By Zaheer E. Clarke
Written December 15, 2016
Published December 19, 2016, in The Western Mirror
For 50 years, Clive Lloyd has given indelible and selfless service to West Indies and world cricket. He is a legend in the game of cricket, both inside and beyond the boundary.
Several years ago, as a youngster growing up, eager to learn about the exploits and history of West Indies cricket, my dad handed me a book published in 1983. The book was written by Henderson Dalrymple and titled “50 Great West Indian Test Cricketers”. Dalrymple, a West Indian-born English-based journalist, had written for the Yorkshire Post, the New Musical Express and several black publications in the United Kingdom. Though Dalrymple authored and co-authored books on Reggae and Bob Marley – as if I needed more motivation – four words on the front cover of this book on West Indian cricketers would ensure I opened it, and read it, cover to cover. Those four words were “Foreword by Clive Lloyd“.
Last week Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of Clive Hubert Lloyd’s debut for West Indies on December 13, 1966. Like his cousin, another West Indian great, Lancelot “Lance” Gibbs, Lloyd was a true West Indian from birth – twice over – being the product of a Barbadian mother and a Guyanese father. Nevertheless, it was Lloyd who would become the towering image of West Indian pride, fervour and unity, and its greatest captain. Like Sir Frank Worrell, another great West Indian captain and statesman before him, Lloyd understood how important winning on the cricket field was to the Caribbean people and his role in achieving the same.
“Our people in the Caribbean are desperately short of successful heroes,” Lloyd declared in the foreword of Dalrymple’s book, “who have reached the top of cricketing acclaim by dint of determination and perseverance.”
“Over the years West Indian cricket has been very successful in uniting the people of the Caribbean, like no other event. Cricket means a great deal to our people and no one realises more than I do, how important winning is to us.”
“Our people have given us their wholehearted support, and our achievements have served as an example of the heights that can be attained if we are truly united.”
Lloyd, who captained West Indies from 1974-1985, oversaw West Indies’ rise to the pinnacle of world cricket. His legacy is embossed with two World cup victories in 1975 and 1979 and part of an unbeaten stretch in Test series spanning 15 years from 1980-1995. However, it was not without incident.
Michael Holding, in his book “No Holding Back: The Autobiography”, spoke of “a poisonous atmosphere” surrounding the Clive Lloyd-led West Indies team that lost the 1975 Australian series 5-1. A team, according to Holding, then marred by “factionalism and internal squabbles”.
Leaning on experiences garnered from as far back as age 14 when he was captain of his Chatham High School team in the Chin Cup inter-school competition in Guyana, right up to those early days in his West Indian captaincy, Lloyd and his six-foot-five-inch frame, eventually grew and learned to command and unite these men from various islands, according to Holding.
In another point in his career where conflict arose, Lloyd resigned , as a matter of principle, from the post of West Indies captain and decided not to play. He did this in support of his fellow players, who were dropped from the Test team by the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (now the West Indies Cricket Board) in 1978. This occurred during a tumultuous time in West Indies cricket: the Kerry-Packer-World-Series-of-Cricket years. Though Lloyd discarded the captaincy, he won the adoration of the West Indian public and gained, even more respect from his fellow men, whom he would soon lead again to glory in the 1979 World Cup.
“I believe in doing things my way because I know better than anyone else what I can do”
– Clive Lloyd
Sir Garry Sobers, in a statement he made last year, said, “Clive was a great captain and a great leader and he was also a tremendous player … he was respected by everyone”. These sentiments have been reiterated several times over by Holding, Sobers and many other former players.
Fittingly, Lloyd was the first West Indian to play a century (100) of Test matches. He ended his career for West Indies playing 110 matches, scoring 19 centuries and 39 half-centuries at an average of 46.67.
Unsurprisingly, the best of Lloyd came as captain of West Indies. In his first series and match as captain, with West Indies “in some trouble” at 75 runs for three wickets against the Indians in Bangalore, Lloyd scored 163 runs in an innings Wisden described as “an innings of spectacular belligerence”. As Wisden said, it “suddenly and completely reversed” West Indies’ precarious position. West Indies won that match by a decisive 267 runs to take a 1-0 series lead. In the final match of the series, with the series now tied 2-2, Lloyd scored a career-best 242 not out to help West Indies win the match by 207 runs and clinch the series 3-2.
He captained West Indies in 74 of his 110 career matches, scoring 14 centuries and 27 half-centuries at an average of 51.30. In fact, of the 19 West Indian players who have captained 10 or more games, Lloyd is one of only three batsmen to average above 50 with the bat as captain. The other two being Sir Gary Sobers and His Excellency Brian Lara.
Lloyd’s match saving exploits extended to One Day Internationals as well, where in the 1975 World Cup final, with West Indies sputtering at 50 runs for 3 wickets, Lloyd scored his sole ODI century to hand West Indies the trophy. According to Wisden, Lloyd brought up his “wonderful” century off just 82 balls. Lloyd upon arrival at the crease exhibited to everyone that he was “the master of the situation” against Australia’s best bowlers, including Dennis Lillie. Nicknamed ‘Supercat’, Lloyd mauled the Australians, playing several shots with “majestic style” and “disdainful ease”.
When Dalrymple published his book with Lloyd’s foreword in 1983, Lloyd had just captained the West Indies for the 50th time, a feat only Viv Richards has matched since.
When questioned decades ago about his philosophy, Lloyd, who received no basic coaching as a young cricketer, declared in Dalrymple’s book, “I believe in doing things my way because I know better than anyone else what I can do, and I never worry where my hands and feet are if the ball is at the boundary.”
“Clive Lloyd is like a father, big brother, guardian and guide to West Indian cricketers. We respect him because he respects himself and all of us.
If Frank Worrell led by inspiration and Garry Sobers by example, Lloyd combines both to great effect.”
– Joel ‘Big Bird’ Garner
Since 1985 when he retired, Lloyd has served the West Indies team and board officially as the coach (1996), manager (1996-1999), a non-executive director of the board and the chairman of selectors (2014-2016). Unofficially, he has served as a mentor and advisor to numerous West Indian cricketers. Lloyd, the much-respected 1971 Wisden Cricketer of the Year, has been an ambassador for West Indies cricket and has served internationally as an ICC Match Referee and as the chairman of the ICC cricket committee. His indelible and selfless service to the game and West Indies, inside and beyond the boundary, is legendary.
Happy Anniversary ‘Big C’! It’s indeed a golden one. Cheers!
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
All data for this article was obtained from ESPN Cricinfo Statsguru Database on December 15, 2016.
Zaheer E. Clarke is a multi-award-winning freelance sportswriter, who use to bat while wearing glasses like Clive Lloyd. After he decided to stop wearing his glasses, he was hit in the face with the ball quite a few times while batting. Though battered and bruised, he still insists he doesn’t need his glasses.
Zaheer’s articles have been published by ESPN Cricinfo, The Western Mirror, The Jamaica Observer, Trinidad Express, Essentially Sports and many others.
This blog article was also published in the Western Mirror on December 19, 2016.