The WICB joined the sport's international ruling body, the Imperial Cricket Council, in 1926, and played their first official international match, which in cricket is called a Test, in 1928. Although blessed with some great players in their early days as a Test nation, their successes remained sporadic until the 1960s, by which time the side had changed from a white-dominated to a black-dominated side. By the 1970s, the West Indies had a side recognised as unofficial world champions, a title they retained throughout the 1980s. Their team from the 1970s and 1980s is now widely regarded as having been one of the best in test cricket's history, alongside Don Bradman's Invincibles. During these glory years, the Windies were noted for their four-man fast bowling attack, backed up by some of the best batsmen in the world. The 1980s saw them set a then-record streak of 11 consecutive Test victories in 1984, which was part of a still-standing record of 27 tests without defeat (the other tests being draws), as well as inflicting two 5–0 "blackwashes" against the old enemy of England. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, however, West Indian cricket declined, in part due to the rise in popularity of athletics and football in West Indian countries, and the team today is struggling to regain its past glory.
In their early days in the 1930s, the side represented the British colonies of the West Indies Federation plus British Guyana. The current side represents the now independent states of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, and the British dependencies of Anguilla, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands along with the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Maarten. National teams also exist for the various different islands, which, as they are all separate countries, very much keep their local identities and support their local favourites. These national teams take part in the West Indian first-class competition, the Stanford 20/20, the Carib Beer Cup (earlier known as the Busta Cup, Shell Shield and various other names). It is also common for other international teams to play the island teams for warm-up games before they take on the combined West Indies team.
The tours to England continued in 1906 when Harold Austin led a West Indian side to England. His side played a number of county teams, and drew their game against an "England XI". However, that England XI only included one contemporary Test player – wicketkeeper Dick Lilley – and he had not been on England's most recent tour, their 1905–6 tour of South Africa. The Marylebone Cricket Club, which had taken over responsibility for arranging all official overseas England tours, visited the West Indies in 1910-11, and 1912-13 but after that there was no international cricket of any note until the West Indian team went to England in 1923. This tour did not include a game against an England team, but there was an end-of-season game against HDG Leveson-Gower's XI against a virtual England Test side at the Scarborough cricket festival, a traditional end-of-season game against a touring side at the English seaside resort of Scarborough, which Leveson-Gower's XI won by only four wickets. 1925-26 saw another MCC tour of the West Indies.
The MCC was eager to promote cricket throughout the British Empire, and on 31 May 1926 the West Indian Cricket Board, along with their New Zealand and Indian counterparts, was elected to the Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC), which previously consisted of the MCC and representatives of Australia and South Africa. Election to full membership of the ICC meant the West Indies could play official Test matches, which is the designation given to the most important international games, and the Windies became the fourth team actually to play a recognised Test match on 23 June 1928 when they took on England at Lord's in London. They did not, however, enjoy immediate success – the West Indies lost all three 3-day Tests in that 1928 tour by a long way, failing to score 250 runs in any of their six innings in that series. They also failed to dismiss England for under 350 runs in a series completely dominated by England.
The West Indies played 19 Tests in the 1930s in four series against England and one against Australia. The first four of these were played against an England team led by the Honourable Freddie Calthorpe that toured in 1929–30. However, as Harold Gilligan was leading another English team to New Zealand at exactly the same time, this was not a full-strength England side. The series ended one-all, with the West Indies first ever Test victory being recorded on 26 February 1930. West Indians George Headley scored the most runs (703) in the rubber and Learie Constantine took the most wickets (18).
The Windies toured Australia in 1930–31. They lost the Test series 4–1. The fifth and final Test showed some promise – batting first, the West Indies spent the first three days earning a 250-run lead with five wickets down in their second innings. A bold declaration was backed up by their bowlers, as Herman Griffith took four wickets and West Indies won by 30 runs to their first overseas Test victory. By the time the team left, they had left a good impression of themselves with the Australian public, although at first the team were faced with several cultural differences – for example, their hosts did not at first appreciate that the tourists' Roman Catholic beliefs would mean they would refuse to play golf on Sundays or engage in more ribald behaviour. The West Indian sides of the time were always led by white men, and the touring party to Australia comprised seven whites and eleven "natives", and the West Indian Board of Control wrote to their Australian counterparts saying "that all should reside at the same hotels". Australia at the time was implementing its "White Australia" policy, with the Australian Board having to guarantee to the Government that the non-whites would leave at the end of the tour. When the West Indians arrived in Sydney, the whites were immediately given a different hotel from the blacks. They complained, and thereafter their wishes were met. The tour lost a lot of money, part of which was down to the Great Depression then engulfing Australia. The West Indians won four and lost eight of their 14 first-class fixtures.
