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The West Indies All Time XI

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10th May, 2024
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It has been some time since the last article in my All Time XI series, but I was inspired to restart after the Teams of the Month from fellow Roar contributor All Day Roseville All Day.

The fourth team to get their due is the West Indies.

In 1928, the West Indies took their Test bow, and through electric bowling, dashing batting and acrobatic fielding made themselves one of the most popular teams throughout their history.

The eras which I am selecting have been condensed somewhat, and are: 1928-39, 1940-49, 1950-59, 1960-69, 1970-74, 1975-79, 1980-84, 1985-89, 1990-99, 2000-09, 2010-19

1970-74

Roy Fredericks
25 Tests, 1907 runs @ 45.51, seven wickets @ 78.28

A counterattacking batter who relished the hook shot above all others, Roy Fredericks was a mainstay of the West Indies top order from his debut until he threw his lot in with World Series Cricket.

Despite scoring six fifties and a litany of starts in the first three years of his career, it was his 15th Test that saw his first century – 163 against New Zealand made primarily in partnership with debutant Lawrence Rowe, who scored 214.

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Fredericks also scored a patient 150 against England in 1973, batting for over eight hours. Only twice did he not reach 30 in a Test during this period, showcasing his consistency even if only three centuries were to his name.

Fredericks’ most famous innings is his powerful 169 against the might of Lillee and Thomson in Perth during the 1975 season, and he continued to score well until World Series Cricket, where he averaged 34.50 with four fifties.

Honourable Mentions:
Clive Lloyd: 21 Tests, 1434 runs @ 42.17
Alvin Kallicharran: 18 Tests, 1376 runs @ 50.96
Garry Sobers: 17 Tests, 1256 runs @ 52.33, 42 wkts @ 31.50

1940-49

Everton Weekes
Nine Tests, 1072 runs @ 82.46

West Indies played only nine Tests after the resumption of Test Cricket before the 1950s, and Everton Weekes made his debut with an unspectacular 35 and 25, being dropped for the next match.

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George Headley withdrew, offering Weekes a reprieve, and he consolidated his position in the team with his first century in the fourth Test.

This was the first of five centuries in successive innings, a feat only matched by Zaheer Abbas. The innings immediately following saw Weekes run out for a controversial 90.

In the final match of the series, Weekes reach 1000 Test runs, still the second fastest to do so behind Herbert Sutcliffe.

Throughout the 1950s Weekes was a mainstay of the West Indies batting along with his fellow ‘W’s of Cyril Walcott and Frank Worrall, retiring after a tour of Pakistan in 1957-58 and being the last of the Ws to be knighted, in 1995.

Honourable Mentions:
Clyde Walcott: 9 Tests, 585 runs @ 45.00, 20 catches, seven stumpings
Gerry Gomez: 9 Tests, 488 runs @ 40.66, 17 wkts @ 28.52
John Goddard: 9 Tests, 312 runs @ 34.66, 20 wkts @ 31.90

1928-39

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George Headley
19 Tests, 2135 runs @ 66.71

George Headley was the West Indies’ first batting superstar, averaging over twice as much as the next regular batter in the team prior to World War II.

Nicknamed the ‘Black Bradman’ – although his fans would call Bradman the ‘White Headley’ – he started as he meant to go on with 176 in his debut Test.

Twice he scored two centuries in a Test, and although he was down on his form during the 1930-31 tour, he led the team’s run scorers and a century in Sydney set up the West Indies’ first win against Australia.

Headley’s finest effort was an unbeaten 270 in Kingston in 1935, setting up an innings win and the West Indies’ first series victory as a result.

After the war, Headley played sporadically and unsuccessfully primarily due to injury, although he did lead the West Indies in the first Test upon resumption.

He is also the first leg of a three-generation family of Test players, with son Ron and grandson Dean both reaching the highest level.

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Honourable Mention:
Learie Constantine: 18 Tests, 635 runs @ 19.24, 58 wkts @ 30.10

2000-09

Brian Lara
65 Tests, 6339 runs @ 54.64

Although he retired from Test Cricket in 2006, Brian Lara had already done more than enough to earn that decade’s representative slot.

For much of the 1990s and 2000s, the argument over who was the best batter in the world always came back to two players – Sachin Tendulkar, and Lara.

Lara was the more thrilling player, capable of the sublime innings as well as single shots that live long in the memory.

West Indies legend Brian Lara. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

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By the time 2000 rolled around, he had converted his maiden Test hundred to 277, broken the record for highest Test innings, scored three centuries in successive Tests twice, and become a national hero with his 153 not out leading the West Indies to a famous one-wicket win in Bridgetown.

Come the 2000s and Lara’s magnum opus – 688 runs in three Tests against Sri Lanka (a 3-0 loss) – as well as retaking the Test innings record and broaching the 400-run barrier a mere six months after Matthew Hayden had raised the bar.

