Take a bow, Hubert!

Published: Jan 02, 2020, 04:59 IST | Clayton Murzello | Mumbai

Clive Lloyd thoroughly deserves his imminent knighthood for his shrewd, successful, superlative captaincy and a lot more

Former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd. Pic/ Getty Images
Former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd. Pic/ Getty Images

ClaytonA die-hard West Indies cricket fan's reaction to the news of Clive Lloyd being set for knighthood seemed right: "What took them so long to decide?"

For, Hubert as he is referred to by friends, should have got the honour far less than 35 years after he signed off from international cricket in March of 1985.

Indeed, he thoroughly deserves his place on the altar of shrewd, successful and superlative captaincy, a 10-year stint that saw him lose only two Test series and yes, one of the three World Cup finals he led his team in.

Pundits reckon he didn't have to use much of his grey cells since he led a great West Indies side and at the height of their powers, he just had to throw the ball to his fast bowlers who would then decimate opponents with dangerous regularity.

While this school of thought will cause some amusement in pubs and cricket talk shows, it sure chips away at Lloyd's leadership skills. It should never be forgotten that the West Indies are made up of players from different countries in the Caribbean and the politics of it all could drive the most level-headed men into depression. Although there was criticism of his captaincy on the 1975-76 tour of Australia where the West Indies got a 5-1 shellacking from Greg Chappell's men, Lloyd later handled the mixture of cultures in the team with aplomb. "I developed an immediate admiration for Clive Lloyd from the time I first played under him against the Australians at Montego Bay in 1973. He had an obvious interest in all of his players and a quiet, approachable manner. He was a caring captain, one you felt like playing for. It was an assessment I never had cause to change," wrote Michael Holding in Whispering Death. It's interesting Holding mentions that February 9 game, because Lloyd didn't know what was in store for him when the Test series against the Australians began. He wasn't surprised over his omission for the opening Test in Kingston and was included in the 12 for the second Test at Barbados. But when he still didn't make the 11 after Bernard Julien injured himself in the pre-Test nets, he was furious. It was this ire that led him to play a powerful shot which smashed a window of the Kensington Oval dressing room. He returned to the dressing room and broke down; wanting to return to Lancashire immediately. But former greats Clyde Walcott and Wes Hall convinced him he had a future and Lloyd got his chance in the following Test at Trinidad.

The following year he was named Rohan Kanhai's successor as West Indies captain.

An exciting Test series in India resulted in a 3-2 triumph for Lloyd followed by the 1975 World Cup glory. That was before the depressing tour of Australia where Lloyd was expected to be more proactive with his battered troops, who he believed were grown up to sort out their own problems.

Lloyd learnt a lot from the 1975-76 defeat in Australia. Not only did he become a better leader, he also got inspired by the Australians to fire the opposition with his pace bowling strength. The record books show that he only lost one more Test series —against New Zealand in 1979-80 — by a 0-1 margin amidst some poor umpiring.

Apart from marshalling his troops well, Lloyd also knew when was the right time to give the new ball to his best bowler. Holding opened the bowling in 1981 while Malcolm Marshall started opening the bowling by 1983. Andy Roberts, the erstwhile leader of the pace attack, didn't play all the Tests on the 1983-84 tour of India and Lloyd did not enhance his popularity by doing so. It was Roberts, who expressed dismay at the 1983 World Cup final loss, despite some players giving it their best when they were not fully fit, including himself with a knee injury.

Holding, it is learnt, was crying in pain after he suffered a cracked bone in his in-step. While the West Indies licked their wounds in the Lord's dressing room, one of the batsmen rued the fact that they allowed India to score "too many (183)." Roberts then pointed to a badly hurt Holding with words, "look at that injured man." Lloyd happened to enter the dressing room at that moment and thought Roberts was referring to him, trying to indicate that he shouldn't have played with a hamstring injury. But the premier fast bowler was only trying to praise Holding's grit. Things got unpleasant and Lloyd is believed to have announced his retirement plans. He was later coaxed into continuing.

Lest we forget, Lloyd was an exceptional, hard-hitting batsman. He fired away with a heavy bat, often referred to Big Bertha and had more grips than what most players used. His run tally of 7,515 in 110 Tests in 1985 was only below Sir Garfield Sobers's 8,032 in the list of top run-getters among West Indians.

He served cricket well post retirement as West Indies team manager, ICC match referee and more recently, chief selector and believed Jason Holder is the best man to captain West Indies in Test cricket. In fact, Brian Lara said in 2015 that Holder's eloquence reminded him of Lloyd.

West Indies cricket will be best served if Holder goes on to become a Lloyd. Like the former captain's knighthood announcement, it will be better late than never.

Clayton Murzello's column, Pavilion End, will be back next week.

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