West Indies XI
ESPNcricinfo picks the best Test teams of all time


Those two pals, and Toothpick

West Indies may not have produced as many top-notch spinners as fast bowlers, but the ones that did come through were world-beaters

Tony Becca

July 20, 2010

Comments: 76 | Text size: A | A

Those two little friends of mine ... Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine in 1957
Spin twins: Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine © Getty Images
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Spin bowling is definitely not West Indies' best suit. With only Sonny Ramadhin, Alfred Valentine, and Lance Gibbs of the quality to rank with the lowest of their great openers, middle order, and their long line of fast bowlers, the truth is that when it comes to strength in numbers, West Indies' spin bowling ranks just below their wicketkeeping and probably only above their allrounders.

In terms of quality, though, it's a different matter. No one can question, for example, the quality of batsmen like Conrad Hunte and Gordon Greenidge, George Headley, Viv Richards, and Brian Lara, allrounders like Garry Sobers and Learie Constantine, wicketkeepers like Jackie Hendriks and Jeffrey Dujon, and fast bowlers like Wes Hall and Andy Roberts. The same is true of the three great West Indies spin bowlers. All three of them, Sonny Ramadhin, Alf Valentine and Lance Gibbs possessed quality of the rarest breed.

Two of them, "the spin twins", one bowling with his right hand, the other with his left, were the architects of West Indies' first victory in England and their first series victory anywhere. The other - so slim they called him Toothpick - was an important member of the first great West Indies team, which after victories over India, England, and Australia in the 1960s was rated the unofficial champion of the world.

Valentine was the first (and remains the youngest) bowler to reach 100 Test wickets for West Indies. When Ramadhin finished his career in 1960, after 10 years and 43 Test matches, he held the West Indies record for the most Test wickets, with 158. When Gibbs called it a day in 1976, after 18 years and 79 Test matches, he held the world record for the most Test wickets, with 309.

The contenders

Alfred Valentine
Although it is "Ramadhin and Valentine" and not the other way round, in West Indies' first Test of 1950, Valentine was called into action before Ramadhin, and he went on to take the first eight wickets in England's first innings. With three more in the second, Valentine got 11 for the match. He went on to finish with 139 in 36 Test matches at an average of 30.32. His haul of 33 wickets in that four-Test series lasted as the West Indies record until 1988, when Malcolm Marshall took 35 wickets in the five-Test series against England.

Sonny Ramadhin
While Valentine picked up the wickets in the first Test, Ramadhin got match-winning figures of 5 for 66 and 6 for 86 in the second, at Lord's. Bowling offbreaks and legbreaks that were difficult to pick, his greatest day was probably May 30, 1957 at Edgbaston, when he mesmerised England with 7 for 49 runs off 31 overs.

Lance Gibbs
A slim offspinner, Gibbs was a perfect foil to the pace of Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith, and the many skills of Garry Sobers, during the 1960s. He spun the ball viciously, got it to bounce, varied his pace, length and line beautifully, and bowled a straight one that went on towards slip. While many may talk about his three wickets in four deliveries and his hat-trick against Australia, his best performance was probably the one against India, when, against batsmen who were nurtured on spin, on a Kensington Oval pitch that traditionally favoured fast bowling, he took 8 for 38 runs off 15.3 overs.

We'll be publishing an all-time West Indies XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your spinner click here

Former sports editor of the Jamaica Gleaner and the Daily News, Tony Becca has covered West Indies cricket for 30 years

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Posted by trepuR on (July 23, 2010, 16:25 GMT)

@eddy501, I partialy agree with you, but you must find a happy medium between prolonged success and the peaks and dazzling heights of players careers, you must reward longevity, but also the heights which players reached.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2010, 12:46 GMT)

My all time WI team is : Greenidge Hunte Headley- Capt Richards Lara Sobers Walcott- Wkpr Marshall Holding Roberts Gibbs

Leon Francis - Florida Caribbean Sportsline.

Posted by eddy501 on (July 23, 2010, 12:36 GMT)

@ Metman.....surely this exercise, which is strcitly one of fantasy and fun (joining players together from different eras..etc) and not one averages? We are debating which top players should make the team. I wouldnt pick VIV in 1990 but i'd pick him in 1976!!!! Surely we are picking the greatest players at the greatest level? Viv Richards at the top of his game is in my opinion the greatest batsmen ever...full stop. Sure, not in 1990 when he finnished or 1974 when he started. This exercise isnt about who was the most consistant players!!!!!!!! Youre picking a fantasy team with players from different times playing at there optimum level....eg Lara 277,153*1999, Marshall 7-22 1988, Viv all of 1976, Holding 14-149 1981 etc...These heights of performance are not matched by Weekes, or Walcott or Worrell or Roberts. It's easy, think of the best players and then their best performances then you'll seperate great from legendary.

