Like most people who first watched Test Match Cricket in the 1970s I have strong memories of the all-conquering West Indies teams that toured England in 1976, 1980 and 1984. My knowledge of Caribbean islands has its origins in the players who beat England so comprehensively on those tours. The 1980 series was more closely fought than those either side of it: a 1-0 win during that drab, grey summer. The sun shone in 1976 and 1984 and England’s cricketers were outplayed throughout.
I didn’t learn, consciously, which players came from which islands, but I absorbed this knowledge through the commentaries, highlights and match reports. All these decades later I know, without having to check, that Michael Holding is from Jamaica, Viv Richards is from Antigua and Clive Lloyd is from Guyana. (I didn’t know, back then, that Guyana isn’t an island, but I do now.) Curtly Ambrose, who made his Test debut in the late 1980s (and with whom I share a birthday) is also from Antigua. The dominant batsman of the 1990s, Brian Lara, is the most successful cricketer from Trinidad: more Tests and more runs than any other, and the highest Test score of all time.
Until last week though, just ahead of England’s humiliation in the First Test in Barbados, I hadn’t appreciated just how many of the all-time great West Indian cricketers come from that island. This piece in the Standard lists many of them: Everton Weekes, Frank Worrall and Clyde Walcott (“the three Ws”) who were all before my time; Garfield Sobers, who was also a bit before my time; Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner. I remember that quartet well and still find it hard to believe that Malcolm Marshall died so young, and so long ago (aged 41, in 1999). The piece alludes to Barbados’s greatest cricket XI. You can find it on this cricinfo page. The strength of the side means that Desmond Haynes is only there as 12th man.
That piece in the Standard offers the kind of statistical information that is right up my street. Barbados is the 13th smallest nation in the world, smaller than Luxembourg, and has a population of around 285,000. Of the 316 men who have played Test Cricket for the West Indies, 87 come from Barbados. That’s more than the number of Yorkshireman (84) who have played for England, including the current captain (Joe Root) and my favourite England player of recent years, Jonny Bairstow.
I didn’t see much of the action from the Kensington Oval last week but followed it in the modern way, mostly with updates on my phone, from the BBC and Guardian websites. The way it played out (England bowled out for 77 and beaten by 381 runs with a day to spare) it was just like the old days.