Clive Lloyd: The mastermind behind West Indies’s domination of world cricket
Clive Lloyd… a colossus in the world of cricket © Getty Images
Clive Lloyd, born August 31, 1944, was one of the most destructive batsmen of all time and one of the most successful and respected captains of West Indies. Arunabha Sengupta remembers the “Supercat” who perfected the West Indian system of world domination through relentless pace bowling.
Not quite the non-violent leader
Not often in cricket have we witnessed the police being summoned to curb on-field violence unleashed by a batsman. Yet, such was the sheer brutality of Clive Lloyd’s massive bat that a troubled old lady in Haslingden, Lancashire, feared for her safety whennearby windows were peppered and smashed by sailing cricket balls travelling at screaming rates. She called up the local constabulary and reported destruction of property.
But then, Lloyd was an exception. No one wielded a heavier bat in world cricket. Few in the worldused the willow better or hit the ball harder. And that was not the only charge of violence that were voiced against him in his cricketing days. Captain Clive Lloyd transformed the philosophy of West Indian cricket, turning a band of supremely talented, yet inconsistent happy-go-lucky cricketers into ruthless machinery for destruction. To do that,he followed the way of fastest and fearsome of bowlers running in one after the other in groups of four. Opponents were battered, bruised, blasted away. No team had been more successful and no captain since Douglas Jardine more criticised.
It is indeed strange that so much violence should be associated with a man who was forever the calm influence, someone who at 12 had injured his eye while breaking up a fight and had to wear thick glasses ever since.
Yet, the West Indian team and the islands were unanimous in acknowledging the enormous contribution of the man. When he played his 100th Test match at Sabina Park, Jamaica, the cricket authorities of the islands could no longer delay in their acknowledgement of his greatness. Lloyd was already an institution. He had been presented with the Order of Roraima, the second highest national award of his native Guyana. At Bourda, a new stand had been named after him. The Trinidad Government had awarded him the Chaconia Medal Class One: Gold. And even in distant England where he gladdened every heart as a professional for Lancashire, he had received honorary degrees from the Universities of Manchester and Hull.
The recognition from his own cricket board had been slow in coming. Lloyd had fought tooth and nail for his team of cricketers to be treated with respect, to be paid in accordance to what their enormous talents merited.The confrontations had often been bitter, never more so than during the Kerry Packer series. Following the curious decision of the Board to drop three young cricketers, including Desmond Haynes, and to take away the vice-captaincy from Deryck Murray, Lloyd had resigned his captaincy. It had led a boycott that saw a second string side play against the final Tests against the visiting Australians of 1978 and then travel to India in 1978-79.
However, now, as his towering, slouching, gigantic frame made his way for the 100th Test match, the president of the Board, Allan Rae, made a warm speech and felicitated the great man. Speaking for the players was one of Lloyd’s most potent weapons, ‘Big Bird’ Joel Garner: “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.”
Wes Hall, the former fast bowler and one of the teammates when a young Lloyd made his Test debut, opined, “He is admired by cricketers and chroniclers the world over, and he has dominated the panorama of international cricket for a decade like a colossus.”
The accolades were not restricted to the cricketing world. Writing in a Jamaican Sunday paper, Michael Manley, the country’s former Prime Minister, observed: “In Clive Lloyd, the captaincy found its figure of continuity. A great enough player to command unquestioning respect, Lloyd grew in stature, maturity and cricket judgement as the years passed. His reign is like that of some great monarch of the Renaissance. The manner with his team is avuncular rather than authoritarian. He sets the example in personal discipline, in personal integrity, in personal performance, in personal dignity and in personal courtesy.”
It described the man to perfection.
Across the fence and in trees
It is curious that Lloyd hailed from Guyana. Part of the South American continent, the country was forever reclusive from the ‘Caribbean’ identity, linked more by trade and cricket than by culture. And from here Clive Lloyd rose and tied the islands together into a force as never before.
His cricketing background was mixed. His father, a chauffeur to a local doctor, was in no way mad about the game. There was no paternal dream that wanted to see his son grow up into the new Everton Weekes. But, his mother did follow the game. And her sister was Mrs Gibbs, the mother of Lloyd’s cousin Lance, the greatest spinner produced by the islands.
