Millennium Post

Rise and fall of an empire

When I look back at the time when ICC World Cup first came into being in 1975, I remember a time that was completely different from what it is today. There were no coloured clothing or white balls or black sightscreens. In fact, we wore cream-coloured tracks back then.

As a team we were very excited because we had just started coming into our own in terms of belief that we were not too bad as far as cricket was concerned. We had some very good players in our team at that time, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Roy Fredericks, Alvin Kallicharran and Rohan Kanhai. All of us had a lot of experience playing county cricket. We had a magnificent team ability-wise but even then knowing those conditions well helped us a lot.

At that time a lot of one-day cricket was played in England, 40 to 60-over tournaments. That is where I was first introduced to this format and it was the same for most of us. As such the format of the World Cup wasn’t strange to us, and we were in a good place physically and mentally. Through that inaugural World Cup in 1975, we had one hiccup against Pakistan where we were nine down and Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts got us home. That was the one sticky moment for us. Then in the final against Australia we had a good score on the board but they had a couple good partnerships and were looking threatening.

What happened next is something I cherish to this day! I was just a rookie then and with so many great players in the team, I only batted at number five or six. But I wanted to contribute to the team’s cause and in the final I executed three  run-outs – Alan Turner, Greg Chappell and Ian Chappell. When we went home as champions, we were treated like royalty. Even though the Caribbean Islands are separated by water, you could feel the energy in Barbados or Trinidad & Tobago or Jamaica. Anybody who played or witnessed that first World Cup win will remember it forever.

By the time the next World Cup was held in 1979, I had gained a little more prominence with my batting. Again, I wanted to play my part for the team but this time for what I was picked. In the final against England, our top-order was in disarray. But then Collis King came in and played magnificently to take all pressure off me. It is not often when someone outdoes Vivian Richards but King came and did just that. There was no point playing like him, so I just supported him at the other end. When he got out for 86, I decided to take charge and teed-off from there. But King was the man responsible for my hundred (138 not out) in that final and his knock made me look good.

In the 1983 World Cup, we had the opportunity to win the tournament for a third time. But there was another team with a different idea. At that time India wasn’t known for its one-day cricket. But Kapil Dev, a cricketer whom I admire a lot, instilled a new belief in them that certain dreams can be achieved.

During the final we were in control of the match, but when we batted it went overcast a bit. And India had just the right bowlers, Madan Lal, Balwinder Sandhu, Roger Binny and Mohinder Amarnath, for such conditions. I was out hooking and no other India fielder other than Kapil could have taken that catch. It showed the belief in him. India eventually won and I will never forget the celebrations at the hotel that night. When you beat the world champions twice in one tournament, you deserve to win it.

I was the captain of West Indies in the 1987 World Cup and scored 181 against Sri Lanka. It was a great knock. But I take it as a personal disappointment that West Indies couldn’t reach the semifinals. There is one other memory from that tournament. Against Pakistan, Saleem Jaffer was backing up a fair bit and Courtney Walsh asked if he could run-out (Mankad) him. I told him to warn Saleem but not to run him out. Because if he had done that, it would have been a stigma attached to West Indies and this is not what our cricket was about. As captain, I was ready to play fair even if it meant losing. Walsh won the fair-play award but we lost the match.

Things changed after that for West Indies cricket and we started going downhill from there. The 1992 World Cup was a different one with coloured clothing and white balls and matches were also held under lights. It was a very open tournament but other countries had much more belief. The players were very competitive and perhaps fitter as well.  West Indies were not invincible anymore and the loss to Kenya in 1996 World Cup was the biggest proof. I was sad to see the team lose but it was great for the game.

West Indies did not compete well in the ensuing 1999 and 2003 events. They did not reach the Super Six stage. A team that was the trend-setter of cricket once upon a time was beginning to get left behind. It was clear to everyone who saw or followed West Indies cricket. We were not contenders anymore. But I think when you are participating in World Cup, you are never out of contention.

Because sport is unpredictable and anything can happen. You just have to play with an open mind.
In 2011, the World Cup was hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It was a different format and West Indies lost to Pakistan in the quarterfinal. It is always disappointing when your team loses.

But I felt a different sentiment for that tournament, for India cricket, because at that time Sachin
Tendulkar was just starting to think about retirement. I believed an individual who has given so much to the game deserved to have some silverware on his mantelpiece. I felt it was the best opportunity for India to win the cup. And I was very pleased for Sachin after India won the tournament. Winning the World Cup at home was an icing on the cake for Sachin.

We were not considered contenders for quite a while now but my heart will always beat for the West Indies, my thoughts and prayers will always be with them.
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