During the glorious spring of 1982 Bangladesh Television (BTV) introduced a weekly show called Cricket on TV in recognition of the growing popularity of the game in the country.
It showed highlights of different international matches, and it was there I saw the highlights of two Benson and Hedges Cup final matches between West Indies and Australia. The highlights lasted barely an hour each but made a lasting impression in my young mind as I became a big fan of WI cricket.
Of course at the time Windies cricket was approaching a golden era. They were almost invincible throughout the decade, with Imran Khan’s Pakistan the only team providing meaningful opposition to their supremacy.
The great West Indies players of the time like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and others have enjoyed legendary status among the cricket fans worldwide. But cricket is a team game; it wasn’t always about the big stars. There were some quality support players who every now and then played their part in the Windies success. This article is about a few of these less well-known performers.
Most un-West Indies like in his batting style, Gomes’s batting was based on pushes, nudges and flicks rather than the big drives or full-blooded cut shots. As a left-hander he belonged to the group of Allan Border and Graham Thorpe rather than in the company of Brian Lara or David Gower. Yet his importance in the WI batting line up in the first half of the 1980s cannot be underestimated.
Overall he scored nine Test hundreds, and seven of those came during the period of January 1982 to December 1984 as the West Indies enjoyed a remarkable unbeaten run in Test matches. Gomes reached his pick in 1984 as he scored four hundreds in England and in Australia. At Edgbaston, in the opening Test of the 1984 series, he scored a career-best 143, in the process sharing a 206 run partnership with Viv Richards. But it was his hundreds at Headingley and WACA later in the year that impressed the pundits most. The first showed his ability to play the moving ball, the second confirmed his ability to handle the short pitched stuff.
At Headingley WI was struggling at 7-206 after England had scored 270 in their first innings. Too many WI top-order batsmen got in and then got out as Paul Allott, making his comeback to the England team, got the ball to move in both directions. At one end Gomes was batting beautifully, but it seemed that he would run out of partner as the all-rounders Eldine Baptsite and Roger Harper both fell for ducks. Somewhat unexpectedly Micheal Holding emerged as a batting hero. Using the long handle well, he smashed five sixes and three fours. His 59 and Gomes 104* ensured a 32-run lead for the Caribbean team before Malcolm Marshall destroyed the England batting to ensure the series victory for the tourists.
At the WACA, in the first Test of the series, Kim Hughes, the under-pressure Aussie captain, put West Indies on the opening day, and halfway through the day it was all smile for him as Terry Alderman, the local boy, ran through the WI top order to restrict them to 5-104. But then Gomes (127) and wicketkeeper-batsman Jeff Dujon (139) wrested back the initiative. Both batted in their usual fashion. Bold and elegant Dujon took just 158 deliveries for his runs, and at the other end Gomes took his time, taking no risks knowing full well the value of his wicket. At the of his 297-ball innings the Windies were in full control and fast bowlers (as usual) did the rest. Most pundits consider this to be the finest innings of Gomes’s career.
Gomes added another hundred at Adelaide, but it went downhill for him after that. He struggled for runs over the next two years and after a very disappointing 1986-87 season he retired from international cricket.
He also played 83 ODIs for the West Indies. His strike rate of 54.88 is poor even in those day’s standards. But his little off breaks (he bowled right arm) made him a useful one-day all-rounder.
The attractive right-hand batsman from Trinidad made his ODI debut against Pakistan at WACA in December 1981 but didn’t have a bat – in fact he played four matches in the event without getting an innings. Then in his fifth ODI, against India in 1983 in front of his home crowd, he came out to bat at No. 4, but rain intervened as he reached 6* from 12 deliveries, ending the WI innings in the middle of the 39th over.
Perhaps these unfortunate events had set the tone for the remainder of his international career, because while it lasted for more than a decade, he always remained a fringe cricketer, unable to truly come into the limelight.
He did score two Test hundreds, but he was denied tons on a number of other occasions. At Port of Spain 1984 – what is now mostly remembered as Allan Border’s Test match – he came to the wicket with the match in the balance and scored 97. His partnership with Dujon (130) gave WI control of the match before Border denied them victory.
Lord’s 1988 was the setting of his most memorable performance. The West Indies captain won the toss and decided to bat, but with Graham Dilley getting his out-swingers to work perfectly, they slumped to 5-54. At this stage Logie (81) and Dujon (53) rescued the Windies. Logie looked set for a hundred in the second innings following another century stand with his buddy Dujon, but he was left unbeaten on 95* as the WI tail collapsed on the fourth morning. He was adjudged the man of the match. Later in the year he scored 93 at WACA.
A group of young middle-order batsmen emerged from the Windies around the turn of the decade, forcing Logie into gradual oblivion. His last Test match came during the 1991 tour to England, although he played ODIs until 1993. In his last five ODI innings, all against Pakistan, he failed to reach the double figures once.
An all-rounder, Baptiste played ten Test matches between 1983 and 1990 but failed to impress with both bat and ball. Yet remarkably the Windies won all these ten matches. In 1984 he played in all five Tests in England during the famous whitewash.
