If ever there was a country that dominated cricket during one decade, it surely was the invincible West Indies side of the 1980s. In fact, they were so good that they are still seen as one of the greatest teams to have played on the international stage in cricket’s fine history. Amazing when playing at home but equally awesome when playing away too, they had a collection of truly world-class players to call on during this period. Whether it was aggressive, lethal bowling or swaggering, explosive batting, they were a team that had it all!
If one stat sums up their dominance it is that they began a run in the mid-eighties that saw them win every Test series they played for almost seven years! If you want to refresh your memory on just who the main players were for them during this time, read on:
10 Larry Gomes
First up we have a name that may not be quite as well remembered by some, but Larry Gomes was a more than useful player for the Windies during the 1980’s. It is probably the fact that he was surrounded by such extravagant batting entertainers in the team, that he was a bit dull in comparison. This is not a fair reflection on his abilities or the runs he scored for his country during the 1980’s though.
An elegant and upright left-handed batsman, Gomes was more of a steady batter in his approach which often led him to provide a more reasoned approach in comparison to the explosive stroke-play happening at the other end. His favourite shots were the little nip off his legs and the late glide down the gully. A very reliable figure especially if an innings needed shoring up, he amassed 60 Tests for his country with 3,171 runs scored.
9 Sir Richie Richardson
Although you might not immediately associate Richie Richardson with the 1980’s, he made his Test debut in 1983 and became a very handy player for the West Indies in the decade. Eventually taking over as Captain from Sir Vivian Richards when he retired, Richardson’s courteous and gentle manner was great to see. As a player in the 1980’s before that though, he was similarly impressive.
Richardson was a flamboyant batsman in the classic Caribbean manner – he was at his best against fast bowling and loved to attack the opposition. Famous for wearing his wide brimmed maroon hat rather than a helmet, he could often be seen hooking and pulling bowlers to the boundary when in full swing. Another favourite stroke was to dispatch anything square with a glorious cut and he scored many runs in this fashion too. The only blemish in his armoury was a lack of focus and concentration at times that could see him get out cheaply.
Overall, he completed 86 Test matches for his country with 5,949 runs amassed. This included stunning innings such as the 194 he made against India in 1989 or the 185 against New Zealand in 1985.
8 Gus Logie
One name that many will remember from the great West Indian team of the 1980’s is Augustus ‘Gus’ Logie. A small yet powerful right-handed batsman, Logie was also superb in the field. His sharp reflexes and safe hands made him as important to the team in that area as when he was at the crease. Making his debut in 1983, he would play right through the 1980’s for his country and be a vital cog in their well-oiled machine.
Logie was quite a player on his day and well capable of smashing boundaries and racking up big scores. Perhaps his main drawback was a lack of consistency at times which meant he could sometimes go through poor patches of form. When on song though he was a joy to watch and had a great range of strokes to call on. Playing 52 Tests, he scored 2,470 runs in great style. His 130 against India in 1983 was a high-point and showed just how much talent he had.
7 Jeff Dujon
Sometimes in all the excitement surrounding fierce bowling and free-scoring batting, we can forget about the importance of a top wicket keeper. If one thing shows us this is a bad idea, it is to look at just how key Jeff Dujon was to the outstanding 1980’s West Indies team. Without his agile, athletic presence behind the stumps then it is debatable as to whether they would have been quite as successful.
One thing is for sure – the sight of an air-borne Dujon leaping to grab a frankly un-catchable ball was one of the great cricket images in this decade. He could take catches that he had no right to and certainly helped his country sit atop the cricketing world in the 1980’s. Dujon was also a very handy lower-order batsman who had a good amount of style and power to his game. Taking 267 catches and making 5 stumpings in his 81 match Test career, he really was a crucial player for the team.
6 Joel Garner
Standing at a huge 6 feet 8 inches, it is no wonder they called Joel Garner ‘Big Bird’! Batsmen certainly felt the full effect of this height as he charged in, sending the ball seemingly down from the clouds. A devastating bowler who played much of the 1980’s for his country, Garner was an integral part of the feared West Indies bowling attack of the time.
His build allowed him to generate incredible bounce off the pitch which, allied to his pace, made him unplayable at times. He also possessed a fine Yorker that would spear in at the batter’s toes in lethal fashion. If evidence of his skill is needed a 6 for 56 against New Zealand in 1980 and an awesome 6 for 60 against Australia in 1984 provides it.