1933 saw another tour of England. Their hosts had just come back from defeating Australia in the infamous Bodyline series, where England's aggressive bowling at the body with a legside field attracted much criticism. England won the three-Test series of three-day Tests against the Windies 2–0. The second, drawn, Test at Old Trafford, Manchester, provided an intriguing footnote to the Bodyline controversy when Manny Martindale and Learie Constantine bowled Bodyline – fast, short-pitched balls aimed at the body – against the Englishmen, the only time they faced it in international cricket. The tactic did not work, as Douglas Jardine, the English captain who ordered his players to bowl it against the Australians, did not flinch as he scored his only Test century, making 127 out of England's 374.
Another England tour of the West Indies followed in 1934–35. England won the first Test in Barbados on a poor pitch, affected by rain, and in a match where 309 runs were scored, England took a four-wicket victory. Both sides declared one of their innings closed to have their bowlers take advantage of the poor pitch. The second Test saw the Windies win by 217 runs, and a drawn third Test saw the series go to a decider at Sabina Park in Jamaica. A massive 270 not out from George Headley saw the Windies declare on 535 for 7. Despite a century from Les Ames, England could not avoid going down by an innings and 161 runs – the West Indies had secured their first Test series victory.
The West Indies toured England in 1939. England won the first Test at Lord's easily by 8 wickets, then there was a rain-affected draw in Manchester, and finally a high-scoring draw at the Oval in mid-August. The highlight of the series for the West Indies was George Headley scoring hundreds in both innings in the Lord's Test. With the clouds of World War II seemingly about to envelope Europe, the rest of the tour was cancelled and the Windies returned home. They would play no more Tests until 21 January 1948 saw the start of the first Test the West Indies played since the War, which resulted in a draw against the MCC side from England. The second Test was also drawn, with George Carew and Andy Ganteaume both making centuries. Ganteaume was then dropped, ending with a Test average of 112 – the highest in Test history. The West Indies won the final two Tests chasing sub-100 totals, and wrapped up the series 2–0, their first away-series victory.
In 1948, West Indies toured newly independent India for the first time for a five Test tour. The tour was preceded by a non-Test tour of Pakistan and followed by a similar short tour of Ceylon. After three high-scoring draws against the Indians, the West Indians wrapped up the fourth by an innings before a thrilling fifth Test, which left the Indians six runs away from victory with two wickets in hand as time ran out, so that the West Indies thus won the rubber 1–0. Carrying on from his hundred in the series against England, Everton Weekes set a record of scoring hundreds in five successive Test innings.
In 1951–52 the Windies visited Australia. The first Test saw a narrow defeat by three wickets, with the two spinners seemingly continuing their form with twelve wickets between them. The second Test was lost by seven wickets, as Australia replied to the Windies 362 and 290 with 567 (which included centuries from Lindsay Hassett and Keith Miller) and 137 for 2. 6 wickets from Worrell in the third Test saw Australia dismissed for only 82, and the Windies eventually won by six wickets to pull back to two-one down in the series. The fourth Test saw the series lost in a narrow defeat. Worrell, batting with an injured hand, scored 108 and helped the Windies to 272 before Australia made 216 in reply. 203 from the Windies left Australia a target of 260. 5 wickets from Valentine helped reduced the Aussies to 222 for 9, 38 short with 1 wicket remaining. It didn't happen, as some brilliant running between the wicket for Australia by Bill Johnston and Doug Ring saw West Indies lose their composure and the match. The fifth Test saw three batting collapses, as Australia (116 and 377) beat Windies (78 and 213) by 202 runs to finish the rubber four-one winners. The West Indies then went on to New Zealand. In the first Test encounter between the two teams, the visitors to scored a five wicket victory. In the second and final Test, Allan Rae scored 99, Jeffrey Stollmeyer 152, Frank Worrell 100 and Clyde Walcott 115 as the West Indies put on 546 for 6 declared. There wasn't enough time to bowl out the opposition twice though, as the hosts made 160 and were following-on at 17 for 1 when stumps were drawn, leaving the Windies series winners.
The Indians toured at the beginning of 1953. The Windies won the second of the five Tests that were played, with the others all being draws. The highlight of these games we Frank Worrell's 237 in the fifth Test, where all the three W's scored hundreds, as the West Indies scored a 1–0 series victory. Len Hutton led an MCC (England) side to the islands in 1953–54. Sonny Ramadhin again starred for the Windies taking 23 wickets (no other West Indian took more than 8), as Walcott's 698 runs was more than 200 higher than second-placed West Indian, Everton Weekes. The five match rubber was drawn two-all.
