Thursday, April 25, 2024

The best of West Indies


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IT IS IMPOSSIBLE, let alone irrelevant, to choose a definitive all-time XI, but I thought it would be a bit of fun to select an all-time West Indies team.

This will serve to remind us how strong the West Indies cricketing heritage is. There is so much to be proud of that hopefully it will help focus the attention of Caribbean cricket lovers who would like to see West Indies once again stand on top of the cricketing world.

I am not sure if the West Indies will return to the top in the near future, but it is nice to dream.

Selecting a greatest Test team of all time is an incredibly difficult task, and is particularly difficult in the case of the West Indies.

Numerous players of the utmost quality have represented the Caribbean side in international cricket, so narrowing that down to the best 11 is a tough thing to do.

Clearly players like Sir Garry Sobers, Sir Vivian Richards, Brian Lara, George Headley, Malcolm Marshall, Sir Curtly Ambrose and Gordon Greenidge were automatic choices.

The difficulty was selecting the other four players. Who should be Greenidge’s opening partner? Should four fast bowlers be selected and risk leaving out spinning great Lance Gibbs? Who should be the keeper?

Should Clyde Walcott play as a batsman/keeper or should one select a specialist keeper like Jackie Hendriks or should the longest and most successful gloveman, Jeffrey Dujon, earn the right to be the man?

The statistical argument for Dujon is strong, with 272 dismissals, 267 catches and five stumpings in 81 Tests, all of which were spent with the strong West Indies teams of the 1980s.

However, I leaned with the experts who have given high marks to his compatriot Hendriks, who was more technically correct. Hendriks only played in 20 Test matches between 1962 and 1969, but his is a case of quality over quantity. Technically outstanding, he was what all bowlers want – a consistent keeper – one who has the distinction of not conceding a bye in three innings that crossed 500 runs.

Blood pressures are going to soar and old-timers are going to skip this page when they read that batting great Sir Everton Weekes has not made this list.

Sir Everton was a master class, but there are four middle-order slots and I could not find any place for him. Positions 3 to 6 are occupied by Sir Viv, Headley, Lara and Sir Garry, all of whom are ahead of Sir Everton.

It is a measure of the high standard of batsmanship the West Indies have produced when Sir Everton, the scorer of a world record five successive hundreds, a man with an average of 58, can’t make that middle-order.

Sir Garry, Sir Viv, Lara and Headley all have superior records in Australia and England – the yardsticks of batsmanship – to Sir Everton, who never scored a hundred on the pacy tracks in Australia and has just one ton on the seaming pitches in England.

Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Clyde Walcott formed a fearsome triumvirate for the West Indies in the 1950s. That they were all knighted for services to the game shows how important the three players were to cricket.

They are immensely unlucky not to be included in this best XI, but deserve an honourable mention as a highly successful trio of top-class batsmen.

Haynes has a strong case to be Greenidge’s partner, the two of them posting 16 century partnerships and forming the most durable opening partnership the game has known. Strong against pace, Haynes improved his technique to spin with his finest knock, a superb 143 on a dust bowl at Sydney in January 1989.

However, while Haynes was a failure in India and had a modest record in Australia, Hunte was better away from home, scoring five of his eight tons on overseas soil.

Hunte failed on his first tour to India in 1958 averaging 27, but on his return in 1966, he averaged 51, with a hundred at Mumbai. Hunte gets the nod for me as Greenidge’s partner.

Gibbs, the first man to earn 300 Test wickets and the best spinner in the history of West Indies cricket, has to be included.

My all-time XI: Gordon Greenidge, Conrad Hunte, Viv Richards, George Headley, Brian Lara, Garry Sobers, Jackie Hendriks, Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Michael Holding and Lance Gibbs.

Honourable mention: Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott, Desmond Haynes, Rohan Kanhai, Jeffrey Dujon, Wes Hall, Joel Garner and Andy Roberts.


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