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How West Indies began their journey to world domination

Forty years ago Clive Lloyd and Co arrived in England ready to forge reputations. They left having established legends

Interviews by Crispin Andrews |

Tony Greig is bowled for a duck by Andy Roberts at Trent Bridge

Tony Greig is bowled for a duck by Andy Roberts at Trent Bridge © PA Photos

When West Indies came to England in 1976, 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? West Indies had won the World Cup the previous year, but were then thrashed 5-1 in Australia. Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai and Lance Gibbs had recently retired. A new generation of West Indian players, Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding, would go on to become household names. But in 1976, these players were as yet unproven at the highest level.

England opener Dennis Amiss played with Alvin Kallicharran and Deryck Murray at Warwickshire.

Amiss It was no great surprise. They had a good track record and also some experienced players. We'd met most of them on the 1974 tour and were lucky to come away with a draw. By 1976, those players had been together for two more years.

Barbados and Warwickshire fast bowler Bill Bourne had played youth cricket in West Indies with and against Lawrence Rowe, Larry Gomes, Bernard Julien, Collis King and Raphick Jumadeen.

Bourne We were hopeful for something special as our regional tournament was tough, but the results were better than expected.

David Steele, England batsman I didn't think about how good they were going to be; just turned up and played. They'd had a battering in Australia from Lillee and Thomson. They didn't like it up 'em either.

Gordon Greenidge, West Indies opener We lost 5-1 in Australia - got a real thrashing from a very professional, hard, unified side. After that, we became more committed and started playing for each other.

"I took my first ball against Andy Roberts - it went through the top of the track, puff of dust, and I gloved it and was caught first ball. I remember thinking, 'Good grief, there's not a thing I could have done about that'" Frank Hayes

Bourne The 1975 World Cup win gives a better indication of how good that team was. Our athleticism, fitness level and fielding ability easily surpassed that of the other teams.

England had seen plenty of West Indies quick bowlers, like Andy Roberts, Vanburn Holder and Bernard Julien, in county cricket. In the second tour match, against Hampshire, Lloyd unleashed a new fast bowling star.

Andy Murtagh, Hampshire We'd heard about Michael Holding, but no one had seen him bowl over here. Watching from the pavilion, as he ran in from practically the sightscreen, was the most beautiful, terrifying sight I've ever seen. He was frighteningly fast. There was one ball I just didn't see. I remember it thudding into Deryck Murray's gloves and the slips going "Whooooah." John Arlott put it rather well in the Times the following day: "Murtagh's ability to miss the right ball finally deserted him."

Frank Hayes, England batsman Peter Lever had seen Holding in West Indies during our winter and said he was rapid. When we played against Holding in a tour game in 1974, he only bowled military medium.

Amiss Reports from Australia were that he'd bowled quickly out there.

Steele We knew they'd be quick and they were. Andy Roberts was the best. He'd run up the same as normal and bowl something a yard quicker.

Double times two: Viv Richards made two scores of 200-plus in the Test series

Double times two: Viv Richards made two scores of 200-plus in the Test series © Getty Images

Murtagh For Hampshire against West Indies in 1973, Roberts broke Steve Camacho's jaw. He was only young and hadn't quite learned how to control it, but my god, he was quick.

Hayes Geoff Boycott used to say that Vanburn Holder and Keith Boyce would bowl a yard quicker in Tests than they did in county cricket. They weren't in the same bracket as Holding, Roberts and [Wayne] Daniel. Those three bowled 90mph plus, all the time, 95mph at their quickest.

Wayne Daniel could be frighteningly fast, and make it swing. Sometimes his yorker ended up around shoulder height. He'd always apologise, though.

Steele Daniel got bounce, hit the deck. Big chap. Strange that he didn't play too many Test matches. A lovely variety of fast bowlers.

Amiss Vanburn Holder could bowl quickly when he got his rhythm right and there was a bit in the wicket. Often, though, he would bowl within himself.

Bourne Holder's line and length were impeccable. Other bowlers got wickets because of him. People looked at the pace of Andy and Michael, but the other bowlers played their part very well.

"With those long run-ups, if there were a couple of no-balls, an over could last 12 minutes" David Steele

For the first two Tests, England held their own. Dogged pros like Steele, Brian Close and John Edrich kept the West Indies pacemen at bay.

Steele I tried to wear everybody down. That's what I was all about. They were very difficult to wear down, though. For Australia, the previous year, Lillee and Thomson were outstanding, and the first change was Max Walker. But after that they had nothing; Ashley Mallett the offspinner, but not a lot of back-up. West Indies were at you all the time.

