As we wrote yesterday, we're pretty excited at the prospect of seeing 'Fire in Babylon', the film about the great West Indies cricket side of the 1970's and 80's.
The comparison between that team and the current sorry outfit is frightening and hopes cannot be high for the team is it embarks today on a home Test series with Pakistan having not won any of its previous 18 Tests.
But as Fire in Babylon retells, the West Indies has a rich heritage of magnificent cricketers. To coincide with the release of the film, here is our all-time West Indies XI:
1. Gordon Greenidge (108 tests, 19 hundreds, average 44.72) - A vivid memory of our childhood was Greenidge's brutal unbeaten 214 at Lord's in 1984, which made mincemeat of a victory target of 344. Immensely powerful and destructive, Greenidge was the template for the modern breed of attacking openers like Sehwag and Dilshan. Formed two of the greatest opening partnerships of all time with Desmond Haynes for the Windies and Barry Richards for Hampshire.
2. George Headley (22 tests, 10 hundreds, average 60.83) - One of the greats of the game. In 22 tests, when he pretty much was the West Indies batting, Headley hit ten centuries including eight against England. His test match average is one of the best in history, and the tag of the 'Black Bradman was certainly justified. Indeed, Headley's admirers responded by calling Bradman the 'white Headley', and the fact that is a compliment to the Don shows just how good the pioneering Headley was.
3. Sir Viv Richards (Captain, 121 tests, 24 hundreds, average 50.23) - The most devastating batsman in the history of the game, Richards was absolutely unstoppable on his day. His style was a mixture of swagger and intimidation, and bowlers visibly cowered when faced with an on-song King Viv. It is fitting that he has the fastest-ever Test century, from just 56 balls against England in Antigua during the 1986 tour. With Worrell and Lloyd not making the cut, Richards is captain of our all-conquering Caribbean XI.
4. Brian Lara (131 tests, 34 hundreds, average 52.88) - Holds the record for the highest Test and First Class scores of 400 not out and 501 not out respectively. When he started his career, the West Indian era of dominance was on the wane. By the time he finished it, his side was in the doldrums. As a result Lara spent most of his time trying to keep his side afloat, which makes his record all the more remarkable. Perhaps his best achievement was in 1999 at home to Australia, when he single-handedly won the second and third tests with scores of 213 and 153 not out. He scored a century too in the fourth test, but couldn’t prevent Australia squaring the series.
5. Everton Weekes (48 tests, 15 hundreds, average 58.61) - One of the immortal 'three Ws', Walcott believed that Weekes was the best all-round batsman of the three. An attacking batsman with a vast array of strokes, Weekes made an electric start to his test career reaching 1,000 runs in only his 12th innings; one fewer than Bradman. During this run he also scored five centuries in consecutive innings against England and India - still a Test record.
6. Sir Gary Sobers (93 tests, 26 hundreds, average 57.78, 235 wickets at 34.03) - Cricket’s greatest all-rounder. With the bat, Sobers mixed elegance with power and for a long time held the record for the highest Test score until he was usurped by Lara. Perhaps his best innings though came for the Rest of the World against Australiain 1972 when Sobers played an innings of 254 described by Bradman as "probably the greatest exhibition of batting ever seen in Australia". Batting wasn't his only talent either. Indeed, he could bowl left arm fast medium as well as both orthodox and leg spin.
7. Sir Clyde Walcott (44 tests, 15 hundreds, average 56.68, 53 catches, 11 stumpings) - Ok, Walcott wasn't as good a keeper as Dujon and even relinquished the gloves following back trouble (not that he would have to bend over too much keeping to this attack). But how can you leave out someone this good? Walcott played an instrumental role in the first West Indian victory on English soil at Lord’s in 1950 scoring 168 not out. Along with Weekes, he was arguably the best batsman in the World during the mid-1950s, reaching his peak with an incredible five hundreds and 827 runs during Australia’s first Test series in the Caribbean. This team bats deep!
8. Malcolm Marshall (81 tests, 376 wickets at 20.94) - If picking the batsmen was hard, whittling down a long line of brilliant West Indies fast bowlers is even harder. Including Marshall though wasn't difficult as he was arguably the best of the lot. Fearsomely fast and with the ability to swing the ball both ways, Marshall was often unplayable and England in particular were frequent victims. His strike rate of 46.22 was as phenomenal as his premature death at the age of 41 was tragic. No doubt, Marshall has reduced Bradman's average of 99.94 since he joined the heavenly all-time greats on the elysian cricket field.
9. Curtly Ambrose (98 tests, 405 wickets at 20.99) - The most menacing bowler of his generation and given his dislike for speaking to the media, was like a silent if giant assassin. Once took seven wickets for one run in the most devastating of spells against Australia, but as England fans we remember him blasting out Mike Atherton's side for just 46 in Port of Spain more.
10. Joel Garner (58 Tests, 259 wickets at 20.97) - Can anyone imagining having to face Ambrose and Garner on the same bouncy wicket? When we picked this side last time, we opted for a spinner (Sonny Ramadhin), but this time partly in honour of 'Fire in Babylon' we go for four quicks. 'Big Bird' was a legend and unleashed one of the most devastating yorkers the game has ever seen from his monstrous 6'8" frame.
11. Michael Holding (60 tests, 249 wickets at 23.68) - It could have been Roberts, Hall, Walsh or even the pioneer Constantine, but we settle for Whispering Death as our final quick. Could well be the fastest bowler in history and he certainly had the longest run-up. His run-up and delivery were poetry in motion for all who watched except for the terrified batsman at the other end. Now an erudite and forthright commentator, Holding is perhaps best remembered for his monumental 14 for 149 at The Oval in 1976.
12th man - Sonny Ramadhin (43 tests, 158 wickets at 28.98) - Wins a toss-up with Lance Gibbs, although we never saw either of them bowl live in the flesh. Ramadhin could spin the ball both ways and bowl off and leg breaks and it is this versatility that tipped the scales in his favour. Was the hero when West Indies won their first test at Lord's with 11 for 152 in 1950.
Cricket heroes: Malcolm Marshall
Cricket heroes: Viv Richards
Cricket heroes: Michael Holding
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