Picking the All-Time Great West Indies Test XI

Chris Teale@@chris_tealeFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2013

Picking the All-Time Great West Indies Test XI

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    Photo courtesy of Getty Images
    Photo courtesy of Getty Images

    Selecting a country’s greatest Test team of all time is an incredibly difficult task and is particularly difficult in the case of the West Indies.

    Numerous players of the utmost quality have represented the Caribbean side in international cricket, so narrowing that down to the 11 best is a tough thing to do.

    The West Indies has a rich history in the sport, with players from every decade gracing the game and producing legendary performances.

    Read on for the best West Indies XI of all time and comment below for anyone you think has been missed.

    All stats courtesy of ESPNCricinfo.

Honorable Mentions

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    Photo courtesy of The Cricketer International
    Photo courtesy of The Cricketer International

    The Three Ws: This may be cheating slightly, but the batsmen known as the "Three Ws" deserve their own place in this countdown.

    Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Clyde Walcott formed a fearsome triumvirate for the West Indies in the 1950s and 1960s, terrorising bowlers across the world.

    That they were all knighted for services to the game shows how important the three players were to cricket.

    They are immensely unlucky not to be included in this best XI but deserve an honorable mention as a highly successful trio of top-class batsmen.

    Lance Gibbs: The first man to earn 300 Test wickets and the best spinner in the history of West Indies cricket, Lance Gibbs was a special bowler.

    He extracted spin and bounce from all manner of wickets and combined that with an unerring accuracy that meant he conceded runs at an economy rate of just 1.98 per over.

    However, he is edged out of this side by a fierce quartet of pace bowlers, especially as an all-pace attack was a winning combination for the West Indies.

    Andy Roberts: It says something about the quality of West Indian pace bowlers that the man who took 202 wickets at an average of 25.61 does not make the final XI.

    Andy Roberts is therefore very unlucky indeed, although he earns an honorable mention.

    Without showing any emotion whatsoever, Roberts was a hostile and fast seam bowler who would use his brain to get a batsman out rather than sheer brute force.

    He was absolutely terrifying to face, especially as he said nothing to the batsmen and kept his emotions firmly in check.

    Michael Holding: Missing out on this best all-time XI by the skin of his teeth is fast bowler Michael Holding.

    Known as "Whispering Death" for his almost silent approach to the crease, Holding was one of the fastest bowlers of all time and when he had momentum, he was virtually unplayable.

    Just witness his ferocious spell to England’s Brian Close in 1976 for an example of Holding at his best.

1. Desmond Haynes

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    Photo courtesy of Getty Images

    116 Tests; 7487 runs; 42.29 average; 184 highest score

    Opening for this best West Indies XI is Desmond Haynes, who for nearly 20 years helped dominate bowling attacks from the beginning of the innings.

    Playing the perfect counterfoil to Gordon Greenidge’s sheer destruction as his opening partner, Haynes loved nothing more than knuckling down for a long innings.

    He was ruthless, too, despite the joy he appeared to exude when he played the game, with his 18 Test-match centuries testament to his ability to convert a good start.

2. Gordon Greenidge

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    Photo courtesy of Getty Images

    108 Tests; 7558 runs; 44.72 average; 226 highest score

    Alongside Haynes at the top of the order had to be his long-time partner Gordon Greenidge, a truly terrifying prospect to face even with the new ball.

    Greenidge was known for his destructive strokeplay and for a desire to attack and dominate at every opportunity.

    Superb on both the front and back foot, Greenidge also formed one of the most prolific opening partnerships of all time with Haynes, so it makes sense for them to be together atop the order in this best XI.

3. Viv Richards

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    Photo courtesy of Getty Images

    121 Tests; 8540 runs; 50.23 average; 291 highest score

    In at No. 3 comes Viv Richards, another player who was determined to dominate from his very first ball.

    Richards could destroy any bowling attack with consummate ease, often taking advantage of a superb platform laid by the openers to wreak merry havoc.

    Despite never wearing a helmet, Richards was supreme off the back foot, while his play coming forward was even better.

    His hand-eye co-ordination was second to none, meaning he could demolish any delivery served up to him.

4. Brian Lara

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    131 Tests; 11953 runs; 52.88 average; 400* highest score

    It gets no easier for opposing bowlers, as in at No. 4 strides the fifth-highest run scorer in the history of Test cricket: Brian Lara.

    Lara had the ability to build high scores on a regular basis, with his high back-lift ensuring he hit the ball with such force, even in defence.

