers of the Royal West Indies Rangers versus Officers of the third West Indian regiment)
1858 oldest Cricket club in the West Indies, Georgetown Cricket club formed in British Guiana
1895 FIRST triangular inter-colonial tournament (Barbados, Trinidad and British Guiana (now Guyana)
1896 FIRST match between St. Lucia and St. Vincent and FIRST match between St. Lucia and Dominica.
1897 FIRST all West Indian team selected to play England in Trinidad –Feb. 15-19, WI won by 2 wickets
1900 FIRST tour to England by a West Indies team
1928 FIRST official test match during fourth W.I. tour to England. Captain, Robert Karl Nunes
1930 FIRST Test in the West Indies at Kensington Oval, Barbados versus England (Jan. 11-16) match drawn.
1930 FIRST century scored by a West Indian: Clifford Roach 1930-Our first Test victory, versus England in then British Guiana Feb. 21-26 featuring Clifford Roach, first West Indian double centurion (209), George Headley’s114 and 112 (first to score centuries in both innings) and Learie Constantine 5-87, first to take five wickets in an inning.
1935 FIRST West Indies Test series win versus England 2-1, in the West Indies
1939 FIRST cricketer to score centuries (106 and 107) in both innings of a test match at Lords; George Headley
1948 leg spinner Wilfred Ferguson became the first West Indian bowler to take ten wickets in a Test, finishing with 11/229 in a match against England
1948-The legendary 3 Ws (Weekes, Walcott, Worrell) played together for the first time in a Test forming one of the greatest middle order combination ever. Weekes, from here went on to score 5 consecutive Test centuries
1950-Windies first ever Test victory at Lord’s cricket ground, by 326 runs, saw Sonny Ramadhin taking 11 wickets and Alf Valentine 7, destroying England at the “mecca” of cricket.
1955 FIRST Cricketer to score a double century (219) and take 5 wickets in an innings (5/56) in the same test match (Denis Atkinson) versus Australia at Kensington Oval, Barbados
1957 FIRST cricketer ever to bowl so many balls in a Test match, Sonny Ramadhin versus England at Edgbaston, England – 31 overs in the first inning and 98 overs in the second (744 balls)
1958 FIRST triple century by a West Indian batsman: Garry Sobers 365 not out versus Pakistan at Sabina Park, Jamaica
1959 FIRST West Indian bowler to take a hat trick in a test: Wes Hall versus Pakistan in Lahore
1960 FIRST tied Test, West Indies Australia at Brisbane, Australia. Australia’s Ian Meckiff is brilliantly run out by Joe Solomon, a classic ending to cricket’s first tied Test. Frank Worrell rises to prominence, belatedly, as a leader par excellence. An estimated half a million Australians lined the streets to bid farewell to the West Indies. The team attracted such great attention that one day’s play was attended by a record crowd of 90,800. The impression created by the team was so momentous that a special trophy was named ‘Frank Worrell Trophy’
1965 FIRST player to complete 4000 runs and 100 wickets in Tests: Garry Sobers
1966 FIRST cricketer to score a century and take 5 wickets in the same Test innings for the second time: Garry Sobers 174 and 5-41 versus England at Leeds; FIRST time was versus India at Sabina Park, Jamaica in 1962 (104 and 5-63)
1971 FIRST West Indian to take 9 wickets in a test inning: Jack Noreiga versus India at the Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad
1972 FIRST batsman t score a double century and a century in his first Test: Lawrence Rowe versus New Zealand at Sabina Park, Jamaica
1974 first Test cricketer to reach 8000 runs: Garry Sobers
1975 FIRST cricket World Cup held in England: West Indies won
1976 FIRST Test spinner to surpass 300 wickets: Lance Gibbs
1976 FIRST West Indies women Test team versus Australia in the West Indies (Captain-Louise Browne)
1979 West Indies wins 2nd World Cup
1980 FIRST batsman to bat through both innings of a Test Match: Desmond Haynes versus new Zealand at Dundein.
1983/4 FIRST West Indian to play in 100 tests: Clive Lloyd
1984 FIRST ODI to end in a tie – West Indies versus Australia, Melbourne, Australia
1986-Viv Richards 56 ball fastest ever Test century then in Antigua.
1994-Brian Lara surpasses Garry Sobers’ 1958 record to score 375 versus England in Antigua (45 fours).
1996 FIRST regional competition triple century scored by Shivnarine Chanderpaul 303 for Guyana versus Jamaica at Sabina Park, Jamaica
2002 FIRST cricketer to take 100 wickets, hold 100 catches and scored 5000 runs in both one day and Test cricket: Carl Hooper
2004 FIRST and only cricketer to score a quadruple century in Test cricket: Brian Lara at Antigua versus England, 400 not out
2000-Courtney Walsh became Test cricket’s all time leading wicket taker, 435, passing India’s Kapil Dev. He ended his career in 2001 with 519 wickets, the highest ever by any cricketer until then and still the highest by a West Indian.
2004-Windies won the ICC Champions Tournament beating England in the final at the Oval in England under the captaincy of Brain Lara.
2004-Brian Lara hits the highest ever Test score 400 not out (43 fours, 4 sixes), versus England in Antigua reclaiming the record from Australia’s Mathew Hayden.
2005-Brian Lara reaches 11,174 Test runs eclipsing Australia’s Allan Border as Test cricket’s highest run scorer, versus Australia, in Australia.
2007-West Indies host the ODI World Cup for the first time.
2010 – West Indies host the T20 World Cup for the first time.
2012 – West Indies win T20 World Cup for the first time.
2016 – West Indies win T20 World Cup for the second time. They were four balls on Sunday April 3rd 2016 that shook the cricket world. It was when Carlos Brathwaite dealt four consecutive match winning blows, all sixes, to England taking the West Indies to becoming the World Twenty20 champions following in the footsteps of the women’s team and the under-19 team.
All three teams are the reigning T20/Twenty20 World Cup champions.
Caribbean cricket, and by extension, its cricketers, have contributed immensely to the development and popularity of cricket on the world stage. Other cricket playing nations have been privileged to witness and interface with the greatness and genius of the Windies since the first overseas tour to England in 1900.
-Contributed, N Khan