Gibbs was 10 years older, and already a cricketer of potential by the time Lloyd started walking into the field and understanding the intricacies of the game. Despite the gap in years, they talked cricket endlessly. Also, a few streets away from where Lloyd grew up was the house of former West Indian batsman Robert Christiani. By the time Lloyd was playing cricket as a teenager, Christiani was a well-respected voice on the radio, bringing the game to the thousands of cricket-crazy people in the Caribbean.
Some Guyanese cricketers of note played in the Demerara Cricket Club nearby. Lloyd, along with many of his cronies, spent days watching them from beyond the fence or spreading out and chasing balls whilethese heroes had a knock at the nets. Like every other West Indian kid, he spent days watching international cricket from beyond the ground, ensconced in trees with excellent view, food and drink for the day sent up to the spectators on the branches by rudimentary pulley systems.
By his early teens, Lloyd had grown into a strapping youth. He struck the ball left-handed and hard, and had developed a decent technique. On his long legs, he covered the ground at lightning speed, and indeed carried away many of the top athletic honours. A small tyre-repair shop nearby had collected a few rudimentary bits of weight training equipment, and young Lloyd used them to the fullest. He was an early fitness fanatic.
He was 15 when his father passed away. Although eligible for a scholarship for higher education, Lloyd now had to find a job as the oldest of six children. It was a poorly paid clerical post at Georgetown hospital, but the routine nature of his duties ensured that he could devote time to cricket.
The first time he played at Bourda for Demerara, he scored just 12. Local experts wrote off his chances of making it as a cricketer, and Lloyd was distressed to find Christiani among the naysayers. However, the captain of the club, Fred Wills, did not lose faith. In fact, given Lloyd’s strained financial means, he encouraged him by offering cash rewards for centuries. “He had a heart as big as a house,” Lloyd recalled later.
Into the top league
Soon, Lloyd had graduated to bigger and better realms. He was drafted as an emergency fieldsman as West Indies played Australia at Guyana, and once ran into the ground to carry a message from manager Frank Worrell to captain Garry Sobers.
However, his start in First-Class cricket was lukewarm, two outings bringing him less than decent returns. In his third match for Guyana, playing against a strong Barbados side, he was deceived by a Sobers chinaman and was out for a duck. As Sobers followed up his six wickets with a double hundred, ensuring a 332 run lead, Lloyd fought hard to score 107 in the second innings. Guyana lost, but four days later Lloyd scored a flawless 194 against Jamaica.
Yet, when the team for England was announced in 1966, Lloyd was not included. The political bargains struck by the various islands in the selection process tampered with his chances. A young Lloyd, unaware of the devious ways of the game’s governance, was devastated. Captain Sobers later admitted that Lloyd’s omission was one of the gravest errors made by the West Indies Board.
However, when the next team was selected to tour India in 1966-67, Lloyd found himself a part of the touring party. As manager Frank Worrell told him, although he deserved to go to England, it was perhaps as well that he did not play his first games in the West Indian colours in the difficult conditions of the Old Country.
An enthusiastic Lloyd travelled to India and found himself a surprise inclusion in the first Test match at Bombay after Seymour Nurse pulled out due to injury. Lloyd walked in at 82 for three, and hammered 82 in less than two hours with 15 fours and a six. He had scored those runs in a stand of 110 with Conrad Hunte. Using his reach to great effect, Lloyd plonked his right foot down the wicket and countered the spin of the threatening Bhagwath Chandrasekhar. Salim Durani, Srinivas Venkataraghavan and Bapu Nadkarni were the three other high class spinners bowling in that Test, and Lloyd had answers to all the questions asked by their guile. In the second innings, West Indies chased 192 and got there with six wickets in hand. Lloyd remained unbeaten on 78, with two towering sixes. He had arrived with a bang.
The hundreds did not take a long time in coming. The first one was at Port of Spain against England in 1968.In the third Test of the series at Barbados he scored another century, in just 157 minutes with fourteen fours and a six. He celebrated in grand style, lofting Pat Pocock over the schoolchildren’s stand into the adjoining car park.
Brian Close wrote, “This Lloyd is going to be a power to come in the West Indies batting when he matures.”
However, at the same time, another lesson awaited him. In the final match of the series, Garry Sobers declared the second innings at 92 for two, leaving England 215 to win at Queen’s Park Oval. It resulted in an infamous loss, and a young Lloyd took the experience to heart. He would make a similar, although less glaring, mistake in 1976 and it would give the final shape to his principles of domination.