    Even as the West Indies declined as a cricketing force at the start of the 21st century, Lara continued to churn out the runs, breaking Garry Sobers’ record for the highest score in an innings against England in 1994 with 375.

    He then did it again in 2004, having seen Matthew Hayden claim his record, and scored 400* against the same opponents in what was a magnificent and unprecedented achievement.

5. Clive Lloyd (c)

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    110 Tests; 7515 runs; 46.67 average; 242* highest score

    Captaining the side and taking his place at No. 5 is the most successful West Indies captain of all time: Clive Lloyd.

    Not only was Lloyd a superb leader of men, he was also a formidable batsman who hit the ball with incredible power and strength.

    He was also flamboyant, capable of dominating any bowling attack and his abilities were not affected by his role as captain.

6. Garry Sobers

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    Photo courtesy of The Cricketer International
    Photo courtesy of The Cricketer International

    93 Tests; 8032 runs; 57.78 average; 365* highest score
    235 wickets; 34.03 average; 2.22 economy rate; 6-73 BBI

    The greatest all-rounder in the history of the game takes his place at No. 6, although Garry Sobers is capable of batting virtually anywhere in the order.

    His batting was elegant and powerful while his bowling was accurate and versatile, with his fielding continually superb.

    In short, Sobers was the ultimate all-round cricketer, with his 20-year Test career yielding numerous highlights including 365* against Pakistan in 1958.

7. Jeffrey Dujon (w)

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    Photo courtesy of Getty Images

    81 Tests; 3322 runs; 31.94 average; 139 highest score; 267 catches; 5 stumpings

    Keeping wicket and batting at No. 7 is one of the finest athletes to represent the West Indies: Jeff Dujon.

    He needed to be, given the pace and bounce extracted by the West Indian fast bowlers who roared in and intimidated batsmen all over the world.

    Dujon was also a decent batsman who could change the course of a game when required and scored five Test centuries.

    It was his energy behind the stumps that he will be remembered for, however, and as the man with boundless energy in the face of searing pace.

8. Courtney Walsh

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    132 Tests; 519 wickets; 24.44 average; 2.53 economy rate; 7-37 BBI

    Rounding off this best XI is our bowling attack, which begins with Courtney Walsh at No. 8.

    Managing to combine superb pace with an incredible consistency and reliability, Walsh was the leading wicket-taker in Tests for a time and remains fifth on the list to this day.

    As he grew older, he also took on a leading role with the new ball, and with Curtly Ambrose formed the most terrifying new-ball partnership of the 1990s.

    He may have been useless with the bat, but his bowling alone is enough for him to make this team, as he presented an intimidating option to opening batsmen everywhere.

9. Curtly Ambrose

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    Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

    98 Tests; 405 wickets; 20.99 average; 2.30 economy rate; 8-45 BBI

    Speaking of Curtly Ambrose, he earns his place in this best XI thanks to his own consistent and daunting pace bowling.

    Known for his immaculate line and length, coupled with extraordinary bounce generated by his height of 6’7”, Ambrose was a menacing sight for batsmen in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Like Andy Roberts before him, he said very little on the pitch, which only seemed to ramp up the tension and hostility that surrounded his bowling.

    He often reserved his best performances for England, especially in 1990 as he ripped through them with 8-45 in the second innings, a mark that remained his best-ever bowling in Tests.

10. Malcolm Marshall

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    Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

    81 Tests; 376 wickets; 20.94 average; 2.68 economy rate; 7-22 BBI

    Among the West Indies’ formidable pace attack of the 1980s, Malcolm Marshall stood out as the man nobody wanted to face.

    Like Courtney Walsh, he managed to combine sheer pace with accuracy and consistency while also retaining the ability to swing the ball both ways seemingly at will.

    Despite his lack of height, Marshall’s bouncer was one of the best of all time, and he was another who would seem to reserve his very best performances for England.

11. Joel Garner

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    58 Tests; 259 wickets; 20.97 average; 2.47 economy rate; 6-56 BBI

    Finally in our best XI is the man known as "Big Bird." as Joel Garner rounds off our all-seam bowling attack in style.

    It’s impossible truly to appreciate how terrifying it was to face Garner in his pomp, as his 6’8” frame sent down deliveries that reared from just short of a length.

    Couple that with his incomparable yorker, which was particularly effective in limited-overs cricket, and Garner was one of the most complete seam bowlers of the 1980s.

    His low average of just 20.97 shows just how hard batsmen had to work to score runs off his bowling.

    Follow Chris Teale on Twitter.


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