Even in his final series, Lara averaged nearly 90 against Pakistan, scoring two centuries.

Honourable Mention:
Shivnarine Chanderpaul: 86 Tests, 6435 runs @ 52.31
Chris Gayle: 85 Tests, 5848 runs @ 40.61, 71 wkts @ 42.08
Ridley Jacobs: 54 Tests, 2071 runs @ 27.98, 168 catches, 10 stumpings

1975-79

Viv Richards
27 Tests, 2475 runs @ 57.55, 4 wkts @ 58.75

At his peak, Viv Richards intimidated bowlers the world over.

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Gum ever present, confidence overflowing, anything even slightly short swiftly dispatched to whichever boundary he felt like, Richards thrilled the crowd and teammates alike.

This period was the start of his career, and he began slowly with only two centuries in his first 23 innings.

India’s visit to the West Indies in 1975-76 precipitated a rich vein of form, and he scored three centuries both in that series and in the subsequent tour to England.

Indeed, 1976 was Richards’ annus mirabilis, with his 1710 runs still the second-highest of any player in a calendar year.

Naturally, as such a crowd draw Richards was signed to World Series Cricket, and across 14 matches averaged 55.70.

When peace was restored, Richards picked up where he had left off, scoring 140 and 96 against Australia prior to the decade ticking over.

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Honourable Mentions:
Alvin Kallicharran: 35 Tests, 2580 runs @ 48.67
Clive Lloyd: 27 Tests, 2041 runs @ 48.59
Andy Roberts: 25 Tests, 119 wkts @ 25.84

1960-69

Garry Sobers (Captain)
49 Tests, 4563 runs @ 60.03, 162 wkts @ 32.29

One of the greatest cricketers ever, Sir Garfield Sobers would walk into any team on the strength of his batting alone, but he was also able to take the new ball or revert to spin when the shine was taken off.

It took 28 innings for Sobers to reach a century, and he went on with it to an unbeaten 365 – a mark that would stay atop the tree until Brian Lara scored 375 in 1994.

Sobers played one of the finest innings in Australia with 132 during the Ties Test of 1960-61, before his 168 in Sydney was pivotal in squaring the series.

Sobers’ finest series was in England in 1966, averaging 103.14 with the bat including three centuries, and 20 wickets at 27.25.

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His captaincy was aggressive, sometimes to a fault – best exemplified when he became the first captain to declare twice in a Test and still lose.

As he moved into the 1970s he showed he had lost none of his skills – the innings of 254 for the Rest of the World XI against Australia in 1971-72 considered his greatest exhibition of all.

Honourable Mentions:
Rohan Kanhai: 43 Tests, 3739 runs @ 49.85
Wes Hall: 40 Tests, 146 wkts @ 29.10
Lance Gibbs: 42 Tests, 184 wkts @ 27.84

1950-59

Clyde Walcott (Wicketkeeper)
33 Tests, 3129 runs @ 61.35, 31 catches, six stumpings

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Although Clyde Walcott only donned the gloves for six matches in this period, the way selection panned out meant that I have slotted him into the role for this side.

At his best, he was capable of giving the ball a mighty thump, striking fear into bowlers in much the same way as Viv Richards a generation later.

Walcott’s 168 at Lords in 1950 helped set up a famous win along with Ramadhin and Valentine, and after a middling series against Australia in 1951-52 averaged over 65 in five of the remaining six series of the decade.

The high point was the 1954-55 home series against Australia, scoring five centuries – still the only player to achieve such a feat.

In 1957-58 against Pakistan, Walcott was alongside Garry Sobers as he scored his unbeaten 365 – Walcott’s contribution was 88* before a declaration came at 3-790.

He retired as the batter with the highest innings-to-duck ratio of all players to have suffered at least one, with a single duck in 74 innings.

Later in life, Walcott served as Chairman of the ICC and oversaw the match-fixing investigations of the late 1990s.

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Honourable Mentions:
Everton Weekes: 39 Tests, 3383 runs @ 53.69
Frank Worrell: 29 Tests, 2397 runs @ 47.94, 47 wkts @ 36.19
Garry Sobers: 27 Tests, 2213 runs @ 56.74, 31 wkts @ 46.58
Sonny Ramadhin: 37 Tests, 138 wkts @ 28.62
Alf Valentine: 29 Tests, 123 wkts @ 29.00

2010-19

Jason Holder
40 Tests, 1898 runs @ 32.72, 106 wkts @ 26.37

Playing only eight Tests prior to being appointed captain of the West Indies, Jason Holder led the side capably through the second half of the 2010s – both with bat and ball.

As a capable lower-order batter, he scored three centuries including an unbeaten 202 against England in 2019, only the third double-century for a number 8.

With the ball Holder rarely ran through opponents, but his height and bounce often discomfited batters to the extent that he took 33 wickets in six Tests in 2018 at an average of 12.39.

The realities of modern cricket have pulled Holder away from the national side of late, but there may be a comeback later in the year after the T20 World Cup.

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Honourable Mentions:
Shivnarine Chanderpaul: 41 Tests, 3198 runs @ 60.33
Kemar Roach: 51 Tests, 173 wkts @ 26.89

1985-89

Malcolm Marshall
30 Tests, 728 runs @ 20.80, 165 wkts @ 18.38

The conveyor belt of West Indian fast bowlers was such that picking the best of the best was always going to be a difficult proposition.

The finest of them all was Malcolm Marshall – not the most physically intimidating, but capable of making the ball lift alarmingly from a length and with mastery of swing and seam.

By the second half of the 1980s Marshall was not always the leader of the pack but always a predatory member – only five times in 30 Tests during this span did he take less than three wickets in a match.

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His 35 wickets in England in 1988 included 9/41 in Manchester to go with an unbeaten 43 in an innings win, and his best Test figures of 11/89 came against India in Port of Spain.

A good enough batter to score four half-centuries down the order in this span, he averaged 32.00 against England in this span to go with his bowling average of 14.92.

Only against Australia in 1988/89 was Marshall rendered comparatively mortal.

The cricket world mourned as he fell ill with cancer during the 1999 World Cup and passed away later that year.

Honourable Mentions:
Jeff Dujon: 35 Tests, 1277 runs @ 28.37, 106 catches, 3 stumpings
Desmond Haynes: 35 Tests, 2450 runs @ 45.37
Richie Richardson: 34 Tests, 2731 runs @ 50.57
Courtney Walsh: 29 Tests, 109 wkts @ 23.17

1990-99

Curtly Ambrose
71 Tests, 1016 runs @ 12.24, 309 wkts @ 20.14

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Curtly Ambrose didn’t need words to intimidate a batter. Just a hard stare was enough to cause all but the strongest of hearts to quail.

A high, metronomic action released from about 10 feet high was perfect for steepling bouncers and stifling accuracy.

Ambrose’s most renowned spells came in Perth, where he took seven wickets for one run in 1992/93 to ensure the Frank Worrell Trophy remained in West Indian hands, and in Port of Spain, when England were chasing a middling total of 194 for victory.

Curtly Ambrose

Curtly Ambrose. (Photo by Rebecca Naden – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Ambrose trapped Mike Atherton LBW first ball, and went on to take 6/24 and blast England out for 46.

His staredown with Steve Waugh overshadowed a match haul of 9/65 at the same ground the following year, and he repeated the dose in Melbourne in 1996/97 with 9/72.

Throughout the decade, Ambrose was remarkably consistent, never averaging over 26 in a calendar year and always taking at least 20 wickets.

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Honourable Mentions:
Brian Lara: 65 Tests, 5573 runs @ 51.60
Courtney Walsh: 78 Tests, 304 wkts @ 25.97

1980-84

Michael Holding
37 Tests, 540 runs @ 14.21, 159 wkts @ 22.64

Whispering Death. The nickname alone speaks volumes about Michael Holding and his silent run-up leading to a fearsome delivery that the batter would do well to keep out, let alone score from.

He had already made his name as a bowler of repute by taking 14/149 against England in the 1976 ‘grovel’ tour, and in Bridgetown in 1981 bowled the over of the century to completely do over Geoff Boycott.

In this period, Holding’s best bowling performance was 11/107 in the Boxing Day Test of 1981 – somewhat overshadowed by both Kim Hughes and Dennis Lillee.

On tour in India in 1983, Holding took six wickets in five successive Tests while also averaging 20 with the bat.

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In Perth in 1984, he took 6/21 in 9.2 overs to send Australia spiralling to the follow on after scoring only 76.

Retrospectively, Holding has been considered the fastest of the cartel of quicks the West Indies produced in the 1970s to 1990s and is now a well-respected commentator.

Honourable Mentions:
Gordon Greenidge: 41 Tests, 2820 runs @ 50.35
Viv Richards: 43 Tests, 2843 runs @ 49.87
Clive Lloyd: 44 Tests, 2881 runs @ 52.38
Jeff Dujon: 29 Tests, 1608 runs @ 45.94, 97 catches, 2 stumpings
Malcolm Marshall: 33 Tests, 702 runs @ 18.97, 158 wkts @ 21.55
Joel Garner: 38 Tests, 374 runs @ 10.68, 161 wkts @ 21.04

In summary, the team in batting order is:

Roy Fredericks (1970-74)
Everton Weekes (1940-49)
George Headley (1928-39)
Brian Lara (2000-09)
Viv Richards (1975-79)
Garry Sobers (1960-69) [Captain]
Clyde Walcott (1950-59) [Wicketkeeper]
Jason Holder (2010-19)
Malcolm Marshall (1985-89)
Curtly Ambrose (1990-99)
Michael Holding (1980-84)

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Next up is New Zealand, who have always punched above their weight and do so again here.

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