The West Indians played their first ever international match back in 1928 in England against England. England was back then one of the most dominant team and West Indies could not cope against a team like England. West Indies was whitewashed in their first ever test series. But who knew it was just a beginning of the formation of one of the greatest Test side of all time. The West Indians played 19 Test matches in the 1930s. They played their first series against England at home. The series ended as a draw. In 1930, the same year, The West Indians toured Australia for the first time. It was for the first time they were going to play at completely different conditions. West Indies struggled throughout the tour. They lost 8 of their 14 first-class matches in Australia. They lost the first 4 Test matches against Australia. The final and fifth test was in favor of West Indies as they batted with sensibility and a decision for the right time for declaring their 2nd inning earned them a 30 runs victory over Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground. It was a historic victory for West Indies as it was their first ever overseas victory and that also against mighty Australia back then. The last test showed some promising prospect in the West Indians.
In 1948/49, West Indies went to make history again as they won their first ever overseas test series against India in India. It was their first overseas tour in 9 years. After drawing the first four Tests, West Indies won a thriller in the final Test as India were only six runs short to victory. West Indies won their first overseas series in a thrilling way. Everton Weekes scored 5 hundreds in 5 innings.
1950s were emerging years for West Indies as they were a competitive team this time with a purpose to win. They toured England in 1950. Which they won by 3-1. West Indians lost the first test but second test was the turning point as the West Indians batsman put up a stand of 326 runs. Later the spinning duo of Valentine and Ramadhin restricted England to 276 runs. West Indies won the match with equal effort performances from batsman as well as the bowlers. In 1951/52 West Indies once again toured Australia and the result was same as it was last time they toured Australia. West Indies lost 4-1. West Indies then went on to tour New Zealand. It was first encounter between both teams. West Indies won the first Test match, completely dominating the New Zealand while West Indians made 500+ in the first innings of the second test match which ended up as a draw. Australia later toured the West Indians for the first time and conquered in 1953/54. In later 1950s, Both India and Pakistan toured the West Indians and West Indies won the Test series against both of them.
West Indies became more competitive in the 1960s. Their batting line-up consisted of a great combination of attacking openers and solid middle-order batsmen. West Indies won 5 test matches series in a row. They were against Australia, England and India. Their winning streak came to an end after England won The Wisden Trophy in 1967/68. The following year West Indies lost The Frank Worrell Trophy against Australia. And then the winning drought of the West Indians started as the either lost or drawn a test series until 1973.
1970s were the starting years of the domination of the West Indians. They won a famous series in England against England with a great all-rounder like Garry Sobbers and destructive batsman like Clive Lloyd. Clive Lloyd was later appointed as the captain in 1974. Lloyd was the backbone of West Indian batting line-up and played fearlessly. Lloyd was known for his consistency and his quality to lead a side as a one solid unit. Lloyd’s first challenge was India. It was the same series in which Sir Vivian Richards made his debut. Sir Vivian Richards scored a memorable 192 against India in his very second Test match.
In 1975, West Indies won the first ever cricket World Cup. Within next four years West Indies got one of the best bowling line-up of all time, having Micheal Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Collin Croft and Joel Garner. West Indies batting line-up was supported by 4 great fast bowlers. After that the West Indians never preferred to have spinners due to dominant fast bowlers. West Indies was a complete team in all prospects back then. In 1979, the West Indians retained their world title and were the world champions once again.
In 1982 Alvin Kallicharran, Colin Croft, Collis King and Sylvester Clarke were banned by the West Indies Cricket Board for breaching code of conduct. They were banned for life. It was a big loss of talent for the West Indies but it did not stop them from dominating the cricket world. Later they found another great bowling pair. Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. Malcolm Marshall was still the fastest of them all but Walsh and Ambrose had a heavy impact on others. They were deadly bowlers and even the bravest batsman would get fill with fear against them. Walsh and Ambrose were recognized as the best bowlers of their era alongside Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.