When West Indies travelled to Australia, Lloyd was one of the architects behind the win in the opening Test at Brisbane. With Joey Carew joining him at a crucial juncture of the second innings, the two left-handers blunted the threat of the mystery spinner John Gleeson and added 120 for the sixth wicket. Before being trapped leg before by Graham McKenzie, Lloyd had hit 18 fours and a towering six almost out of the ground in a match turning innings of 129.
That match also showed him a glimpse of the great cricketing genius of Sobers. In the first innings, with Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell having notched up centuries, Australia were on the verge of a huge score. Sobers tossed the ball to Lloyd, asking him to have a go with his off-breaks. Soon, Lawry was caught at mid-wicket and Chappell in the cover, Sobers holding both the catches. West Indies were back in the game.
However, West Indies went on to lose the series. And a maturing Lloyd saw the lackadaisical attitude, absence of scheduled training and disciplined team meetings as the main reasons. It was a learning he would remember during the next decade and a half.
Lloyd ventured into Lancashire league cricket in Haslingden, and made his mark as a Lancashire county professional while they won both the John Player’s League and Gillette Cup in 1970. However,his international form suffered as West Indies went through a rough patch.
Lloyd enjoyed enormous success in the county. Derek Underwood confided to West Indian John Shepherd that he had a plan to restrict his strokes. When he came up against Kent, Guyanese giant hit Underwood for seven sixes while scoring 163. Evert time the ball soared out of the ground off Underwood’s bowling, Shepherd kept walking up to the left-arm spinner asking, “Is that the special ball you had for Clive, Derek?”
However, West Indies suffered a humiliating defeat to India at home, and then failed to beat a weak New Zealand side. Lloyd’s own form was patchy and while playing for the World XI against Australia at Adelaide, he attempted a catch off Ashley Mallett and injured his spine.It kept him out of cricket for a while, and when he scored 18 and five in the final Test against New Zealand, he found himself dropped from the side against the visiting Australians.
A frustrated Lloyd retaliated by scoring 126 as Lancashire won the Gillette Cup final. Following this, he accepted an offer to play club cricket in Australia.
A call from the Prime Minister
What followed exemplifies the whimsical way in which Caribbean cricket was run. Garry Sobers was not playing against Australia because of injury problems and had relinquished captaincy. One name that was being considered as his heir was Clive Lloyd, and he was not even in the team. When Sobers was ruled out, Lloyd was cabled to be ready as a replacement.
The Guyanese Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham, a huge fan of Lloyd, personally intervened, asking his Australian counterpart Gough Whitlam to ensure that there would be no problem getting Lloyd’s release from his commitment to club cricket in Australia. Mr Burnham went further. Back in Manchester, Lloyd was informed by the Guyanese High Commission that his country had decided to pay his fare back to the islands. A bemused Lloyd flew back to Guyana.
When he reached, Wes Hall, manager of the team, calmly pointed out that Rohan Kanhai’s appointment as captain was merely a stop-gap measure since the brilliant batsman was nearing the end of his career. Lloyd had been earmarked for leadership.
Lloyd performed his duties as 12th man in Barbados. At Trinidad, he struggled for runs, scoring 20 and 15, and was booed by the crowd for his poor showing.
And finally, on the first day of the fourth Test at Guyana, he strode in on the first morning at the fall of the second wicket. According to Tony Cozier, “With Prime Minister Burnham basking in reflected glory, the loose-limbed left-hander reinstated himself in the team and erased doubts about his real merit as a Test player. Abandoning the contact lenses he used in the previous Test match and reverting to spectacles, Lloyd was in irresistible mood, attacking confidently and hitting a six and 24 fours before he was out on the second morning for 178.”
However, Australia won the match and according to Lloyd, it was a most depressing time. Yet, personally he was on his way to his best form. In England, he amassed 318 in three Tests, with 132 at The Oval and 94 at Edgbaston. And by the time the team travelled to India in 1974-75, Clive Hubert Lloyd had become the captain of the West Indian cricket team.
Appointed the captain
“When the news was confirmed that I had been made captain, I was in a word … thunderstruck,” Lloyd recalled. However, no man was more prepared for the job. More importantly, no captain of West Indies, apart from perhaps Worrell, ever gave as much thought to leadership as did Lloyd.