Posted by Metman on (July 23, 2010, 12:27 GMT)

@wibbly!Why did you got from high class spin bowlers to strong spin bowlers?Wrong choice of words again my friend.They were all mediocre to good,with the exception of Nanan,who was the best of the lot.The others were only effective at the QPO,especially Willie Rodriguez ,and Jack Noriega,both of whom you did not mentioned .,and were better than the rest at the QPO.All the test matches that the WI played did not take place at the QUEENS PARK OVAL.So judging from your remarks,the reasoning/non reasoning,your likes/dislikes,your putting down of greats , your preferences and the hear say,I can conclude that YOUR team will include GIBBS,with Murray as the keeper.No problem!but dont find faults with other players to make a cause for yours.My preference was Walcott over Dujon,I didnt find fault with Dujon ,I tried to use ALL the information I could obtained from STATS to make a case for Walcott.

Posted by Metman on (July 23, 2010, 11:49 GMT)

@wibbly!You claimed that Dujon flung himself around because he lack the footwork and technique to be a good keeper.So are you not putting down a great WI keeper in preference for another?That only not shows ignorance on your part,but a lack of commonsense , cricketing knowledge and reasoning as well!Hey! Dujon at that time could not walk into any other test team purely as a batsmen,RUBBISH!He could not even walk into the WI team as a batsman.Because other people said that Murray was the best they have seen,means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!That is HEAR SAY!big man!You said that you would be happy with the selection of either Hendricks or Murray,yet you HIGHLIGHTED Murray!You only added Hendricks to act as a distraction so as not to appear BIAS,and every one knows that Murray is the better batsman.Dujon kept to spinners in the Jamaican team all over the WI.As far as I can remember,the battery of world class TT spinners were only effective at the Queens Park Oval in the 70s.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2010, 2:14 GMT)

There is so much of disagreement of who the nomination are, I wonder is this WI ALL TIME XI. We must put a lot of things into consideration when choosing each player. For batsmen THE OPPOSITION BOWLERS,for bowlers THE OPPOSITION BATSMEN, KEEPERS which bowler were in the line up. I put my trust in our chosen panel to also consider the amount of test matches players played. I am still favoring LARA,SOBERS,CHANDERPAUL,AMBROSE,DUJON,MARSHALL,GIBBS..... I am having a feeling there will be no Chanderpaul, there will be a lot of question arising from that.. The others suppose to be make the XI COMFORTABLE.....................

Posted by Metman on (July 22, 2010, 23:00 GMT)

@abner564.Well! Well! Well! I too am a diehard WI fan,and I too have never heard anyone in their sane or insane mind pick a batsman based on how they walk,how they put fear in everybody,how pretty they look at the wicket,or how pretty they look playing shots.If that was the case,big man,one Carl Hooper would have been the #1 choice!Did you DELIBERATELY leave out Weekes,to make out a case for Richards?It was not Worrell in the 40s,It WAS WEEKES IN THE 40s -50s!It was also Walcott in that era too!.Why did you chose Headley,left out Weekes and Walcott and went for Richards?because of his swagger and fear factor?Weekes and Walcott were not known for their swagger or fear factor,yet they were more reliable than Richards.They both put fear in bowlers with their BATS !The panel didnt ask us to pick the best players from an era.Lara wasnt known for swagger and fear factor.Just like Weekes and Walcott,he put fear in bowlers with his BAT!

Posted by amitava0112 on (July 22, 2010, 18:39 GMT)

i have already publshed my bestWI XI on 20/7/10 with as follows: Fredricks, Greendge, Richards,Lara,Headley, Sobers(c),Dujon(wk),Marshall,Holding,Ambrose & Garner. With so much quality available I now cannot resist but publish my 2nd best WI XI as follows: Hunte, Haynes, Weekes, Kanhai, Lloyd, Worrell(c),walcott(wk),Roberts,Croft, Clarke,Hall. Again no spinner taken because I guess with the fastmen at our disposal (even in 2nd XI) we dont require any. batting wise the 2nd XI suffers only slightly in quality than the 1st XI.but middle order is as good..weekes,Knhai,lloyd,worrell hardly any inferior.& the fastmen in 2nd XI maybe just 0.1% lower in overall quality & records than 1st XI(only just) but probably a couple of notches higher in fear factor as Roberts(who may well hv been in 1st XI) got great bouncers with variety, Croft was v.awkward to face,Hall dangerous & Clarke considered by many batsmen of his time as fiercely fast whom not many wanted to face.Again bish & Walsh misses out

Posted by bbpp on (July 22, 2010, 13:45 GMT)

King Viv not not justified because of STATS! (I guess to make way for one of the W's - great as they were) No sane person anywhere in the cricketing world other than B/dos would suggest that! 100 years from now Worrell would be relevant for captaincy but Headley, Sobers, Lara & Viv would always be named among the "master bats" of WI cricket because of their DOMINANCE and significance in the team in which they played and in WORLD cricket during their playing days. Stats & Avgs are not all...that's why Kallis is not considered in the same breath as Sobers, why Greg Chappell is better than Ponting, why Gavaskar is better than Hayden, etc. etc.