Of course his impressive first-class record, especially as a right-arm medium pacer, would suggest that he had the talents to be just more than the ’lucky charm’. Unfortunately he had little chance to show his bowling skills playing alongside a group of fearsome fast bowlers. Most of the time he was playing the role of a support bowler he was concentrating on keeping things quiet rather than getting the batsmen out.
As a batsman he was flamboyant in true Caribbean style, and at Edgebaston in 1984 he smashed 87* against a hapless England attack before running out of partners. Later in the series he scored vital runs in difficult conditions at Lord’s and at the Oval.
He also played 43 ODI matches, but here also he was mostly a fringe player.
Harper was an underachiever in the eyes of many. A capable off break bowler, a hard-hitting batsman and the best all-round fielder of his time, he was at one stage considered by some to be a future Windies captain, but sadly he ended up playing just 25 Tests. Still, the mere fact that a right-arm off break bowler could break into WI team of the 1980s was itself an achievement.
He had an interesting first Test against India at the Eden Gardens in December 1983. He was picked alongside four fast bowlers and on the opening day, as Indian batsmen struggled against the quickies, he bowled just eight overs and remained wicketless. Some Indian journalist felt that he was under-bowled. When this question was put to WI captain Lloyd at the end of the day’s play he replied that Harper would play a bigger role in the second innings. As things happened, India’s second innings lasted just 30 overs as Marshall and Holding shared nine wickets among themselves. Harper didn’t have a bowl.
Harper certainly was under-bowled during his career. In his 25 Tests he bowled just over 600 overs – that’s 24 overs per Test match. It is especially low for an off spinner as they normally like to work their way towards dismissing a batsman. Nevertheless, whenever the opportunities came, he tried his best to utilise them, and quite remarkably his Test bowling average of 28.06 is better than that of Lance Gibbs (29.09)
Twice he surprised the Aussie batsmen. First it was at Georgetown in the first Test of the 1984 series. There he ran through the Aussie middle order to finish with 4-56. Later in the year he took 4-43 at Adelaide Oval in the final innings to ensure a thumping victory for his side. But his best bowling, 6-57, came at the Old Trafford. With the wicket offering him some turn, he appeared unplayable to the English batsmen. Only skipper Gower with 57* offered any resistance.
During the middle of the 1980s, as Jamaica’s national hero Micheal Holding was coming towards the end of his illustrious career, two young fast bowlers emerged from the island: Courtney Walsh and Pat Patterson. While they both came from Jamaica, the contrast between them was great. In the eyes of most of the pundits Walsh was the more finished product and in time he became a lethal fast bowler thriving even on flat batting friendly tracks.
Patterson was all about pace. He was one-dimensional and lacked the variety of the great WI bowlers of his time. But on wickets offering him help he could become frighteningly unplayable.
His debut against England in 1986 was a memorable one. With the Sabina Park wicket producing pace and uneven bounce, the WI selectors rightly went for him ahead of Walsh. He wasn‘t given the new ball but still terrorised the England batsmen to finish with 4-30 and 3-44.
At Delhi in the autumn of 1987 it was the turn of the Indian batsmen to face his pace. In another underprepared wicket he took 5-24 to bowl the hosts out for just 75 on the opening day. Even more impressive was his 5-68 on the final day of the second Test at Mumbai. With the rain-affected Test apparently heading for a dull draw, he decided to try to bowl round the wicket, targeting the body of the right-handers. The Indian middle order collapsed against his hostility and was bowled out for only 173, but there wasn’t enough time for the Windies to chase the small fourth-innings target.
The Aussie batsmen saw the best (or the worst) of Patterson at MCG in December 1988 as he took nine wickets to set up a victory. He also bowled well in the 1991 home series against the Aussies. But injuries combined with disciplinary problems shortened his career to just 28 Tests. He took just 93 wickets, but his strike rate of 51.9 deliveries per wicket is most impressive.
Phil Simmons, an attack-minded opening batsman was an instant success in the one-day game, scoring half-centuries in each of his first two ODIs during the 1987 WC. Test cricket, however, proved a different ball game for him, and given the unenviable task of replacing injured Gordon Greenidge in the Chennai Test later in the season he managed only eight and 14. A severe head injury sustained during the tour match at Bristol in the summer of 1988 halted his international career, although he returned a few years later to emerge as a reliable ODI all-rounder.
Winston Davies made his Test debut in the fifth Test against India in 1983 in the absence of Joel Garner. Most of his opportunities in his short career came when the more well-known quickies were missing. At Lord’s in the 1983 World Cup he destroyed the Aussie batting, taking at the time world record figures of 7-51. A year later he was called from his Glamorgan duties to replace injured Marshall for the Old Trafford test, in which he scored 77 as a night watchman – he was a useful lower-order batsman – and took two wickets.
And he did a good job in the tour to India in 1987-88, sharing the fast bowling duties with the young Jamaicans Patterson and Walsh. His ability to swing the ball in to the right-handers despite bowling close to the stumps surprised many Indian batsmen. But he was overlooked for the 1988 England tour when young Ian Bishop was included in the strong six men pace attack.
And, finally, an honourable mention should be made of Clyde Butts, who postponed his marriage ceremony for a short period to make his WI debut against New Zealand at Georgetown in 1985. The ceremony eventually took place during the rest day of the Test match.