While the recently concluded India-West Indies series has put the Caribbean cricket in a poor light, time was, when the West Indies dominated cricket in a way, which left their opponents groping for answers. The great Clive Lloyd was one of the most disappointed persons, watching the current West Indies squad fail miserably in all departments of the game in the two test matches in Kolkata and Mumbai in November 2013. Lloyd came to India in the seventies and eighties, leading a bunch of illustrious cricketers, who showed their dominance. These were times, when West Indies truly ruled the cricketing world.
The last test of the 1973-74 series against England at home was a farewell game for two great cricketing personalities. They were Sir Garfield Sobers and Rohan Kanhai. While it marked the end of an era in West Indian cricket, it was the beginning of West Indies’ incredible dominance of world cricket for the next few years. With Kanhai and Sobers gone, Clive Lloyd took over the mantle of captaincy. Lloyd’s looks were downright deceptive going by his awkward stoop and bespectacled frame. The appearance concealed the reality about his marvelous fielding in the covers and scintillating stroke play. As captain, Lloyd’s first assignment was visiting India for a five-test series in 1974-75, which the West Indies won 3-2. Lloyd scored a match-winning 242 not out in the final test, an inaugural test for Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. This team included three new, but remarkable cricketers, who were destined to dominate world cricket for a long time. They were; Gordon Greenidge, Vivian Richards and Andy Roberts. Greenidge started his career with scores of 107 and 93 and Richards, after failing in his debut first test, mounted a score of 192 not out in the second test. Roberts created a genuine scare among batsmen with his devastating pace bowling.
In the first ever Limited-Over competition in 1975, West Indies beat Australia. But they lost the test-series to the Aussies in 1975-76. However West Indies beat India 2-1 in the Caribbean. In about four years, the West Indian squad had a bowling line-up, consisting of Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall. This was the most fearsome pace quartet, the world cricket had ever seen. On the batting front, they had the likes of Fredericks, Kallicharan, Greenidge, Rowe, Richards and Lloyd himself. By late seventies, the West Indians became virtually invincible.
On the eve of the 1976 test series, which the West Indies played in England, Tony Greig’s remark, about making West Indians grovel, sparked raw emotions among West Indian cricketers, more so, since Greig had his origins in South Africa. In all five matches of the series, England’s batsmen were subject to some very hostile bowling. While the first two tests ended as drawn games, West Indies won the last three to clinch the series. There were many West Indian heroes on this tour; spearheaded by Richards, who aggregated 829 runs with two double centuries. Gordon Greenidge notched up three centuries and Andy Roberts and Michael Holding shared 55 wickets between themselves. Holding’s 14/149 at the Oval remained the talking point in cricketing fraternity for many years.
In 1976-77, West Indies won the test series at home against Pakistan. For some time, the Australian tycoon, Kerry Packer created a flutter, by luring several international cricketers in trying to run his own cricket competition, called World Series Cricket. Many West Indians also signed the Packer contract. Lloyd resigned as captain and under Alvin Kallicharan, West Indies won the home series 3-1, against the depleted Australian side. West Indies also won the 1979 world cup, after their Cricket Board allowed Packer players to participate. The packer dispute was resolved at the end of 1979 and Kallicharran lost his captaincy after a 1-0 series loss in India. Lloyd came back as captain, once again for the tour to Australia, which the West Indians won 2-0. In 1980 West Indies notched cup a 1-0 series win in England, 1-0 win, when Pakistan visited the Caribbean, 2-0 against the touring English team and a 1-1 draw against Australia down under.
West Indies suffered their only setback in early eighties, when they lost the 1983 world cup to the unfancied India. But other than that, they established themselves as the most superior cricketing nation. The tour to England was their high point, where West Indies “blackwashed” England 5-0 and followed it up with another blackwash, when England visited the Caribbean. After Lloyd retired at the end of 1984-85 series against Australia, Vivian Richards took over as captain. Their dominance, however, continued with 11 consecutive test victories. In that period, West Indies did not lose even once in 27 tests.