West Indians had a decent and a destructive batting line-up since the early 1970s. But with the arrival of fast guns like Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall, the West Indians batsman really never worried about setting a target. Over the years, the world has seen world-class bowlers and batsman but they still cannot match the class West Indies had in 70s and 80s. Some even described the bowling of Malcolm Marshall as ”Poetry In Motion”. Then in 1990s they had the pair of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. Curtly Ambrose once bowled one of the greatest spell in the history, taking 7 wickets just for 1 runs.
West Indies did not have a bad batting line-up either. They had Clive Lloyd, Richie Richardson and then Sir Vivian Richards. Sir Vivian Richards became a solid rock for West Indies and became to be known as one of the best batsman the world of cricket has ever seen. It was hard to see anyone becoming the successor of Sir Vivian Richards until Brian Lara was brought in his position after Vivian Richard’s retirement. Lara was very young and talented at the time he was brought in the West Indian side. He shared a locker room with big names and that boosted up his confidence from the first day. Lara had one of the best career in the history and was known as ”The Prince Of Cricket”. And he really was the prince, this one man was enough to dominate the opposition. He was consistent. He went onto being compared with Sachin Tendulkar not once but at many occasions. Lara had this view, he had a purpose to win it for his team. And that made him one of the best player of his generations and even for now. But Lara could not lead the West Indies the way he wanted it to be. It was start of the end of the legacy of West Indian Cricket. Specially in the format of Test Cricket. From 1997 till 2006 Brain Lara captained West Indies in 47 matches out of which they only won 10 matches. They realized there was this one problem and it was lack of potential in bowling. For over three decades West Indians preferred fast bowlers and batsman and never optioned for spinners mostly. West Indies’s problem was not having a proper bowling line-up. They had a great depth of batting having Chris Gayle, Chanderpaul, PR Sarwan and Brian Lara. They mostly did their job with the bat but bowlers could not perform up to their potential. It was still not the end of West Indian legacy. It was the start.
Brian Lara ended up his career in 2007. While Chanderpaul continued till 2015. Both made it to 10,000+ runs club in test format. While Lara remains the only batsman for West Indies with more than 10,000 runs in One Day International cricket. West Indians were now left stranded without Lara. In 2011 Chanderpaul played his last One Day International. They had to look for a replacement for Chanderpaul. West Indians always made one mistake since early 2000s. It was similar to the one mistake they had with not much better bowling line-up. They looked up to the current players but never looked at the next young generation, the youngsters were not being groomed at domestic level because all attention was on International cricket mostly.
Darren Sammy was appointed as the captain for West Indian team. And he turned out to be one of the most loved person in the world of cricket. West Indians were loved by everyone since the start of their domination but Sammy had some gentleman ethics which made him getting loved more. He was an all-rounder, a great leader and admirer of cricket. He was the kind of captain who would not blame the team or an individual for defeat but always spread positivity among the squad and tried to make the environment balanced. Despite of all the problems the West Indies cricket was facing this guy went on winning the T20 World Cup 2012 in the most impossible way. He also captained West Indian side in T20 World Cup 2016, when the West Indian Cricket Board did not support the team in terms of finance and other stuff. They came to India buying tickets on their own and paying the hotel rent by themselves. They won it again in the most impossible way. But winning T20 world cup twice was not good enough to save the legacy of West Indies. Since 2010, The West Indian players were the most wanted in T20 leagues all over the world with big money offer. Specially IPL. If there’s any reason current West Indian side has collapsed, it’s because they gave too much attention to T20 leagues than the other formats of cricket. T20 cricket means a lot of money in the bag and that’s what West Indians got. Later most of the players had dispute with the West Indian cricket about salaries. By that time Darren Sammy was sacked by the West Indian Cricket board. Chris Gayle was also excluded from the West Indian side. Some players including Bravo refused to play for West Indies as they demanded high salaries. These few matters led West Indies to their downfall. Then they appointed Jason Holder as the captain who was yet learning and it is something really heavy to make a young player a captain of a cricket team which is in it’s worst situation.
The West Indian Cricket Board is now putting in high effort to groom young talent but some players have indicated that the board does not behave with them in the right manner.
No matter what, many believe that the world will not rejoice the real joy of watching the West Indies for many upcoming years.