Australia came and conquered in 1954–55. After the Aussies made 515 in the first innings of the first Test, the Windies went down by 9 wickets. Then the Windies 382 was put in the shade by 600 for 9 declared by the visitors as the second Test was drawn. A low-scoring third Test saw Australia (257 and 133 for 2) beat the hosts (182 and 207) by 8 wickets. After Australia scored 668 in the fourth Test, the series was lost, although a double century from captain Denis Atkinson and a world-record stand for the seventh wicket allowed the Windies to reach 510 and draw the Test. The fifth Test saw the West Indies win the toss and bat. Walcott's 155 was the highest score of their 357. The Australians then batted and batted, in total for 245.4 overs in the 6-day Test, as they put on 758 for 8 declared, with five players making centuries. 319 in the West Indies' second innings left them defeated by an innings and 82 runs in the Test, and by three games to nil in the series. Walcott set records by scoring five hundreds, and hundreds in both innings of a match twice. A four-Test tour of New Zealand followed in February 1956. After two wins by an innings and one by 9 wickets, the Windies were surprised by the Kiwis in the fourth, dismissing them for 145 and 77 as they recorded their first ever Test win in their 45th Test.
John Goddard returned to captain the West Indians for a five-Test tour of England in 1957, which was lost three-nil, with England having the better of the two draws. Then 1957–58 Gerry Alexander led a team that defeated Pakistan three-one. It was in this series in Jamaica that Garry Sobers scored 365 not out to record what was then the highest score in Test match cricket. Alexander went on to lead the West Indies to a three-nil win over five Tests in India, and a two-one defeat to Pakistan in a three match rubber in the following winter. In 1959–60 he led as West Indies went down one-nil at home in a five-match series with England.
Despite being a region where whites are a minority, until 1960 West Indies were always captained by white cricketers, though this was more social than racial discrimination. Throughout the fifties, social theorist CLR James, the increasingly political former cricketer Learie Constantine and others called for a black captain. Constantine himself had stood in for Jackie Grant in the field against England on the 1937-38 tour, and George Headley captained the West Indies in the First Test against England in 1947-48 when the appointed, white captain, John Goddard was injured. However, no black was appointed as captain for a whole series until Frank Worrell was chosen to lead West Indies in their tour of Australia in 1960-61. In his three years as captain, Worrell moulded a bunch of talented but raw cricketers into the best team in the world.
In 1960, Australia were the best team in the world but on their way down, while West Indies were on their way up. It so happened that when they met, the two teams were of almost equal strength. The result was a series that, along with the 2005 Ashes, has been recognised as one of the greatest of all time. The first Test in Brisbane was the first Test ever to end in a tie, which in cricket means the side batting last has been dismissed with scores level. The teams shared the next two Tests. In the fourth, Australia's last pair of Ken Mackay and Lindsay Kline played out the last 100 minutes of the match to earn a draw, while Australia won the final Test and the series by two wickets. One of the days of play was attended by a world-record crowd of 90,800. Such was the impression created by Worrell's team that the newly instituted trophy for the series between the two teams was named the Frank Worrell Trophy. Half a million people lined the streets of Melbourne to bid them a ticker-tape farewell.
West Indies beat India 5–0 at home next year, and in 1963, they beat a fine English team by three matches to one. The Lord's Test of this series saw a famous finish. With two balls left, England needed six runs to win, and West Indies one wicket. The non-striker was Colin Cowdrey, who had his left arm in a sling, having fractured it earlier in the day. However, David Allen safely played out the last two balls and the match ended in a draw. Worrell retired at the end of the series. The selectors picked Garry Sobers to succeed him.
Worrell did, however, serve as the team manager when West Indies hosted Australia in 1964–65. The matches against Australia were bitterly fought, with accusations about Charlie Griffith's action (he was accused of throwing, which is banned in the laws of cricket) and bouncer wars. The West Indies won this series 2–1 to be the unofficial world champions. Sobers was not as good at man-management as Worrell and cracks soon began to appear. Often it was his individual brilliance that made the difference between a win and a loss. Throughout the sixties, West Indies bowling was led by Wes Hall, Griffith, Lance Gibbs and Sobers himself. Hall and Griffith faded and then retired by the end of the decade, but WI could find no replacement for them till the mid-seventies.
