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Cricket World Cup Pt:4 – End of the dominance

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The West Indies embarked on their defence of the World Cup in 1983 with an aura of invincibility about them. Not only had they won the first two such international tournaments, but the Caribbean cricketers had undoubtedly stamped their dominance against all comers, in Tests and in the shorter form of the game.{{more}} It would have taken a very brave punter to bet against a third successive trophy for the “sunshine guys”. Theirs was a well-oiled machine, aggressive with both bat and ball, sharp in the field, ruthlessly efficient when needed, and led by an experienced and battle-hardened captain in Clive Lloyd. The outcome of World Cup 1983 seemed a foregone conclusion.

Yet, in what turned out to be a sign of things to come, the West Indies were given a rude awakening in their very first outing. India upset the Caribbean applecart winning by 34 runs in the opening match. India beating the West Indies wouldn’t raise eyebrows today, but in 1983 India had won only 11 of 37 one-day internationals, and in World Cup cricket had a dismal record. For most Caribbean fans and players alike, this defeat was counted as a mere aberration. Normalcy was restored with convincing wins over Australia and Zimbabwe, and the confidence was reinforced when a magnificent Richards century exacted revenge in the return clash with India. On to the semi-finals!

One note of interest to Vincentian and Windwards’ fans though. The lanky Vincentian speedster Winston Davis, unlucky to be in the era of the Holding, Marshall, Roberts and Garner, etched his name indelibly in the annals of World Cup cricket by returning the superb figures of 7 for 51 against Australia at Headingley. It would take a full 20 years before anyone else could bag that much at the World Cup. Sadly, the bias, so deeply ingrained in Caribbean cricket, resulted in Davis never getting the type of recognition for his feat as the region’s top sportswriters have bestowed to a bowler from one of the cricketing “big-wig” countries in the region.

As fate would have it, the West Indies and India both won their semi-final matches and so faced off, for the third time in the tournament, at Lord’s on June 25,1983. Seven of the Caribbean stars-Lloyd, Richards, Greenidge, Haynes, Roberts, Holding and Garner-already had championship medals and looked forward to a West Indies hat-trick. But it was Indian magic that worked that day. The match seemed as good as over when the West Indies dismissed India for a meagre 183. Surely with its run-machine firing, an arly round of celebrations seemed assured. Even early setbacks did not change expectations and Richards raced to 33 with seven boundaries before over-confidently hitting a skier. Panic soon set in , and miracle of miracles, India lifted the trophy by dismissing their opponents for an unbelievable 140.The West Indies have never recovered at World Cup level since, even though their dominance in both forms of the game was to last until the end of the decade.

Significantly, the next World Cup, held outside England for the first time, was won by the team which was to wrest away the mantle of cricket champion team from the West Indies. Australia had sided with England in opposing the move to hold the 1987/88 tournament on the Indian sub-continent. They failed in that manoeuvre but by a twist of fate those two countries made the Final, ironically defeating hosts Pakistan and India in the semis. Australia narrowly won by 7 runs, England’s second defeat in a Final. It was to be the first of the four championships the Australians have racked up so far.

In a sign of what was to come the Caribbean team did not even reach the semi-final stage, much blame being put on Courtney Walsh for “gentlemanly conduct” in not running out an opponent backing-up too far and for two untidy final overs. But, to be fair, the 1987 West Indians, led by Richards, were without Holding, Garner, Gomes (all retired), Greenidge (injured) and Marshall (resting). Richards got some stick for his captaincy, but was faultless with the bat, totalling 391 runs in six matches, including a world-beating 181 out of 360 against Zimbabwe.

NEXT TUESDAY: The downward trend.