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Forty years of Cricket

Forty years of Cricket

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by Earl W. Robinson

Usually, birthdays and anniversaries are occasions for celebration. However, they are also time for reflection. I have taken this opportunity to commemorate my fortieth year (1965-2005) of following first class cricket by selecting my West Indies Test XI and Limited Overs International XI over those four decades.

Many readers may not agree with my selections.

May 5, 1965, Australia led by Bobby Simpson took on the West Indies captained by Garfield Sobers in the fourth Test at Kensington Oval, Barbados.{{more}}

That match was West Indies’ 103rd test. At the end of the draw at the Antigua Recreation Ground against South Africa on May 3, 2005, they had carried that tally to 419 Tests.

I have followed 317 Tests the regional team has played.

The number of players to represent the West Indies had risen to 260. I was around for 157 of those careers.

From David Holford in 1966 to Dwight Washington in 2005, yours truly knew when 137 of those players began their Test careers.

My opening Test batsmen were chosen from, Conrad Hunte, Roy Fredericks, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes.

When I got to know of Hunte he was still batting very well but unfortunately, he appeared in 10 Tests during my time. He had a solid defence and was difficult to dislodge. He sold his wicket dearly but not to bookmakers. His final series in India 1966-67, he averaged 51.80 though he had gone past his best.

Fredericks who started in Australia in 1968-69, was flexible and adaptable against all bowling. His contrasting style and approach to match situations were amazing. He is my number one choice.

His opening partner will be Greenidge. Although, he never excelled or impressed on the bouncy pitches in Australia, he had an immaculate technique. Sorry but Haynes will have to wait for the second eleven.

The number three will be Rohan Kanhai. It is unfortunate that this generation lacks knowledge of him. He was a genius, capable of making every cricket stroke and some he invented enabled him to score runs consistently all over the world. Many times he got himself out through arrogance and or impatience. He never played for records.

At number four, a choice had to be made between Vivian Richards and Brian Lara. While Lara must be regarded as a better player of spin his obvious weakness to genuine pace on bouncy pitches weighs against him. He is not a hooker! Mind you, Richards was no slouch against slow bowling. Erapally Prasanna, Bishen Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Abdul Qadir were a few he slaughtered. Richards gets my vote for the number four spot.

Clive Lloyd will bat at five, the obvious reason being that he will be the leader of the team. Following the skipper will be Sobers, the only genuine all-rounder the region has produced.

Jackie Hendricks stands out as the best wicket keeper. However in this age when keeping wicket is not all to a team success, his compatriot Jeff Dujon will stand behind the stumps. When I was growing up, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith were the spearhead of the bowling attack but like Hunte, both men had gone past their better years. My fast bowlers will be selected from Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.

Undoubtedly, Marshall was head and shoulders above the rest, although, not physically. He used to make the ball ‘talk.’ Apart from Dennis Lillee, Roberts was the most complete fast bowler of the mid ‘70’s. At the end of that decade, he was probably the most feared new ball bowler in the world. Peter Toohey and the late David Hookes (Australians) were testimony to his hostility.

The unprecedented success the West Indies enjoyed between 1980 and 1995 was achieved by the committed efforts of the players.

However, it must been seen that the seeds were sown in the mid Seventies. None more so than Holding.

At the Oval in 1976, he bowled his heart out on a dead pitch capturing 14 wickets. Not many so-called “greats” did that during their illustrious careers.

He could have shrugged his shoulders and walk away like many in recent times.

The Jamaican reached his full potential in Australia during the 1981-82 series. This was the series that kick started the team’s success. His contribution was 24 wickets at 14.33 a piece in the three Tests.

Lance Gibbs, the Guyanese off-spinner will finalise my Test eleven. His variation of flight and control as well as his accuracy were enough to mesmerise most batsmen. This was in addition to bounce and turn he extracted from most pitches.

In batting order my Test XI: (1) Roy Fredericks (2) Gordon Greenidge (3) Rohan Kanhai (4) Viv Richards (5) Clive Lloyd (6) Gary Sobers (7) Jeff Dujon (8) Malcolm Marshall (9) Michael Holding (10) Andy Roberts and (11) Lance Gibbs.

My Limited Overs International X1 has five changes. Haynes replaces Fredericks at the top of the order.

Kanhai who struck 55, in a partnership of 149 with Lloyd in the 1975 World Cup final gives way to Lara.

Carl Hooper takes the place of Sobers. In the bowling department Roberts and Gibbs are omitted. Garner and Ambrose are the replacements.

After 511 LOI matches (1973-2005) and the participation of 125 players my all time West Indies one-day team: (1) Haynes (2) Greenidge (3) Richards (4) Lara (5) Hooper (6) Lloyd (Captain) (7) Dujon (8) Marshall (9) Holding (10) Garner and (11) Ambrose.

Note, records are not the only criterion for selection. Style and no substance did not influence my Test selections. Lawrence Lowe and Carl Hooper would have been there but remember this is not a beauty contest.