WEST INDIES - - WHAT A FALL !
As a 12-year old boy, just introduced to the world of cricket; came to know that under the new captain Kapil Dev, India is going to visit a group of sovereign islands - - collectively known as West Indies - - for a 5 Test series and 3 ODI series.
Also came to know that Clive Lyod-led West Indies is the most feared team of the world - - be at home or abroad - - and excel in both versions of cricket. Defeating this team is almost next to impossible!
Indian team, though not exactly demolished in the Test series, yet got defeated by the margin of 2-0. Despite passage of 40 years, vividly do I remember the brilliant batting and centuries of Desmond Haynes Gordon Greenidge Vivian Richards Larry Gomes Gus Logie Clive Lyod Jeoffrey Dujon (wicket keeper) and devastating pace bowling of Malcolm Marshal Andy Roberts Michael Holding and Joel Garner.
However in the ODI series, India won the second match at Berbice with the series lost by the margin of 2-1. But the Berbice victory was celebrated with much fanfare as beating the mighty Caribbeans even in a single match (that too at their own backyard) was not a matter of joke on those days!
After the completion of the Caribbean tour, the 3rd edition of Prudential World Cup was scheduled to start in England. Came to know that both the previous versions of the World Cup(1975 1979) were comprehensively won by the Clive Lyod-led West Indies only by registering victory in all the matches! So no prizes for guessing who would be the Champion in 1983 version too!
However to the utmost surprise of the world, India had beaten the Caribbeans in the first league match itself with Yashpal Sharma leading the show with a majestic innings of 89! However, in the return league match, most unsurprisingly West Indies did take revenge by defeating India! Indians met the West Indians for the third time in the tournament - - now in the final! While the West Indian march to the final was given, India's success in reaching way up to the final was a revelation of sorts!
Hardly anybody gave any chance to the Indians to win the final match, specially after they got all out for a "handsome" total of 183 runs! But "Kapil's Devils" thought otherwise and defeated the numero uno team of the world by as many as 43 runs!
Despite that rarest of rare defeat in the World Cup final , West Indies still continued to dominate world cricket. And so at the fag end of 1983 only, West Indies defeated the Indians by a margin of 3-0 and 5-0 in Test and ODI series respectively right at the backyard of the latter; thereby proving their mettle!
But with passage of time and successive retirement of the great cricketers of early 1980s, the graph of West Indies cricket indeed started to dip. Far from winning another version of ODI World Cup, West Indies could never reach even the final of the tournament in successive versions with the sole semi-final appearance coming in 1996 despite presence of illustrious cricketers of next generation like Courtney Walsh Curtley Ambrose Carl Hooper Brian Lara or Shivnarain Chandrapaul!
With retirement of this generation, the fortunes of West Indies took further dip in Tests and ODIs with stray success only in T20 (winning two World Cup in the shortest version of the game)! Caribbeans started to lose Tests /ODI matches against newcomers like Bangladesh Ireland Afghanistan too!
As a matter of fact, West Indies could manage to play the 2019 ODI World Cup by somehow scraping through the qualifiers! But in the qualifiers for 2023 World Cup, the mightiest team of the world till mid-1980s, simply got booted out by losing against Zimbabwe and even getting defeated by the non-Test playing minnows like Netherlands and Scotland also!
Undoubtedly the cricket of the Caribbean simply lies in tatters today with "old timers" like us being left to express horror on witnessing the downfall of cricket of such a region which was simply synonymous to cricket itself as many people, possessing hardly any idea of Antigua Guyana or Jamaica, knew about the cricketing genius of Richards Lyod or Holding by heart !
It is high time the Caribbean cricket authorities indulge in a sincere introspection and revive the glory of West Indies region, cricketers of which had enthralled various generation through decades by virtue of their excellence and skills!