“When the news sank in, I came to believe that in appointing me the West Indies were looking for some kind of long-term leadership. So I decided that the job of leading the West Indies should be taken withutmost seriousness and I set myself a number of goals. The first priority was clearly the need for team unity …In return I was able to offer them assurances that I would work to improve their position. I started out from the premise that I wanted West Indies cricket and West Indies cricketers to be treated with respect.”Lloyd’s captaincy was ultimately shaped by the events that unfolded.
He started with a bang, leading his side to triumph in a closely-contested series in India. He scored 163 in the first Test at Bangalore, and West Indies went one up. At Delhi, a young man called Viv Richards scored 192 in just his second Test as Lloyd stood at the other end with a patient 71 and the visitors led by two nil. India struck back with two wins at Calcutta and Madras. And in the decider at Bombay, Lloyd assumed absolute command and batted seven hours to score an unbeaten 242. West Indies won the series 3-2.
Clive Lloyd (left) could savage any attack in full flow © Getty Images
Knocking a thistle-top with his walking stick
Lloyd was in the best form of his life. And nowhere was it demonstrated more amply than the spectacular 102 in the final of the inaugural World Cup, when his pull over mid-wicket was described by John Arlott as “the stroke of a man knocking a thistle-top with his walking stick.”
Even as he played the first few deliveries that day, including hooking Dennis Lillee for six, old Gubby Allen turned to Jeff Stollmeyer, the President of the West Indies Board, and mentioned, “Lloyd looks in good nick today. Watch it, Australia.”
He came in at 50 for three and departed at 199 for four. West Indies got 291 and amidst seas of celebrating West Indians, triumphed in the inaugural edition of the tournament.
“His magnificent 102 was one of the greatest innings I have ever seen,” said Denis Compton.Apart from a hundred in 82 balls brimming with power, grace and elegance, he bowled 12 overs of steady medium pace for 38 runs and took the vital wicket of Doug Walters. Denis Compton continued, “I can remember only one innings to compare with this one. It was played by the late Stan McCabe when he made 232 at Trent Bridge in my first Test match against Australia in 1938. Sir Donald Bradman beckoned all his players onto the balcony and said, ‘You may never see the like again.’ Well, 37 years later, I can say we have.”
While Lloyd’s heroics that day and the proud smile as he accepted the trophy from the Duke of Edinburgh, some of his other eternal feats for Lancashire are not so well documented. Some of the best exploits of his willow were earmarked for the English summers.
In 1978, Sadiq Mohammad, Zaheer Abbas and Mike Procter had propelled Gloucestershire to 267 and Lloyd had walked in with Lancashire three down for 33, captain David Lloyd at the other end. Procter was charging in to bowl, and one almighty mistimed whack from Lloyd flew off the edge and landed beyond the ropes. A livid Procter blurted something unpleasant to Lloyd, and he was annoyed. When David Lloyd walked up to him, the West Indian simply said, “That man is vexing me. I’m going to hit him over the pavilion.” His captain sighed resignedly and told him to ensure he connected well. The very next ball indeed flew over the Old Trafford pavilion. Procter, the most difficult of bowlers to hit, had been dispatched without a sweat.
The methods is perfected
It was Australia that shaped Lloyd’s captaincy methods.
Greg Chappell’s ruthless men, led by the terrible twins Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, routed the young, vibrant West Indians 5-1. Clive Lloyd had said before the tour, “There is not much between the two teams where talents and skills are involved and you don’t need a crystal ball to predict that the outcome could hang on a slender thread.” In the end his own prediction was way off the mark.
Later Gordon Greenidge blamed him for not giving the team the inspiration that they needed. However, Lloyd scored 469 runs at 47 with hundreds at Perth and Melbourne. But, West Indian batsmen had not encountered a pace attack of that quality. The middle order was quickly exposed to the fresh new ball bowlers, and many were hit as the Australian speedsters bowled faster and faster.
Lloyd himself was hit on the jaw by Lillee at Perth, Brenard Julien broke his thumb, Alvin Kallicharran was struck on the nose. Lots of batsmen were out to poorly judged hook shots. A fair number of decisions went against the visitors as well. At one stage young Michael Holding broke down on the pitch, tearsstreaming down his face, after a snick from Ian Chappell had been given not out.
