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The best West Indies Test XI of the 1990s: Part 1

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Roar Guru
24th May, 2020
9

After their glory days in the 1980s, the ’90s was a difficult period for West Indies cricket.

While they remained unbeaten in a Test series until 1995, their eventual defeat was coming for quite some time.

Both home series victories against England in 1990 and Australia in 1991 were marred by controversies.

Then in early 1992, in the one-off Test against South Africa, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Allan Border’s Australia were within just two runs from wining the Frank Worrell Trophy down under in 1992-93.

And although they defeated England 3-1 at home in 1994, the Kensington Oval, Bridgetown – for so long the impregnable fort of West Indies cricket – fell to the opposition.

And it only got worse in the second part of the decade. And at the turn of the century they were no longer a major force in Test cricket.

However, I remained a big fan of West Indies cricket, and I followed them intensely. Here, in this two-part article, I will form the strongest West Indies Test XI of the decade.

However, I have ignored Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall, Jeff Dujon and Gordon Greenidge as all of them ended their Test career in 1991.

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West Indies' Viv Richards cuts the ball away during his record-breaking innings of 189 not out.

(S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

In the first part I will take a look at the top six.

Desmond Haynes
Haynes made his debut in 1978 in Port of Spain. After the West Indies pace battery bowled Australia out for only 90, the West Indies’ opening pair put on 87, thus starting the famous Greenidge-Haynes combination, which served West Indies cricket with great distinction for more than a decade. It wasn’t always that they both fired, but it was rare to see both struggle together.

For most parts, Haynes played the supporting role. It wasn’t so much because Greenidge was the senior player, it was more to do with the fact that Haynes didn’t possess the array of elegant strokes that his Barbados teammate had. However, he had a solid technique and his temperament improved with time.

He reached his peak towards the end of the ’80s. Two hundreds in the 1988-89 tour to Australia were followed by a hundred against India in Bridgetown. He added three more hundreds in 1990 against England and Pakistan.

However, he came for harsh criticism for his captaincy tactics against England in the Queen’s Park Oval Test. Deputising for the injured Richards, he encouraged his pacers to slow down the over rate in the final day to deny England a well deserved victory. Chasing 151, England finished on 5-120.

At the Oval in 1991, Haynes carried his bat through the first innings, scoring 75 not out as Phil Tufnell ran through the Windies’ line-up. He scored a couple of glorious hundreds against Pakistan in the 1993 series to help his side win by 2-0. But he was increasingly becoming a lonely figure within the team.

His international career ended in Bridgetown the next season. It’s ironic that the last member of the great West Indies team of the late ’70s ended his career just as Bridgetown, the impregnable fort for West Indies cricket, fell.

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Sherwin Campbell
Phil Simmons, who was originally viewed as the long-term replacement for Greenidge, ended his Test career with an average of 22. Stuart Williams, the man who replaced Haynes in 1994, did marginally better, averaging 24. Philo Wallace’s hit-or-miss approach didn’t work in Test matches. So my selection for the other opening slot is Sherwin Campbell.

Just like his fellow Bajan openers, Greenidge and Haynes, he wasn’t very tall and generally preferred playing off the back foot. Of course, his array of shots was more limited. Unusually, for a West Indies right-hander, he enjoyed playing more on the off side. I remember an ODI in Australia in 1995-96 season when the opposition Sri Lanka bowlers intentionally bowled at his pads to restrict him scoring freely.

Cricket generic

(Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Despite his limitations, he wasted no time in establishing himself in the West Indies team. A string of good scores in NZ and England in 1995 impressed the pundits. And then in Bridgetown in 1996, he converted his first Test ton into a double hundred, scoring 208 against NZ. Equally impressive was his 113 at the Gabba later in the year.

However, he struggled for consistency as the bowlers became more aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He scored 105 at Bridgetown against Australia in 1999, but his next best score in the four-match series was 33. Later in the year, he smashed 170 in Hamilton against NZ, but he also had four ducks in the tour.

His career effectively ended after the disastrous tour to Australia in 2000. He failed to cross the 20 mark in the first four Tests.

Richie Richardson
Like Richards, Richardson came from Antigua. Like Richards, he didn’t like wearing helmets. He much preferred his trademark hat.

There were differences as well. While Richards looked at his majestic best while playing in the mid-on region, Richardson generally preferred the off side.

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A strong back-foot player, he always enjoyed batting in Australia. He really established himself in the Test team with his hundred at Gabba in 1984. Then he ended a lean period for himself by smashing two hundreds in the 1988-89 tour.

There were people who questioned his ability to play the moving ball in England. He answered his critics in 1991, scoring hundreds at Edgbaston and at the Oval. Overall, he scored four hundreds in that calendar year.

After Richards’ retirement, he became the West Indies’ captain. It was a difficult task for him as cricketing talents in the islands became rarer. Ian Bishop’s persistent injury and Carl Hooper’s inconsistency didn’t help him. At least on two occasions, the giant quickies Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh bailed the team out.