Sobers was at his best in England in 1966, scoring 722 runs and taking 20 wickets in the five Tests. Three times he topped 150, and the 163* at Lord's turned a certain defeat into a near victory. West Indies won 3–1. England toured the West Indies in 1967–68 for a series that became noted for England's deliberate slow play. West Indies were forced to follow on in the first Test but saved it without difficulty. The second Test was played on an underprepared wicket at Kingston. England won an important toss and scored 376. The bounce of the wicket having become very uneven, West Indies collapsed to 143 and followed on again. On the fourth day in the second innings, a disputed decision led to a crowd riot, and the match had to be stopped for some time. In a curious decision, the West Indian Cricket Board (WICB) agreed to add a 75-minute sixth day to compensate for the lost time. Sobers played an outstanding innings of 113 not out, which allowed West Indies to set England a target of 159 in 155 minutes. England just about saved the game, losing eight wickets for 68. In the fourth Test West Indies gained a first innings lead of 122 at Port-of-Spain, but with the second innings score at 92 for 2, Sobers, frustrated by England's slow over rates and wanting to give himself a chance, albeit a small one, to win, surprisingly declared the innings, a decision for which he was widely criticised at the time. England were set a target of 215 in 165 minutes and they achieved it with 3 minutes to spare. West Indies made one last effort to win the final Test, but England drew it with only wicket left in their second innings. West Indies lost the series 0–1, the first defeat since 1960–61.
Australia and Bill Lawry had their revenge in 1968–69, when West Indies lost the series, which was played in Australia, 1–3. New Zealand managed to draw the series that followed, and then in 1969 West Indies were defeated 0–2 in England.
The new captain Clive Lloyd had made his first appearance in Test cricket in 1966 and had since become a fixture in the side. His avuncular, bespectacled appearance and a stoop near the shoulders masked the fact that was a very fine fielder, especially in the covers, and a devastating stroke player. Lloyd's first assignment was the tour of India in 1974–75. West Indies won the first two Tests against India comfortably. Greenidge started his career with 107 and 93 on his debut. Richards failed in his first Test, but scored 192* in his second. India fought back to win the next two, but Lloyd hit 242* in the final Test to win the series.
West Indies won the inaugural World Cup in England in 1975, defeating Australia in the final. Then in 1975–76 they toured Australia, only to lose 1–5 in the six-Test series, and then beat India at home two-one in a four Test series later that same winter. It was in 1975–76 that quick bowler Michael Holding made his debut. Colin Croft and Joel Garner made their debut the next year, and Malcolm Marshall two years after. In the span of about four years, West Indies brought together a bowling line-up of a quality that had rarely been seen before. The Indian tour saw the debut of Vivian Richards, arguably the finest West Indian batsman ever, and Gordon Greenidge, who joined a strong batting line-up that already included Alvin Kallicharran and opener Roy Fredericks in addition to Rowe and Lloyd. These players formed the nucleus of the side that became recognised as world Test match champions until the beginning of the 1990s.
Next came a tour of England in 1976. In a TV interview before the series, English captain Tony Greig commented that the West Indies tend to do badly under pressure and that "we'll make them grovel". This comment, especially as it came from a South African-born player, touched a raw nerve of the West Indians. Throughout the series, the English batsmen were subjected to some very hostile bowling. After the first two Tests ended in draws, West Indies won the next three. Of the many heroes for West Indies, Richards stood out with 829 runs in four Tests. He hit 232 at Trent Bridge and 291 at the Oval. Greenidge scored three hundreds, two of which were on the difficult wicket at Old Trafford. Roberts and Holding shared 55 wickets between them, Holding's 8 for 92 and 6 for 57 on the dead wicket at the Oval being a superlative effort.
West Indies won a home series against a tough Pakistan side in 1976–77. A few months later, the World Series Cricket (WSC) controversy broke out. Most of the West Indian players signed up with Kerry Packer, an Australian TV magnate who was attempting to set up his own international cricket competition. The Australian team that toured West Indies the next year included no Packer players. West Indies Cricket Board fielded a full-strength team under the argument that none of the West Indies players had refused to play, but disputes arose in the matter of payment and about the selection of certain players. Before the third Test, Lloyd resigned his captaincy. Within two days all the other WSC-contracted players also withdrew. Alvin Kallicharran captained the team for the remaining Tests of the series, which the Windies won three-one.