For the rest of his career, Lloyd remembered how effective relentless fast bowling was.
The final shape to his methods was given by his own ill-conceived declaration in 1976 when India toured in 1976. As usual, Lloyd feasted on the Indian attack scoring a measured 102 as West Indies won the first Test match at Bridgetown. However, when he declared the innings at 271 for six at Port of Spain, leaving India to get 403 in the final innings, Albert Padmore, Raphick Jumadeen and Imtiaz Ali could give him just two wickets in 105 overs of spin. India cruised home by six wickets.
At the end of the match in the dressing room, Lloyd asked his spinners, “Gentlemen, I gave you 400 runs to bowl at and you failed to bowl out the opposition. How many runs must I give you in future to make sure that you get the wickets?”
Never again would Lloyd be let down by spin. It was the start of a new paradigm. Relentless pace. Michael Holding and Wayne Daniel started it by terrorising the Indian batsmen at Jamaica.The visitors as good as forfeited the match and trudged back from the ground like Napoleon’s army from Russia.
And the team never looked back.
In the summer of 1976, Tony Greig greeted the West Indian team by saying that he would make them grovel. No word could have been more ill-advised. In a long painful summer, England were made to suffer for their captain’s tall talk. Brian Close and John Edrich came within a whisker of being killed at Manchester. Lloyd did not really have to perform with the bat, with Viv Richards, Greenidge and Roy Fredericks making all the runs for him. As West Indies won 3-0, he gave vent to his unscored runs with a furious double hundred against Glamorgan at Swansea, equalling Gilbert Jessop’s fastest ever 200 in the history of First-Class cricket.
The Packer Interlude
It was Kerry Packer who made him realise how much the cricketing skills were actually worth. There was no other reason for the band of West Indian cricketers joining the World Series Cricket. They were poorly paid, they were exceptionally talented and they had to earn their living playing professional cricket in England. Here was an opportunity to earn what their talents deserved. A few months after demolishing England in England, Lloyd was offered three times what he had made for the entire summer. The security appealed to the team. Lloyd himself signed a number of West Indian cricketers.
The competition was fierce, the cricket of the highest quality and the focus on pace bowling. And even as the West Indian selectors persisted with the players when they returned for the season, there was trouble brewing. Australia had banned the Packer players and Bobby Simpson was called out of retirement to lead a group of second string cricketers to West Indies. Lloyd’s side hammered the visitors in the first two Tests. And then, at Guyana, the selectors decided to drop some of the young players who had signed up for World Series. Deryck Murray was removed as vice-captain. In response, Lloyd wanted an explanation about how the team had been selected. He did not get any. Lloyd resigned as captain of West Indies.
His explanation read: “I have resigned as captain of the West Indies cricket team because I believe that the time has come for the West Indies Cricket Board of Control to make very clear the principles underlying the selection of the present team and to take whoever is selected as captain into their confidence in terms of the criteria for selection.”
It was a brief interlude. Even before the Packer crisis had ended, Lloyd was reinstated as captain after Kallicharran’s side had lost a series in India. The Packer interlude had forged a spirit of togetherness. Alongside, Dennis Waite had joined the West Indians as fitness trainer, and the fast bowling machinery was forever well-oiled and superbly conditioned from then on.
The reassembled side romped through the World Cup of 1979 and took sweet revenge on the Australians for the 1975 humiliation by beating them 2-0 in a three match series Down Under. Lloyd led the way with 121 at Adelaide as West Indies trampled the hosts by 408 runs.
The final tale of failure in the otherwise spectacular story of continued success came surprisingly in New Zealand. In a severely acrimonious series, West Indies were beaten 1-0 by their unfancied opponents. Apart from the stunning result, the series was marred by controversial umpiring and often atrocious behaviour by the West Indian team. Michael Holding kicked down the stumps after a catch at the wicket was disallowed. Colin Croft flicked off the bails while returning to his bowling mark, and then shoulder charged umpire Fred Goodall.
Lloyd himself courted controversy for his behaviour as umpire Goodall twice had to walk down all the way down from the bowler’s end to speak to him and he stood motionless at first slip. “There can be no excuse for bad behaviour but I would strongly say that we have never been bad sportsmen,” Lloyd said later, explaining that the umpiring had been too poor to pass without comment. However, it rang a little thin as justification for what was carried out by the team. This was also not the last time that the sportsmanship of the West Indian team and attitude towards umpiring was brought under scrutiny.
