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The rise, fall and the rise of the Windies

Could missing world cup qualification break up the West Indies? (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Roar Pro
3rd April, 2016
3

The rise of the West Windies as a cricket powerhouse commenced immediately after World War II, with its famous three Ws – Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott – building the foundation of a great cricket future.

Soon came the legendary Wes Hall, arguably the pioneer of West Indies fast bowling, followed by the great all-rounder Garry Sobers.

By the mid-1970s, the West Indies were the team to beat, winning the first ever Cricket World Cup in 1975.

Four years later, at the pinnacle of their success, they again won – propelled by a rechargeable battery of fast-bowler quartet, backed by a bunch of talented batsmen, and led by the indomitable Vivian Richards.

The trend continued until mid-80s, when the spirited Windies side convincingly won many Test and one-day series, both at home and abroad, similar to the Brazilians in football during Pele’s heyday.

But in early 1985 the first sign of the vulnerability was visible, at the Champions Cup held in Australia and won by India. Chasing a paltry score set by newcomers Sri Lanka under a floodlit MCG in a league game, batsmen Richie Richardson and Larry Gomes retired hurt, with the latter coming from the field with a bloody mouth and missing tooth from bouncers bowled by a rookie Rumesh Ratnayake – Lloyd, at the other end, called for a helmet.

The West Indies eventually managed to eke out a win against the minnows and reached the semi-final, where they lost easily to Pakistan. For the first time in the history of limited-overs cricket, they failed to reach the final of a major tournament.

In the next few years the Windies struggled or lost to Pakistan more often than against any other team.

During the West Indies’ tour of Pakistan in 1986, the hosts drew the Test series – a once-in-a-blue-moon event in those days for any team against the Windies.

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At the 1987 World Cup, held on the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan defeated the Windies in a crucial game, when Abdul Qadir hit a famous last-over six off the economic Courtney Walsh.

Pakistan toured the Carribean in 1988 and exposed the myth of West Indian invincibility at home, the three-Test series ending with a 1-1 draw, with the Pakistanis almost snatching away a victory in the third, drawn Test.

Irreplacable greats, like Richards, Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge, retired one after another. The battery of fast bowlers slowly dissipated. By the advent of 1990s, and arrival of South Africa into the international arena, the Calypsos were no longer the Kings of Cricket. They were just another team.

Could the Windies’ T20 World Cup win, their second, catapult them back to the future of their glorious past?

With a few nations playing quality cricket, and Zimbabwe’s performances suggesting they are not worthy to play Tests, a resurgent Windies should bring back some Calypso music.