5 Michael Holding
When you manage to acquire the nickname ‘Whispering Death’, you know you have made it as a top bowler! That’s what they called Michael Holding and with good reason! One of the quickest bowlers of all time, he would approach the crease with an almost silent run-up before unleashing some frankly vicious deliveries. Standing at around 6 feet 3 inches, Holding used this to generate superb bounce and zip off the pitch. This, together was his accurate line and length, made him a key member of the feared West Indies pace attack in this decade.
Playing the majority of the decade, he notched up 60 matches with 249 wickets taken by the time he retired. His best spells in this period were a superb 6 for 21 against Australia in 1984 and a lethal 4 for 79 against New Zealand in 1985.
4 Gordon Greenidge
We now move onto the players who most people will recall immediately when thinking about the West Indies team of the 80s. First up is that destructive, explosive and big-hitting batsman Gordon Greenidge. He formed one of the best opening batting partnerships ever with Desmond Haynes to propel his country to greatness in the 1980’s.
Greenidge was quite simply a magnificent player who had it all. A solid defense learnt in England when young was allied to a staggering Caribbean attacking instinct to great effect. He had many superb shots but particular highlights were a withering square cut, a sumptuous hook and the ability to drive well on each side of the wicket. A big favourite with the fans, he knew how to entertain and always made sure whatever game he played in was a spectacle!
In all, he clocked up 108 Tests with 7558 runs made for a 44.72 average. This shows just how amazing he was with the bat in hand as does the huge 223 he made against England in 1984. Quite simply, he was dynamite at the crease.
3 Desmond Haynes
As noted above, Desmond Haynes was one half of arguably the world’s greatest ever opening partnership with Gordon Greenidge. Between them they put together 16 century stands with 4 in excess of 200! This shows not only how good they both were individually but how perfectly they fitted together.
Of the two, Haynes was the more measured and a fine counter-point to Greenidge’s attacking displays. Possessing a great all-round game, he was still as capable of playing as destructive an innings as his partner when needed. This allied to his solid technique and good defense made him a truly fine player. Especially good against fast bowling, he like all the great Caribbean batsman played with a verve and swagger.
Playing 116 Tests in all, he made a total of 7,487 runs by the time he finished. As with Greenidge there are too many superb innings to mention but the beautiful 184 against England right at the start of the decade warrants a shout.
2 Malcolm Marshall
There is no doubt that one of the main reasons the West Indies were so successful in the 1980’s was their feared pace attack. Chief among them was the great Malcolm Marshall! A tall, fast, dangerous, aggressive and talented player, Marshall could sometimes terrify players into handing over their wicket. Possessing a truly wicked bouncer, he could make it rear up and catch even the most skilful batsman out. Marshall also had a mastery of inswing and outswing that he could use to send the ball down but without signaling his intent due to his lithe action.
Perhaps the best thing about him, though, was his sharp cricketing brain. What made Marshall so effective was that he knew instinctively when to use the different weapons in his arsenal to get a wicket. Also a brilliant lower order batsman, he was absolutely key to everything the West Indies did in the 1980’s.
His best spells in an 81 Test match career were a devastating 7 for 22 against England in 1988 and a 7 for 80 against New Zealand in 1985. Both those displays saw him steaming in at his peak and unleashing an absolute storm on the opposition.
1 Sir Vivian Richards
There can only be one choice for the top spot really! Sir Vivian Richards was not only one of the greatest batsman world cricket has ever seen but also a truly inspirational captain too. His leadership and talent were one of the main drivers behind his country’s success in the 1980’s. Few batsmen in history have had his ability to dominate and destroy bowling attacks like he did. The most commonly associated word with his batting style is ‘swagger’ and this perfectly sums up his approach to cricket.
Richards not only had great technique and superb footwork but enormous power too. He would use all these qualities to execute sumptuous drives and fearsome hooks many times. Such an amazing player was he, that bowlers simply didn’t know where to bowl at to him. With the ability to get outside the line of off-stump with his left-leg, he fire the ball through the covers or flick deliveries away with clever shots to mid-wicket. Richards was also a strong personality, such that many captains banned their players from sledging him as it made him more aggressive and in the mood to score huge totals against them!
Richards would bring this tough character to his role as captain where he was very successful also. Well-liked and respected by his players, his sharp cricket brain helped his country experience the success they did in the 1980’s.
By the time he finished, he had played 121 Tests and made 8,540 runs for a 50.23 average, which emphasises just how effective he was. One highlight among many was the superb 208 he plundered against Australia in 1984.
Although they had already begun their period of dominance in the late 1970’s, it really is the 1980’s that saw the West Indies reign supreme. Led for most of the decade by Sir Vivian Richards, they simply steamrolled anyone who got in their way! The above players are some of the greatest to have graced not just the 1980’s as a decade but the whole of cricket across the years.
Image Credit: Naparazzi