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Opinion

The best West Indies Test XI of the 1990s: Part 2

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Roar Guru
30th May, 2020
22

After forming the top six in the first part of the article, I will complete the XI here. I will also add a 12th man.

During their days of total dominance of world cricket, the Windies depended very heavily on their four-pronged pace attack.

However, the almost continuous production of world-class fast bowlers stopped by the mid ’90s and there was increasing dependence on the two giant quickies, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.

In this scenario, I have included only three fast bowlers, playing a specialist batsman at number seven. Also, I have followed the principle that the best man with the gloves should be picked as the keeper: batting ability or inefficiency shouldn’t matter.

Jimmy Adams
After promising greatness in the early part of his international career, he ended up with a good but not a great Test average of 41. After 12 Tests his batting average was 87.

The reason for selecting him to bat seven is that he was quite good at batting with the tail. In his debut Test in Bridgetown in 1992, he scored 79 not out in the second innings. With the help of the fast bowlers he took the score from 7-174 to 283. The West Indies won the match in dramatic circumstances. It was a memorable debut for Adams, as he also took 4-43 in South Africa’s first innings with his left-arm spin.

His first Test hundred (137) came in Georgetown couple of years later against England. Here he was the last man out, after adding more than 100 runs for the last four wickets.

He had a memorable 1994-95 season. After scoring 125 not out and 174 not out in India, he scored 151 in Wellington. On the India tour, he frustrated the Indian spinners for long periods by frequently using his pads as the first line of defence. Henry Blofeld, working as a guest commentator for Indian TV, called him Jimmy Padams for his frequent use of pads.

Adams played for the West Indies until 2001, captaining the team in 15 Tests. But as a batsman, he could never reach the dizzy heights of his early days again.

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Glenn McGrath is mobbed by teammates after taking the wicket of Jimmy Adams to secure a hat-trick.

Jimmy Adams’ most memorable moment to Australian fans was being the third victim in Glenn McGrath’s Perth hat trick. (Photo: Sean Garnsworthy/Allsport)

David Williams
The keeper from Trinidad was generally recognised as the best West Indies keeper in the post Jeff Dujon era, but his poor batting abilities meant that he only played 11 Tests.

His batting average of 13 is very poor by any standard, but he did play a memorable innings against England in Port of Spain in 1998. Needing 282 for victory, the home side slumped to 5-124, but then Carl Hooper (94 not out) and Williams (65) helped the Windies win the match by three wickets.

Williams’ main rival for the keeper role was Junior Murray from Grenada, who played 33 Tests and averaged 22 with the bat, but his keeping was never up to the desired standard.

Ian Bishop
Taking 61 wickets from 43 Tests with a bowling average of 24 is very impressive, but the glass is only half full. He would have become one of the greatest fast bowlers from the West Indies, if persistent back problems hadn’t affected his career badly.

In Bridgetown, in only his second Test, he took 6-87 against India in 1989, bowling at blistering pace. He wasn’t even given the new ball in this Test. But he impressed the management, and in the very next match at the Queen’s Park Oval, he replaced Malcolm Marshall as a new-ball bowler.

His best 6-40 came at the WACA in the second innings as the West Indies won the 1992-93 series. His stop-start Test career ended in Bridgetown in 1998.

Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh
Time and again during this decade, these two giant quickies saved their team’s blushes. Apart from the two Ws of Pakistan, they were the most fearsome pace duo in world cricket in the 1990s.

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West Indies bowler Curtly Ambrose

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

A year after the retirement of the ‘Big Bird’ Joel Garner in 1987, Ambrose emerged to fill in his big shoes. For more than a decade after that, he remained a constant menace for top-order batsmen throughout the world. His Test record of 400-plus wickets at 21 is most impressive.

In comparison, Walsh’s average of 24.44 (519 wickets) may look a little less impressive. But we should remember that for almost a decade after his debut in 1984, he basically played as a third or fourth seamer. Just like Garner before him, he got the new ball in the latter half of his Test career.

For a long period of his career, he was the work horse of the West Indies’ pace battery. He would keep the batsmen under constant pressure, bowling long spells from one end, while Marshall or Ambrose would do the damage from the other end.

But he could also be destructive as the Kiwis found out in Wellington in 1995. His extraordinary match figures of 13-55 inflicted a humiliating innings defeat on the home side. Walsh was also the captain of the West Indies team at the time.

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Twelfth man: Kenny Benjamin
For someone like me, who grew up watching Micheal Holding running to the wicket with his smooth run-up, or Malcolm Marshall charging in with his slightly angular run-up, Kenny Benjamin was a bit of a disappointment.

His run-up was straight, but not very fast. And his delivery action wasn’t exactly side on. But he was deceptively quick and often played a good supporting role to the great ones.

He did a fine job as the new-ball partner for Walsh during the three-Test series in India in 1994, as Ambrose was rested. His eight wickets in Mohali in the third and final Test helped the West Indies level the series.

His best innings effort of 6-66 helped the West Indies win the Kingston Test of 1994 against England. His best match figures of 10-174 also came against the Poms, at Trent Bridge in 1995.

While he bowled a few unplayable deliveries, he also provided the batsmen with some juicy half volleys. He took 92 wickets in 26 Tests at 30 apiece. His economy rate of 3.25 was quite high, especially in those days.