He retired after the England tour in 1995, playing his last Test at the Oval. By that time, the Windies’ domination of world cricket was well and truly over.

Brian Lara
It was a fine February morning here in Dhaka. I woke up early in the morning to watch the World Cup match between Pakistan and West Indies at the MCG. It was 1992 and for the first time BTV was showing almost all the matches live.

Pakistan batted first and after a slow start reached 2-220, acceptable in those days’ standards. Opening the batting for the Windies was the familiar figure of Haynes and a relative newcomer, Brian Lara.

After a slow start, the left-handed Lara opened up. In perfect batting conditions, he produced flowing drives, one after another. He was forced to retire hurt after scoring 88, but the Windies won by ten wickets.

I was a bit disappointed because I was supporting Pakistan, but at least I saw glimpses of a true genius. Very soon, all the cricket lovers of the world would become familiar with his crisply timed drives and delicate flicks on the leg side.

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Out of his numerous brilliant Test innings over the decade, three stands out. His 277 at SCG was a polished one, his 375 not out at St John’s was record-breaking and his 153 not out against Australia in Bridgetown was an innings of bravery while fighting against the odds.

The SCG ton was important for both Lara and for his team. It was his first hundred in Tests. Also, in the previous Test at MCG, a young leggie named Shane Warne had run through the West Indies’ batting on the final day. A quick response was required, and Lara provided it. Warne finished with 1-116. Of course, there would be plenty more fascinating battles between the two over the years.

The Aussies certainly won their battle against him in 1995. In Kingston, in the decider, Lara came into bat after Stuart Williams was dismissed on the second delivery of the match. Showing little respect to the Australian pacers, he raced to 65 from just 78 balls. But Warne dismissed him just before lunch and it was a key moment in the match.

Of course, Lara redeemed himself scoring three hundreds in consecutive Tests in 1999. His 153 not out in Bridgetown was a candidate for the innings of the decade award.

Brian Lara

(Photo by Joe Mann/Getty Images)

Shivnarine Chanderpaul
In Karachi in the quarter-final of the 1996 World Cup, Chanderpaul and Lara shared a second-wicket stand of 138 against South Africa. Lara scored 111 from 94 balls. Chanderpaul made 56 from 93 balls.

These contrasting efforts pretty much tell the stories of these two left-handers. While Lara was a great entertainer, Chanderpaul was an accumulator of runs. Normally, the statistics lovers remembered his innings more than the spectators. But with his slightly awkward batting stance, he was very good in frustrating the opposition bowling.

For the most part of the decade, he was consistent rather than a prolific run-getter. But he eventually finished his Test career in 2015 with more than 11,000 runs at an average of 51.

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His first Test hundred came against India in Bridgetown in 1997. His 137 not out in the first innings saw the West Indies recover from 7-193 to 298 all out. These runs proved extremely valuable in the ultimate count. India only needed 120 in the final innings, but the pace trio of Ian Bishop, Curtly Ambrose and Franklyn Rose bowled India out for only 81.

In the eyes of most experts, technically Chanderpaul’s finest effort in his early days came at the SCG in November 1996. His 68-ball 71 against Shane Warne on the final day on a turning track was classic. Eventually, Warne bowled him and Australia won by 124 runs.

Carl Hooper
The elegant Guyanese player had both his fans and his critics. I belonged to the first category. He and my countyman Mohammad Ashraful were my great favourites. I always enjoyed watching them bat because you’d never know what would come next. They would play the most glorious cover drive against the fastest bowler in the world, and then very soon will get out playing no shot to a part-time medium-pacer.

After scoring a ton in only his second Test in 1987, a brief lack of scores saw him dropped for the home series against India in 1989. However, when he scored a superb 134 out of a team total of 294 in Lahore in 1990 against Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Abdul Qadir, I felt that he had matured and regular scores would follow.

It was a false dawn. There would be a few more. During his 178 not out from just 247 balls in St John’s against Pakistan in 1993, he treated the two Ws just like a couple of club bowlers. The West Indies reached 438 thanks to a 106-run last-wicket stand between Hooper and Courtney Walsh.

Surprisingly for a flamboyant stroke-maker, his most famous innings was a controlled and measured one. In the second Test of the 1998 home series against England, the West Indies were bowled out for 191 in the first innings with Angus Fraser taking 8-58.

So when they were asked to chase 282 in the final innings no one gave them much chance. At one stage they slumped to 5-124 with Hooper the only recognised batsman left.

But the 129-run sixth-wicket stand between Hooper and wicketkeeper David Williams helped the West Indies win by three wickets. Williams didn’t have any great potential as a batsman, but on this occasion he rose to the occasion.

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As for Hooper, he scored 94 not out batting for almost six hours. He was the obvious choice for the man of the match award.

So, every now and then, on his day Carl Hooper showed the world what he was capable of. But he never achieved the consistency expected of a top batsman. And in the end, his average of 36.46 from 102 Tests does scant justice to his talents.

In the eyes of many experts, he was the ultimate prodigal son of Windies cricket.