In the first Test, Viv Richards smashed 232. In the fifth he made 291 and finished the series with 829 runs. He was 24 years old.

Amiss Viv we saw in the West Indies, in 1974. He got a few for the Leeward Islands in a tour game. It didn't matter where you bowled to him, he'd find a way to get runs.

Hayes In that [Leeward Islands] match he got 40-odd, very quickly before lunch. I remember thinking: this guy could play a bit. But back in the changing room, some of the quicks were calling him a slogger.

Jim Parks, played with Richards at Somerset in 1974 From the minute we saw him we knew he was going to be something special. In one of his first games, against Gloucestershire, he got a hundred and smashed them to all parts. Took bowlers on, technique was good, had every shot in the book.

Bourne Vanburn Holder had told me to expect something special from Viv.

After a rain-affected draw at Lord's, West Indies won the third Test, at Old Trafford, by 425 runs on a pitch suited to their fast bowlers.

Gordon Greenidge:

Gordon Greenidge: "We were a bunch of guys that came together and gelled well as a fighting unit" © Getty Images

Hayes The week before, I played at Old Trafford for Lancashire against Surrey and when John Edrich saw the Test wicket he started to limp. The square had been deteriorating all season. It looked white, green, white, green - undulating. There was a drought on too, so cracks opened. People thought it was one of the worst Test wickets they'd ever seen. It looked like a bad track and it played like a bad'un as well.

Steele Nightmare surface, shocker, dangerous wicket.

Roberts, Holding and Daniel battered England into submission. Brian Close and John Edrich, in particular, took a fearsome going over. England selected medium-pacers Mike Selvey, Mike Hendrick and Tony Greig.

Hayes Brian Close said they had three cannons and we had three pea-shooters.

Steele It finished John Edrich. He got fed up waiting for them to bowl. With those long run-ups, if there were a couple of no-balls, an over could last 12 minutes. No restriction on over rates back then. Sometimes Edrich would wait for them at the non-striker's end. He was good at that. Closey got battered on purpose. We'd done very well up to that point.

Hayes It was my comeback Test. I took my first ball against Andy Roberts - it went through the top of the track, puff of dust, and I gloved it and was caught first ball. I remember thinking, "Good grief, there's not a thing I could have done about that."

"There was one ball I just didn't see. I remember it thudding into Deryck Murray's gloves and the slips going 'Whooooah'" Andy Murtagh on facing Michael Holding

Greenidge People said that we didn't play the game in the right spirit. That was disappointing, because we always believed that we did. If any team had the type of fast bowling armoury that we had, they would have used it in the same way. It was just unfortunate we were bowling at those particular players [Close was 46, Edrich 39]. That wasn't our call. England had selected them. And actually I thought that they handled themselves reasonably well. But people said that we were violent, bringing the game to disrepute, not playing the game in the right manner. We were fierce and competitive and that was all.

Despite the wicket, Greenidge managed to score two hundreds at Old Trafford.

Murtagh Barry Richards [who opened with Greenidge at Hampshire] told me that Gordon had worked out that to make a name for himself, get into the Test side, he had to make big hundreds. To cash in once he was in. After that he started to concentrate rather than try to smash every ball for six, which he tended to do when he was younger. Gordon grew up in England, on English wickets, from age 14.

Greenidge It helped my technique. You'd play on lots of different surfaces, on uncovered wickets, which I thought were unfair to the batsman. The bowler's run-up was covered, so he'd have a dry spot to land on. Sometimes our bats had more mud on them than ball marks. And you had to score fast to set up a win inside three days. Those pitches made you think.

Amiss When West Indies came over in 1976, nearly all of them had experience of English conditions.

Greenidge Playing on softer surfaces with swing and a lot of seam movement would help people develop their techniques. You didn't get out-and-out quick bowlers, just people who can use the conditions well.

Bourne County cricket exposure was the finishing school for our players. The number of games, the practice, the training and the professionalism all helped to better hone our skills

Brian Close takes evasive action against Michael Holding at Old Trafford

Brian Close takes evasive action against Michael Holding at Old Trafford © PA Photos

For the fourth Test, at Headingley, England chose their own fast bowlers. Bob Willis, John Snow and Alan Ward took 18 wickets between them, but West Indies still won by 55 runs. The tourists won the final match, at The Oval, too, by 231 runs, thanks to Richards' 291 and Michael Holding's 14 wickets.

Amiss Having four fast bowlers meant they could play with greater intensity. Clive Lloyd could just rotate them and keep the pressure up. Before that, West Indies always had spinners.

They had some good experienced players too. Alvin Kallicharran could score runs on any type of wicket against the best bowlers. I remember, one game against Worcestershire, first ball, on a green wicket, Alvin smashed a Vanburn Holder bouncer for six. That's how you see them off, he told me.

Bourne Lawrence Rowe was an extraordinary player at youth level. So very compact, composed and attractive in his strokeplay.

Amiss Our Warwickshire coach, Tiger Smith, said that Clive Lloyd was the best natural batsman he ever saw.

It wasn't just the quality of players that made that West Indies side special. It was also the way they played their cricket.

Steele Excellent team. Confident. Something a bit different.

Amiss They knew they could play, had pure belief that they were good. They were a good side and happy side who enjoyed their cricket but played hard to win all the time.

Hayes They didn't appear to be coached, they played the most spontaneous shots. Fabulous side.

Bourne Previous players were good, but not as ruthlessly professional as Lloyd's players. They had a point to prove to the sceptics back home, and probably made greater sacrifices in order to be the best team. Their success made us very proud as West Indians living in England. Back then even people who didn't play were thought of as cricketers.

Greenidge We were a bunch of guys that came together and gelled well as a fighting unit. Can't say more than that.

 

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  • POSTED BY Harsh on | April 30, 2016, 11:33 GMT

    Watching Viv Richards blaze away imperiously was one of cricket's most majestic sights and so was witnessing Michael Holding who resembled a Rolls Royce car when steaming in.Viv expressed the domination of an emperor while Holding although bowling at express speed posessed the grace of the divine.Gordon Greenidge,looked like a black Barry Richards blending the power of a bulldozer with the technical skill of a surgeon.Significantly he contributed more than anyone in the wining causes with his 3 centuries.Clive Lloyd's leadership also played a major factor.In that series it looked as though a new spirit was radiating within West Indian cricket creating a renaissance.What basically set it up was the vengeance the Calypsos seeked after Tony Greig statement that he would make grovel out of them.

  • POSTED BY Harsh on | April 30, 2016, 8:17 GMT

    This tour gave a new dimension to West Indian cricket after their battering in Australia in the previous winter.A group of talented individuals were nurtured by skipper Clive Lloyd into a wold beating unit.The sparkling of Viv Richards wrote a new chapter in West Indian cricket giving vibrations of a don Bradman re-incarnated.Viv took domination of bowling to it's highest zenith.In addition the fury of the Caribbean pace attack getting the cutting edge with the talent of Andy Roberts and Michael Holding made a blistering impact.Roberts and Holding took bowling artistry to it's highest peak.Roberts' versatility combined with Holding's supreme aestheticism comprised one of cricket's most lethal duos ever.Although the series was already won it was Viv's 291 and Holding's 16-149 in the final test at the Oval that took domination of West Indian cricket to it's highest peak.

  • POSTED BY Duncan Holding on | April 25, 2016, 20:21 GMT

    I'm glad Dennis Amiss came back and made a superb double hundred followed up by a half century in the centenary test. It at least allowed him to bow out of test cricket in the knowledge he COULD play the fast bowlers. Showed the guts of the man

  • POSTED BY Paul on | April 22, 2016, 20:20 GMT

    Rather than imagine how the players of the past would cope now - pretty well I would think on flat, covered pitches with better bats and better protection, whilst proper quicks would scare the life out of batsmen used to today's dobbers - imagine how the batsmen would get on without helmets, with the old bats, on uncovered pitches, against four 90 mph plus bowlers.

  • POSTED BY rajagopalan on | April 22, 2016, 10:38 GMT

    sobers is the real God of cricket.Bradmans,tendulkars all great batsmen,but sobers,was a fast bower, an orthodox leg spin bowler, and an unorthodox spin bowler, a great fielder, fielding 4 feet from the batsman at leg slip , took some amazing catches and he was a great batman.how many people know he kept wickets in first class games like a professional keeper.Please keep him away from comparisons.He is above comparisons

  • POSTED BY bhanu67325088 on | April 21, 2016, 9:58 GMT

    The 1975-76 tour Down Under was the turning point in the Windies cricket history.The team was battered ,bruised and given a sound drubbing by the Aussie pacers.It was time to meet fire with fire and Lloyd mustered his pace battery who would dominate world cricket in the next two decades and what a domination it was !! The team was raring to go and Tony Grieg's infamous comments added fuel to the fire.Viv Rchards batting and Holding's bowling were revelation.Such was the dominance the English team was in total dissarry after the tour. Lloyds men had arrived on the world scene and it would be Carribean Calypso for the next twenty years.But kingdoms fall and so do great teams and by the advent of the new millennium the team was reduced to a bungled heap.The only saving grace is that the Windies are still keeping their heads high in the shorter version of the game...!!!

  • POSTED BY Partab on | April 21, 2016, 9:56 GMT

    In spite of the many eventful happenings in the 1976 series the over riding memory I will carry is of 45-year-old Brian Close and 39-year-old John Edrich holding out against the much younger pace trio of Holding, Roberts and Daniel to piece together a courageous half century opening partnership at Old Trafford. That man Close really had guts, the way he took the blows on his body without flinching is unparalleled.

  • POSTED BY pervez on | April 21, 2016, 8:56 GMT

    It is virtually impossible to compare players between eras. Too many variables need to be taken into account. Second the term great should only be applied to players within eras and comparisons must be made within eras.

    Sobers was great in his time (and maybe across times too) Jadeja is young and when he is close to 200+ Test wickets and 8000+ Test runs and is included in World XIs, I will take notice of him.

    When I read such piffle I nearly choked on my aloo paratha !

  • POSTED BY jaswant on | April 21, 2016, 2:31 GMT

    Those were the days when West Indians walked with their heads high. Cricket lovely cricket,the sport which united the Caribbean and brought us respects. Calypso,steel pan,reggae and chutney music were ever present from Bourda to Sabina Park. Dave Martin sang,"hit the maan like Kallicharran and put him straight in the stand". Michael Holding,Roberts,Daniels and Croft were more than any team could bargain for. Then King Viv hitting anything like there was no tomorrow. Sobers,Kanhai and Gibbs were indeed great,but their retirement was of no concern as there were more ammunition than needed. Kallicharran, Fredericks and Lloyd demanded respect when ever they batted.They took the world by storm,up rooting stumps,taking catches and compiling runs. It was victory and victory like never before.The saga lasted for about two decades,but now the silence has surged softly backwards as the fighting heroes are gone.The last of the greats was Shiv Chanderpaul.How I wjsh history could repeat itself.

  • POSTED BY Raman on | April 20, 2016, 15:52 GMT

    I agree with Hussain. Cricket is a much tougher and competitive game than those simple times of 1970s. In spite of having the 'best fast bowlers' in the world, Aussies have not won a test match or test series in India since 2005. And fast bowlers of West Indies are still very fast today, but, most people play them with ease. Times have changed, and, batsmen have a lot of protection, so they are not afraid of fast bowling anymore.

  • POSTED BY David on | April 20, 2016, 13:47 GMT

    The Lucky Country: your comment made me laugh, as I'm sure was your intent. I'd agree with you, all except for the times when Australia encounter a pitch with the tiniest hint of seam or spin, complain that it's been "doctored", realise they can't just slog through the line and collapse to 60 all out.

  • POSTED BY Jason on | April 20, 2016, 12:33 GMT

    A brilliant article that I really enjoyed about one of the best teams ever to visit England. Then I read the comments section, and promptly laughed my lunch out through my nose...Hussain, mate. Jadeja = Sobers? Really? Please be assured that cricket existed before SRT and the IPL. Sobers averaged nearly 58 in Test cricket playing on uncovered wickets, with no helmets, arm-guards or chest guards, no restrictions on the number of bouncers in an over, massive outfields, and a bat that probably weighed as much as the handle of Chris Gayle's bat. In terms of ability and playing style, there is no modern equivalent of Sobers, In terms of statistics and output there was Jacques Kallis, unquestionably also one of the greatest ever players, and nobody else is close. And I suspect that Sobers' stats would have been even better if he hadn't been out partying so much before and during games. But many thanks for brightening up my lunch break with the gift of laughter!

  • POSTED BY Terry on | April 20, 2016, 11:33 GMT

    The 5-1 thrashing in Australia meant the West Indies learnt they needed a harder edge and to be more professional. England got the first backlash from that in 1976 and the rest is history. As a kid I saw Garry Sobers towards the end of his career make 254 at the MCG for the Rest of the World against Lillee etc in what The Don said was the best innings he had seen in Australia. Wake me up when Jadeja does something similar.

  • POSTED BY FELIX on | April 20, 2016, 8:53 GMT

    For those of you who are comparing Sobers to present day All-rounders, please remember this. The records will show, Sobers was a fast bower, an orthodox leg spin bowler, and an unorthodox spin bowler, a great fielder, fielding 4 feet from the batsman at leg slip when Gibbs was bowling and took some amazing catches and he was a great batman. check the records and you will see that Sobers scored a century against England in Jamaica on a pitch that by the third day had cracks so big that a finger could enter and no one else on either side scored scored runs, (England side had Boycott, Graveney, Barrington and Cowdrey) at the end of the game England were batting 68 for 8. There were Occasions when no one could get sobers out, he save a lot of test matches batting with tail-enders. also please remember sobers started playing Test cricket, as a spin bowler and tail-end batsman. i say no more.

  • POSTED BY Bruce on | April 20, 2016, 8:10 GMT

    The Poms were soft that series. Aussies thrashed them and showed the class and form which made us the best team of the 70s whereas the Poms cried like girls. When the Windies wanted to mix it with the bigboys we showed them who was the best. We made them grovel that's for sure. Same as modern day Test cricket really; Australia are top dogs with the best pace battery in the world and the rest of the world are soft, weak, meak and mild and just whinge and whine about our success.

  • POSTED BY James C Birbeck Dar on | April 20, 2016, 8:04 GMT

    Cricinfouser, correct, and many of them also played as young pros in places like the Lancashire League (where each side has an overseas pro). For example, the sight of a young Curtly Ambrose steaming in on a green pitch probably still gives a few batsmen there nightmares! On comparing current and older players, the starting point for that is career averages, though these need to be adjusted a little (my feeling is about 15-20%) to account for things like helmets, bat technology etc. On that basis, when Jadeja has a test average of 70 (batting, not bowling), I'll put him alongside Sobers. The best of the WI fast bowlers (Marshall, Garner, Ambrose) averaged 21, which would be about 24-25 for a modern bowler. On that basis the only modern fast bowler who would be considered for the WI team is Dale Steyn.

  • POSTED BY Jonathan on | April 20, 2016, 7:02 GMT

    How thoughtful of some cricket fans. Let's compare players from one era who applied one approach to limited overs and test cricket to those who have to juggle three different formats each with their unique style of play. Only pure unadulterated and unbiased logic can emanate from such mentality.

  • POSTED BY pervez on | April 20, 2016, 6:39 GMT

    Sobers the equivalent of Jadeja !!

    My God, is Hussain serious? Hussain, please tell me you are joking. Ring me and I will put you right mate.

  • POSTED BY Mradul on | April 20, 2016, 6:34 GMT

    @HUSSAIN: You have just stunned me with your analysis of Viv and Sobers. I am not sure when you started watching Cricket but putting Sir Sobers in the same league as R Jadeja is just too much. Really not sure how to react to this comparison.

  • POSTED BY Ashok on | April 20, 2016, 5:54 GMT

    The great West Indies and Australian sides which dominated the world for three decades between them had one factor in common: most of their players had extensive experience in county cricket in England, which was their finishing school.

  • POSTED BY Hussain Kurawadwala on | April 20, 2016, 5:50 GMT

    Sorry but all legends of WI would average more than 30 today apart from Marshall and Holding. RICHARDS would be a slogger like Gayle but more consistent. The standard of cricket is much higher today. Sobers would be equivalent of Jadeja.

  • POSTED BY pinkup9555551 on | April 20, 2016, 5:31 GMT

    blimey ! would it not be grateto see that present crop of fast bowlingd

  • POSTED BY Patrick on | April 20, 2016, 4:30 GMT

    Blimey! Would it not be great to see the present crop of fast bowlers bowling at today's batsmen without the helmet and excess protective gear. That would be the telling factor let alone an acid test for the modern crop of batsmen with such weak technic except to bludgeon the ball around. More legends can be made!

  • POSTED BY Ali on | April 20, 2016, 2:14 GMT

    CRICINFOUSER

    That is exactly correct...

    and the current players are at home in India ..

    the end of WI dominance began with the English county restrictions on foreign players

  • POSTED BY p_raja6838022 on | April 19, 2016, 23:04 GMT

    West Indian cricket thrived in the 1970s till mid-1990s mainly due to county cricket. Most West Indian cricketers of that time literally had England as their second or first home. Some players started playing for county cricket even before getting into test cricket and some could never get into that mighty team. Of late I do not hear of any West Indian playing to that level in English county cricket. It truly gave an international exposure to players that honed their skills and became better. English grounds were like the home grounds for the West Indians. This was a major factor, in addition to decline in economy, interest in other sports, political issues etc.