After this however, it was all success. England were beaten in England and in West Indies. Australia drew one series through some spectacular bowling by Lillee, but were trounced when they came over for a visit. India was demolished in West Indies when they visited in 1982-83 and then pulled off a sensational upset as the holders failed to chase down 183 in the Prudential Cup final of 1983. However, revenge was exacted with interest as they were routed 3-0 in the six Test series that followed in India and lost all the five One-Day Internationals (ODIs).
With time the margin of victories increased as the pace attack became unplayable and all-conquering. Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and sometimes Wayne Daniel, Eldine Baptiste and others terrorised batting line ups around the world. Greenidge and Richards and Larry Gomes piled up the runs. As for Lloyd himself, he actually improved greatly with his years.
As his frame grew more imposing, the moustache more bushy and drooping, the lenses perhaps thicker, he played 32 Tests from 1981 to the end of his career, scoring 2,342 runs at 61.63 with six hundreds. None of his adventurous strokeplay was curbed due to advancing age, past 40 when he finally hung up his boots. Whenever there was a crisis, Lloyd walked in, the gigantic piece of willow resembling a flimsy toy in his hand, and plundered the opposition bowling into submission. Never was this as apparent as in Calcutta in 1983, when struggling at 213 for eight against some incisive spin bowling, Lloyd scored a peerless 161 not out, adding 161 for the ninth wicket with Andy Roberts.
By 1984, West Indies had inflicted the first ever Blackwash on England, vanquishing them 5-0, and had beaten Australia 3-0 at home.
The last Test
When he walked out to bat for the final time for West Indies, at Sydney against Australia in 1984-85, his team had already taken the series by winning three of the first four Tests. The hosts opted for spin to counter the West Indies carnage, with Bob Holland the leg-break bowler their secret weapon. Lloyd seemed to have all the answers to the turning ball. As in his first Test match, he used his reach to the fullest, drove through mid-off, jumped down the track to loft one for six, and his onside strokes were still resounding and of vintage quality. With his successor Richards, he put on 50 in better than even time. And after a defiant 72, he drove Craig McDermott into the hands of Allan Border at cover. His career had come to an end with 7515 runs in 110 Tests at 46.67 with 18 hundreds.
West Indies lost the final Test, but Lloyd took it philosophically. He had won the first Test as captain and it was a kind of balance to lose the last one. Anyway, he had led 74 of the 110 Tests of his career, and had won 36, losing 12. He had been victorious in 14 of the 18 series, had lost two and drawn two. So, he had reasons to be satisfied with his playing days.
After retirement Lloyd was made an honorary Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to the sport of cricket. On his return to Guyana, he worked as a civil servant for his country’s Ministry of Health. Yet, he remained in constant contact with cricket. Lloyd played the roles of coach and commentator, managed the Guyana side and later the West Indies team.
He has also been a respected International Cricket Council (ICC) Match Referee and has performed the role with aplomb. In 2008, he became the chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee, replacing Sunil Gavaskar.
The ICC bigwigs (from left)… Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat, Cricket Committee Chairman Clive Lloyd and General Manager Dave Richardson at the ICC Committee meeting held at Lord’s on May 11, 2009 in London © Getty Images
In 2005, Major League Cricket inaugurated the Interstate Cricket Cup in the United States, and the inaugural tournament was named Sir Clive Lloyd Cup.
According to Arlott, “Lloyd’s combination of reach, enormous strength, natural timing and instinctive attacking urge made him one of the most effective and powerful controlled hitters the game has known.” There was hardly a better sight in cricket than Clive Lloyd cutting loose. It was murderous, breath-taking, sublime in its primal beauty. Especially in the eighties, he was one of the very best in the world.
In his earlier days, Lloyd was a greyhound in the covers. During his first tour to India,Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith would often bowl with all men close to the wicket, with only Lloyd in front, and strokes through the vacant on side would be chased down with fierce strides, with the throw landing with a thud over the stumps. After problems with his Achilles tendon, he settled in first slip, where his reach and reflexes missed few and grabbed many that should have flown past as bona fide lucky edges that form part ofa batsman’s rightful claim.
