Evening Standard

Seat of power: Clive Lloyd holds a top role within the ICC after years of helping the West Indies rule on the field. Image courtesy of Evening Standard

Clive Lloyd, who captained the West Indies between 1974 and 1985 – arguably the greatest ever Test side – would loved to have been a lawyer. Growing up in Guyana he liked nothing better than to go to the Georgetown courts and watch the captain of his team, the Demerara Cricket Club, perform.”He was a QC and I loved listening to him,” he says. “I would love to have been a QC.”

This ability to argue a case has proved very handy for Lloyd in his role as chair of the cricket committee of the International Cricket Council. The big issue for the world body’s annual meeting in Hong Kong this week has been to convince the Indians to accept the Decision Review System.

For Lloyd the issue is a no brainer. “I don’t see why the Indians won’t accept it,” he says. “If you are in a league like in football and the rule is a goalkeeper can’t pick a ball up with his hands when it is kicked back to him by one of his own players, then everyone has to follow that rule. You cannot have one match where that rule is observed and another match where it is not. Similarly, with cricket you have to have consistency. You cannot have a Test series between England and Sri Lanka where there is a review system and then between England and India where it is not.”

One of the reasons the Indians were against the system was said to be because of Sachin Tendulkar. His word is law in Indian cricket and the great man is unconvinced by the DRS technology.

“I have not spoken to him but I hope he is not against it,” is all Lloyd will say about Tendulkar.

There is, of course, a delicious irony here. The first ever Test match between South Africa and India in 1992 also saw the first use of a third umpire using television technology. The victim was a 19-year-old Tendulkar, adjudged to have been run out. Lloyd was the ICC match referee and smiles at that memory. He recalls how in the Second Test, had the present umpires review system existed, the Indians might have won a crucial decision which could have changed the course of the series, which the hosts won 1-0.

Indeed, after the match Lloyd had to explain to the media why the umpire, his fellow West Indian Steve Bucknor, did not use the nascent television technology to give a clear run out decision in favour of the Indians.

“We have come a long way since then,” Lloyd reflects. “Many years ago even England weren’t happy with the umpire review system. Then they realised the importance of it. All the other countries are quite happy, the players are happy, and the umpires are fine with it. Umpires are getting 90-odd per cent of decisions right. It means you are not going to get away with howlers. What we all want are the right decisions being made and the best, and the right, team should win.”

In Hong Kong today, the ICC’s executive board approved a recommendation by the chief executives’ committee that DRS should be used throughout cricket, paving the way for it to feature in the Test series between England and India, which starts at Lord’s on July 21.

Thanks to the Hot Spot thermal imaging technology and stump mic, the DRS will be able to rule on close catches and edges although – because of opposition from India – it won’t be used for lbws.

While this is an improvement on the previous blanket Indian ban Lloyd is convinced that referring lbw decisions is crucial. He says: “It has made a big difference for spinners. The cricketers know they have to play the ball. They can’t kick the spinners away like English batsmen did to Ramadhin and Valentine in the old days. Nothing is perfect. The point is you always have these problems. But it is better to have a good idea most of the time than not.”

But if the fight against the Indians was only half a battle won, Lloyd did get his own way with a far-reaching proposal of his cricket committee which marks a very radical change to the game. This is that in international cricket an injured batsman will no longer be able to continue batting using a runner. Lloyd may be known for his batting but on this issue he has no problems arguing the law has been unfair to bowlers.

“If a bowler is injured, you don’t get somebody else to come and bowl for him,” he says. “He has to go off. So, if a batsman is injured, he has to go off too. Why should he be allowed to bat using another batsman to run for him? That is giving him an unfair advantage.”

It is this sense of fairness that makes him argue that his great West Indian side have never had the credit they deserved. “We beat everybody,” the 67-year-old reminds me.

“We won 5-0 in England in 1984. We won two World Cups and played 27 Test matches without losing, with 11 successive victories. We were classed by Sports Illustrated as one of the three best teams in the world in the 80s along with Liverpool and the San Francisco 49ers. You cannot get there without being good. But people can only talk about our four fast bowlers. They don’t talk about the batting or fielding. That is wrong.”

For Lloyd, that West Indian triumph was built around developing, for the first time, a truly professional approach to the islands’ cricket, moulding a team of entertainers into a winning side.

“I said we have to be more professional, we have to discuss cricket a lot more. I started the team dinner, a meal the night before the game where everybody discussed the opposition, how we would bowl to them, what field we would set. It brought togetherness. I, probably, learned a lot from the past.”

This learning had started back in December 1966 in Mumbai when, as a 22-year-old, he was thrust into Test cricket by Gary Sobers on the morning of the Test following an injury in the nets to Seymour Nurse.

“Gary said, ‘I’m sorry, you’re in.’ I did not know what was going on,” admits Lloyd, who was even more clueless on the final day as Sobers and he chased victory. “I was batting with Gary and he said, ‘Young man, I’ll let you know when we can have a go and finish it up quickly.’ Then he nodded at me and we knocked off the runs. We got back to the pavilion and Gary looked at his watch and said, ‘Oh yes, I can now go to the races and watch the Two Thousand Guineas.’ I was thinking shit. I’m on my Test debut helping the West Indies win, and it is all determined by what time a race starts.”

But this professionalism, he emphasises, was not an expression of black power, a perception that may have been reinforced by the film Fire in Babylon, which chronicles the West Indian triumph.

“Some people have said that about the film – that is sad,” he says. “You can’t do anything if you are born black. But our cricket wasn’t anything about black power. Uninformed people, trying to look for something, said we were driven by black power. That was nonsense. You ask any player we played against, there was never anything racist . No, not even with Viv Richards was there a black power thing.”

He even refuses to accept that Tony Greig’s infamous remark in 1976 – that he would make the West Indies grovel – was racist. “He didn’t mean it to be racist,” says Lloyd. “He’s one of these guys who is enthusiastic. I thought, hey, if he wants to make us grovel, well then it gives the team that sort of impetus that was needed.

“Yes, we were picked on as a team but it wasn’t because we were black. We were picked on because we continued to be successful. Even the Australians didn’t last as long as we did.”

The West Indian decline since has been even more pronounced than the Australian one, as Lloyd sadly acknowledges. “When we had those halcyon days, we didn’t prepare for the future,” he says. “We were a bit complacent, thinking four or five guys will just come out like they did in the old days. We got caught. Now people are gravitating to other, more lucrative sports: athletics, football, basketball.”

Something similar, warns Lloyd, is happening to young black cricketers in this country.

“I don’t see too many black cricketers playing county cricket. As in the West Indies, young people are gravitating to more lucrative things. In football we have youngsters at 16 and 17 with their BMW getting £6,000 a week. Cricket can’t provide that. It’s just like the Neville brothers, they were good cricketers. But they chose football which was a much better living by far.”

Six months after impressively retaining the Ashes Down Under, England soon face the biggest current challenge in Test cricket, a four-match series against India, who top the rankings.

Although Lloyd is impressed by Andrew Strauss’s men he still thinks his great West Indies side would be too strong for them.

“England are a very good team. But to beat my side, they would have had to bat well. We had batters who could combat the type of bowling they have. That would be no problem for Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Larry Gomes. And I’m not so sure people like Broad and these guys coming in at the end would have made that many runs against the Marshalls and the Garners of this world.”

So what about Alastair Cook’s famous remark his England team could take on Lloyd’s West Indians?

“Ah, yes, this England team would have beaten us, probably in chess.” And with that his 6ft 5in frame rocks with laughter.


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