From early beginning to world domination to now, West Indies has produced some of the greatest players in the game
It has taken 86 years, but when the West Indies takes on Bangladesh in the second Test in St. Lucia on Saturday (September 13), it will bring up its 500th Test. Only England (952) and Australia (767) have previously crossed the 500-Test mark, and the occasion represents a chance for fans in the Caribbean to bask in some of its past glories.
West Indies, as is well documented, has had a long and rich cricket history. Introduced by British troops, cricket gained wide popularity in the West Indies, who in 1926, was elevated to Test status by the Imperial Cricket Conference. Since playing its first Test match in 1928, the West Indies has capped 299 players, some of whom have grown into the biggest legends to have graced the game.
In June 1928, the West Indies, led by Karl Nunes, began its Test journey against England. And while it lost the three-Test series 0-3, it managed to notch up its first win when England toured the West Indies in 1930, in a four Test series that was tied 1-1. Its first overseas victory came against Australia in 1930, when it beat the hosts by 30 runs in the fifth Test. However, Australia had won the first four Tests and hence won the series 4-1.
Though the West Indies rose to the pinnacle of world cricket in the 1970s and 1980s, its best period in Test cricket was between its 201st and 300th Tests. It coincided with the duration when West Indies didn’t lose a Test series. The backbone of West Indies’ success during those glorious years were the powerhouse openers, a strong middle-order and a formidable battery of fast bowlers.
Think back to the years of Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd, Jeff Dujon, Richie Richardson, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh – names that inspire awe and admiration.
It is interesting to note that though the West Indies has played and won the maximum number of Tests against England; but it is against Bangladesh – having won seven of the 11 Tests – that its win-loss ratio is a healthy 3.5.
West Indies has enjoyed a lot of success at home. In the 227 Tests played at home, West Indies has won 82 and lost 45 and the win-loss ratio stands at 1.51. As shown in the table below, it has been a poor visitor, losing 112 of 270 matches. Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica has been its most successful Test venue at home, having won 23 of the 47 matches played at the venue. While the Headingley in Leeds (6 wins from 12 Tests) has been a happy hunting ground away from home.
Lloyd has led West Indies in 74 Tests – only four players, Graeme Smith, Allan Border, Stephen Fleming and Ricky Ponting, have captained their respective sides in more Tests. With a 36-12 win-loss record, Lloyd is one of only four captains who have led in 50 or more Tests and achieved a win-loss ratio of 3.00 or more. Richards, who has won 54 percent of Tests as shown in the table below, is the second; while Steve Waugh and Ponting are the others. Denesh Ramdin, the current captain, has led West Indies in just four matches and has a win-loss record of 2-2.
There are batsmen and there are unsung batsmen. Ever since he made his international debut Shivnarine Chanderpaul has been more associated with the latter lot. One of the most decorated modern Test cricketers, Chanderpaul made his debut for the West Indies when he was just 19. Almost twenty one years later, he still plays Tests for his country and is the team’s most reliable batsman apart from being the oldest active Test cricketer in the world.
Chanderpaul, now 40, is the West Indies’ most capped player and will be making his 158th Test appearance, against Bangladesh in St Lucia. “Five hundred Tests is a lot of Test cricket and you can tell from the history, and all the greats that have played for us in the past, that it means a lot to me to be playing in this team right now,” said Chanderpaul ahead of the Test. “It’s a milestone in this team’s lifetime that we have are achieving and hopefully we go on from strength to strength.”
Sobers’ unbeaten 365 at the age of 21, Lara’s 400 and Richards’ 56-ball hundred against England are all parts of cricket folklore. Lara, with 11912 runs over a period of 16 years, has been the leading run-scorer for West Indies. In his 93 Tests, Sobers, with batting average of 57.78, stands out from the rest. Among those with at least 8000 Test runs, only Kumar Sangakkara (58.76) has a better average. Chanderpaul has scored 11,499 runs at an average of over 52 runs per innings, including 29 centuries and 64 half-centuries. Chris Gayle, with two Test triple centuries to his name, is only the fourth batsman to achieve the feat after Don Bradman, Virender Sehwag and Lara.
With the famed pace quartet of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Collin Croft, West Indies was unmatched as a bowling side. And with 373 wicket at average of 20.94, Marshall was the biggest force to reckon with. Though Walsh (519) and Ambrose (405) lead the wicket-takers table for the West Indies, they never duplicated the level of intimidation of the famous pace quartet.