These days when victories are few and far between for the West Indies cricket team, we can only wistfully look back at some of the all-conquering teams and players of yesteryear…the good old days, the glory days as we fondly refer to them. To be fair though the regional team did bring us glory in the T20 format of the game in 2016, through the heroics of Carlos Brathwaithe who virtually single-handedly won us the World Cup. This followed similar World Cup glory brought to the region by the women and under-19 teams. Also, we triumphed over England in the Test series, clinching the coveted Wisden Trophy earlier this year at home winning two of the three matches, in Barbados and Antigua.
From Learie Constantine in the 1920s to George “Atlas” Headley in the 1930s, to Garfield Sobers, the greatest all-round cricketer ever, some of the team’s players were so striking and influential that entire periods of West Indian cricket history have been labelled after them. Their presence and performances were so profound that an era of cricket began and ended with their professional cricketing careers.
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 and inspired a group of raw talented players into the best cricketing team in the world.
1965-1973: the Garry Sobers era. “Who is the greatest cricketer on Earth or Mars...” Along with the likes of Rohan Kanhai and Lance Gibbs.
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. In the next instalment in this series, we will focus on this era.
1994-2007: the Brian Lara era. David Rudder’s “Cricket/It’s Over” calypso 2007… ‘the crowds are gone and the arenas stand so silent’ where ‘every run, every rising ball is now a memory’.
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 occasions by Darren Sammy.
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, nine were drawn and lost just two. From 1980-1995, they played 29 Test match series, winning 20 and drawing nine…unbeaten in 15 years!
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.
Nasser Khan is a researcher-author-producer-publisher-freelance writer. His book History of West Indies Cricket through Calypsoes traces the game through the lyrics of over 200 cricket-themed calypsoes from 1926 to 2016. His latest publication, entitled “Celebrating the Culture & Arts of Trinidad and Tobago,” sponsored by First Citizens and Shell TT, will be launched soon.