WICB allowed the WSC players to appear in the 1979 World Cup, and the West Indies retained the title with little difficulty. By the end of 1979, the WSC disputes were resolved. Kallicharran was deposed after losing a six-match series one-nil in India and Lloyd returned as captain for a tour against a full-strength Australia (where the Windies won two-nil, with one draw) and New Zealand. The latter tour was full of controversy. New Zealand won the first Test at Dunedin by one wicket, but West Indies were never happy with the umpiring. West Indian discontent boiled over the next Test at Christchurch. While running into bowl, Colin Croft deliberately shouldered the umpire Fred Goodall. When Goodall went to talk to Lloyd about Croft's behaviour, he had to walk all the way to meet the West Indian captain, as the latter did not move an inch from his position at the slips. After tea on the third day, West Indies refused to take the field unless Goodall was removed. They were persuaded to continue, and it took intense negotiations between the two boards to keep the tour on track. The Kiwis won the three match series after the second and third Tests ended in draws.
|WI Test series in the 1980s|
|After losing their first series of the 1980s in March 1980, the West Indies went throughout the rest of the decade undefeated.|
During this streak the West Indian captain Lloyd retired from Test cricket at the end of the 1984–85 series against Australia. In total Lloyd had captained West Indies in 74 Test matches, winning 36 of them. Vivian Richards was Lloyd's successor, and continued the run of success. Meanwhile, a change of old guard was also happening. Joel Garner and Michael Holding had retired by 1987. A major find was Curtly Ambrose, who was as tall as Garner and as equally effective with the ball. Courtney Walsh, who made his first appearance in 1984, bowled with an action that resembled Holding. Ian Bishop also had a similar action, and was as good a bowler till injuries interrupted his career. Patrick Patterson was faster than all the rest, but had a short career. Marshall still was the finest fast bowler in the world. Batting was beginning to show signs of weakness. They also failed to qualify for the semifinal of the 1987 World Cup. By the end of the eighties, while still the best team in the world, they had lost the aura of invincibility that they had till the middle of the decade. Finding good replacements for senior players was again becoming a problem.
For most of the nineties and afterwards, the West Indian batting has been dominated by Brian Lara and the bowling attack was centred around Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. Lara became a regular in the side after the retirement of Richards in 1991. Against England at Antigua 1993–94, he scored 375 and broke Sobers' world record for the highest individual score in Test cricket. He then became the only man to regain this record by scoring 400 against England in 2004 at Antigua after Matthew Hayden had broken the record against Zimbabwe the previous year. He continued his fine form for Warwickshire and hit seven first-class hundreds in eight innings. The last of these was a 501 not out against Durham, which improved upon Hanif Mohammad's thirty-five-year-old record as the highest score in first-class cricket. Bowling support was given by Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, the latter after setting a then world record of 519 wickets. However, these two were gone by 2001. The bowlers to follow had big shoes to fill (quite literally) and ultimately have not responded close to the level that Ambrose and Walsh have set. Despite the presence of some good batsmen like Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara still remained the crucial figure of the side.
After a two-nil defeat to New Zealand in 1999–00, Lara was replaced as captain by Jimmy Adams, who initially enjoyed series wins against Zimbabwe and Pakistan, but a three-one defeat to England and a five-nil whitewash by Australia saw him replaced by Carl Hooper for the 2000–01 visit by South Africa. By the time Lara was restored to the captaincy in 2002–03 series had been lost to South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand and India. The only series win of note was against India (although Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were still beaten) as the West Indies plummeted to eighth place in the world-rankings, below all the other established Test nations.
After losing his first series of his second captaincy period to world-champions Australia, Lara secured success against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, before another poor run saw three-nil defeats over four Tests against both South Africa and England, although the fourth Test against England was drawn after Lara posted a world-record individual Test score of 400 not out. The West Indies were then whitewashed four-nil in England. Lara's last act as captain was to win the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy, a one-day competition second only to the Cricket World Cup, at the Oval, London – a win that was a welcome surprise for the Caribbean which had just been hit by Hurricane Ivan.
This joy was short-lived as a major dispute broke out in 2005 between the West Indian Players Association (WIPA) and the Cricket Board. The point of contention was the 'clause 5' of the tour contract which gave WICB the sole and exclusive right to arrange for sponsorship, advertising, licensing, merchandising and promotional activities relating to WICB or any WICB Team. Digicel were the sponsors of the West Indian Team, while most of the players had contracts with Cable & Wireless. This and a payment dispute meant the West Indies first announced a team absent Lara and a number of other leading West Indians for South Africa's visit in 2004–05, leading to Shivnarine Chanderpaul becoming captain. Some of these players did, in the end, compete. The dispute had not been finally resolved, though, and rumbled on, leading to a second-string side being named for the tour of Sri Lanka in 2005. The dispute was not resolved until October 2005, when a full-strength side was finally named for the 2005–6 tour of Australia. It was on this tour that Brian Lara overtook Australian Allan Border as the highest run-scorer in Test match cricket but lost the series 0-3.
Their current attack includes: