West Indies in World Cup: Gale force once, huffing and puffing now!

With Chris Gayle, 39, set to retire after this World Cup, an inspired West Indies might pull off the unexpected.

West Indies skipper Clive Lloyd with the inaugural World Cup in 1975. The Caribbeans won in 1979, too. But, after the team’s shock defeat to India in the 1983 title clash, the Windies hasn’t made a final.   -  AP

It has been 44 long years since Clive Lloyd lifted the inaugural World Cup trophy. Lloyd’s West Indians emerged triumphant in the next edition too, but then the drought set in.

Toppled from its once glorious perch, the Windies embarrassingly limped into the 2019 showpiece via a qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe in March last year. The ignominy of not being among the automatic qualifiers was a rude awakening for a team that fell to ninth in the ODI rankings.

Still, with England hosting the 2019 edition, fans can dream of history repeating itself. It was at Lord’s cricket ground on June 21, 1975 when Lloyd, the consummate captain, led by example with a defiant 102 off 85 balls to dig the West Indies out of trouble and set a daunting 291 for eight in 60 overs. Lloyd’s innings laid the platform for an era of dominance. Undermined by four wickets from Barbadian Keith Boyce and an inspired Vivian Richards in the field, Australia was all out for 274. The West Indies, a region still looking to find its feet from centuries of colonialism, had just conquered the world.

The victory ushered in a wave of pride and unity among the islands that never existed previously. Cricket gave being a West Indian a new meaning.

Four years later, the West Indians arrived for the World Cup in England with renewed swagger oozing through their charismatic skipper Lloyd and the macho Richards. They were on a mission to prove 1975 was no fluke. Boasting a squad with an explosive batting line-up and a fearsome bowling attack, the Windies sauntered to the final to set up a mouth-watering clash with its former colonial master, England.

Wicketkeeper Deryck Murray recently discussed what that clash meant to him. He said, “I was driven by the fact that every person playing cricket wanted to play for the West Indies. The British had taught us the game, and the only way to measure ourselves against them was to beat them.”

With the West Indies batting first yet again after losing the toss, Richards punished the English bowlers with a masterful unbeaten 138 that took the game out of England’s reach. Supported by Collis King (86), the pair punished anything short to lift the Windies to 286/9 in 60 overs.

West Indies players celebrate the wicket of Scotland batsman Mathew Cross in a World Cup qualifying match at Harare last year. It’s a pity that such a strong cricket outfit had to take this route to figure in this year’s World Cup.   -  AP

 

England, with a painstaking century opening stand (Geoff Boycott and Mike Brearley) from 32 overs, was never in the match. With England’s defeat all but assured, Michael Holding came whispering death with two quick wickets to prise out both openers. The seven-footer Joel “Big Bird” Garner (5/38) and Colin Croft (2/16) did the rest to wrap up the innings at 194 all out and seal a second straight championship for the men in maroon.

The dominance of the final at the hallowed Lord’s ground against the inventors of the game might not have been considered a blow to the British Empire, but in the Caribbean it gave West Indians something to gloat about for decades.

With back-to-back titles in the first two World Cups, the invincible West Indies was stunned by 66-1 tournament odds India in the 1983 final — one of the biggest upsets ever. All seemed to be going well with the devastating pace quartet of Malcolm Marshall, Holding, Garner and Andy Roberts ripping through Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar and company for 183. Shockingly, however, the West Indies collapsed to 140 all out. After being on the brink of a hat-trick of titles, the West Indies, shockingly, has not made another final! The ’87 and ’92 World Cups saw shocking first-round exits as the golden era ended. Producing talented cricketers was not a problem — the region churned out world-class talents such as Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Brian Lara, Richie Richardson, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle — but a semi-final appearance in 1996 was the West Indies’ best showing after the 1983 final.

With Gayle, 39, set to retire after this World Cup, an inspired Windies might pull off the unexpected.

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