During his early days, he was a handy medium-pacer who could also bowl off-spinners. However, with time and injured tendons, he seldom rolled his arms over. With the arsenal at his disposal, he seldom had to.
Clive Lloyd was more than a useful bowler in his early days © Getty Images
How good was his captaincy?
Opinions are varied. Arlott romanticises fondly about someone he obviously is in awe of: “Lloyd’s captaincy has been marked by dignity, firm, unfussy discipline, cool realistic strategy. Some among his opponents have criticised him for the ruthless use of his mighty battery of fast bowlers. He, in typically relaxed fashion, has indicated that given the sharpest of cricketing weapons, he will employ it and that the matter of intimidatory bowling is one for the decision of umpires.”
Teammate Greenidge, as mentioned earlier, is not very flattering in his analysis. In 1980 he wrote in Man in the Middle, “In my opinion alone I don’t think Clive Lloyd will go down in history as one of the great inspirational leaders. Clive, a marvellous and instinctive cricketer, was the captain of a great team or potentially a great team. I mean no criticism when I say that a more natural leader could have turned us into the most outstanding of all post-War teams.”
Greenidge refused to place him alongside Mike Brearley or Tony Greig, and said Lloyd had not been able to motivate a losing side. Perhaps if he had written five years later, the sentence about the post-War teams could be taken out. There has been no better one.
Richards, who took over the mantle of leadership, freely admitted that, “Clive has been an inspiration to us all.”
Australian leg-spinning all-rounder and commentator Richie Benaud argued that Lloyd was exactly the kind of captain the West Indies needed, saying, “When they are captained otherwise, they tend to move back to the excitable individual state of years gone by and there is less responsibility in their cricket.”
Clive Lloyd (in front), leading the West Indies team in the foreground, is widely accepted as one of the greatest captains in the history of the game. Of course, his leadership was not without criticism © Getty Images
Clive Lloyd, leading the West Indies team in the foreground, is widely accepted as one of the greatest captains in the history of the game. Of course, his leadership was not without criticism. Getty Images
However, Bob Willis refuses to agree. “Lloyd has never been a great captain by any stretch of imagination. His tactics have in my view produced a boring formula that has made his team world champions.”
Gavaskar was even less charitable after the bloodbath of 1976 at Jamaica. “Lloyd was desperate, and he touched a new low in a desperate effort to win by having all our eleven players hospitalised by his pace bowlers. This was not great captaincy, it was barbarism.”
It required a more balanced David Gower, himself a sufferer in the hands of the mighty West Indians of 1984, to put a reasonable perspective on the issue “As a captain, Lloyd cannot have been too disappointed to have at his disposal the most fearsome attack let loose on Test cricket. Never before have four genuinely quick bowlers lined up on the same side. Most of the time, all Clive had to do is to wind them up and let them go, with the occasional few overs of spin from Richard or Gomes to provide relief when necessary or to precipitate the arrival of the second new ball. It’s not often they have needed the third new ball in recent years. Whatever one might say about Clive’s tactical skills, and there are those who claim them to be limited, he has been the West Indies’ most enduring and successful captain, so to carp about his leadership seems almost churlish. The captaincy requires a certain amount of diplomatic skill within the tea, for inter-island rivalries still play a part in West Indies cricket politics. There are always personalities in that part of the world who would need to be subdued at some stage or the other, for the good of the team. Clive seems to have managed that so successfully that he has won tremendous respect not only from his own people and players, but from people around the world.”
Nothing could be closer to the truth.
Yes, apart from a few matches featuring Roger Harper, Lloyd rode a four-pronged pace attack to the summit of Test cricket. His strategy was repetitive, and could be monotonous. His ruthless streak was often more than apparent. His bowlers did not hesitate to come round the wicket to bowl at the body of wincing batsmen. Time and again he got into disagreements with the umpire regarding the use of short-pitched bowling. When he came to India after the 1983 World Cup loss, his zeal to defeat the hosts became so all-encompassing that he led a strategic and rather deplorable campaign against the umpires in his columns for the Indian papers, often bullying them into giving decisions in his favour.
Yet, he was the pillar around which a group of phenomenal talents assembled and were channelised in the same quest. And Clive Lloyd will be remembered for making West Indies into a long lasting world champion outfit. They had always promised to become one, but it was under his captaincy that they got there.
In photos: Clive Lloyd’s cricketing career
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twiter.com/senantix)