Posted by wibbly on (July 22, 2010, 13:41 GMT)

metman, you also missed my main point. If no spinners were in the windies all time 11, I would pick Dujon because he was by far the better batsman, in his day Dujon could have walked into any other test team purely as a batsman. I simply feel that if a spinner or two(counting Sobers as the second spinner) is included we need a keeper with better technique. To be fair, Dujon never really kept to spin(apart from Viv's part timers) and I am not sure that he could handle a top class spinner. This is simply the age old debate concerning the batsman/keeper i.e. Dujon versus the keeper/batsman i.e. Murray. In the modern game the batsman/keeper wins especially one of Dujon's quality but there's no need to put down a great west indian cricketer because you have a preference for another. windies forever.

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West Indies Jury

Jimmy Adams
Jimmy Adams
Played 54 Tests for West Indies between 1992 and 2001, and captained them in 15. Has served as manager of the Under-19 side, as president of the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations, and technical director of Jamaica's cricket development programme.
XI: Greenidge, Hunte, Headley, Richards, Weekes, Sobers, Hendriks (wk), Marshall, Garner, Ambrose, Gibbs
Tony Becca
Tony Becca
Former sports editor of the Jamaica Gleaner and the Daily News. Former president of the Caribbean and Jamaican sportswriters associations. Award-winning writer who covered West Indies cricket around the world for 30 years.
XI: Greenidge, Hunte, Headley, Lara, Richards, Sobers, Hendriks, Marshall, Holding, Roberts, Gibbs
Hilary Beckles
Hilary Beckles
Professor of History at the University of West Indies, and Director of the Centre for Cricket Research. Author of The Development of West Indies Cricket and Liberation Cricket; West Indies Cricket Culture among other books.
XI: Worrell, Greenidge, Headley, Weekes, Richards, Sobers, Walcott, Marshall, Hall, Holding, Gibbs
Frank Birbalsingh
Frank Birbalsingh
Cricket writer and author and editor of several books, among them The Rise of West Indian Cricket: From Colony to Nation. Professor of English at York University in Toronto.
XI: Greenidge, Haynes, Headley, Richards, Worrell, Walcott, Sobers, Dujon, Holding, Roberts, Gibbs
Imran Khan
Imran Khan
West Indies team sponsor Digicel's media manager. Former West Indies team media manager and communications manager of the Stanford 20/20. Has been writing on West Indies cricket for 10 years.
XI: Kanhai, Hunte, Headley, Richards, Lara, Sobers, Murray, Marshall, Holding, Ambrose, Gibbs
Ian McDonald
Ian McDonald
Novelist, poet and cricket writer in Guyana. Delivered the inaugural Sir Frank Worrell lecture in 2005. Sat on a panel set up by the WICB in 2007 to make recommendations on the governance of West Indies cricket.
XI: Greenidge, Kanhai, Headley, Lara, Richards, Sobers, Worrell, Dujon, Holding, Ambrose, Gibbs
Fazeer Mohammed
Fazeer Mohammed
Journalist and broadcaster from Trinidad and Tobago who has been covering West Indies cricket, at home and abroad, for over 20 years.
XI: Greenidge, Hunte, Headley, Lara, Richards, Sobers, Walcott, Marshall, Holding, Ambrose, Gibbs
Joseph Perreira
Joseph Perreira
Veteran radio commentator; has covered 145 Test matches over 30 years for the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, and all the World Cups save for one.
XI: Greenidge, Fredericks, Richards, Lara, Headley, Sobers, Walcott, Marshall, Holding, Ambrose, Gibbs
Garth Wattley
Garth Wattley
Chief cricket writer and assistant sports editor at the Trinidad Express. Has been writing on sport in general and West Indies cricket in particular for the last 17 years.
XI: Hunte, Greenidge, Richards, Headley, Lara, Sobers, Worrell, Hendriks, Marshall, Roberts, Ambrose
Rudi Webster
Rudi Webster
Played first-class cricket for Warwickshire, Otago and Scotland in the sixties. A scholar, medical doctor and a pioneer in performance enhancement in sport, he has worked with many of Australia's best athletes and sports teams.
XI: Greenidge, Haynes, Headley, Richards, Weekes, Sobers, Worrell, Hendriks, Marshall, Roberts, Gibbs

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