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

The XI

The Invincibles

When you count the number of greats who had to be omitted from this XI, you realise the wealth of talent West Indies possessed

Tony Becca

July 26, 2010

Comments: 143 | Text size: A | A

Michael Holding and Viv Richards celebrate the win, England v West Indies, 4th Test, Headingley, 5th day, July 27, 1976
Viv Richards and Michael Holding: two from the 80s brigade who made the XI © PA Photos

To select an all-time XI after 82 years and 465 Test matches, from among 285 players, is no easy task, and especially so when the team under the microscope has produced some of the world's best players and was for a long time rated the best in the world.

In selecting this side, the selectors came up with only one player, the immortal George Headley, who was on the scene before 1950. As good as they were, there was no place for allrounder Learie Constantine or for fast bowler Manny Martindale.

The team is dominated by the great players who represented West Indies during their glory days - in the 1960s when they were arguably the best in the world, and from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, when they were the undisputed champions. And even so, some great names have been omitted.

Gordon Greenidge and Conrad Hunte have been selected as the opening batsmen, but it must have been tough leaving out the dashing left-hander Roy Fredericks, just as it must have been difficult to go for the specialist wicketkeeper Jackie Hendriks instead of Jeffrey Dujon - who was a batsman in his own right.

With Garry Sobers around, a man who could get into any Test team as a batsman, a left-arm fast bowler, an orthodox left-arm spin bowler, or a back-of-the-hand spin bowler, the allrounder's position was a cinch.

Not so, however, the selection of the spin bowler. Not when the decision was to select only one among Sonny Ramadhin, Alfred Valentine and Lance Gibbs. In the final analysis it was Gibbs, the tall, clever offspinner, the man who took 8 for 6 off 15.3 overs in an amazing spell during a Test against India.

From the beginning, great and exciting middle-order batting and hostile fast bowling have been the hallmark of West Indies cricket, and although to many the selection of Headley, Vivian Richards, Brian Lara, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Curtly Ambrose may have seemed easy, it probably was not.

It would be a heartless man who would not feel a tinge of regret leaving out batsmen the quality of Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott, and Rohan Kanhai, an allrounder like Constantine, spin bowlers like Ramadhin and Valentine, and fast bowlers like Wes Hall, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, and Courtney Walsh.

The XI

Gordon Greenidge
"If he was limping, watch out. And if he took a liking to a bowler, watch out some more. When he was in the mood, he could destroy a bowler almost at will, from the very first ball of an innings, if he took a shine to him." Desmond Haynes

Conrad Hunte
"Hunte's statistical record alone as an opener, and status alongside Sobers and Kanhai as successors to the legendary Three Ws, mark him as an exceptional talent in an all-conquering team. But his humanity, sense of fairness and contribution to the game - especially in South Africa - after his playing days elevate him to the ranks of the extraordinary." Fazeer Mohammed

George Headley
Between the wars, when the West Indies batting was often vulnerable and impulsive, Headley's scoring feats led to his being dubbed "the black Bradman". His devoted admirers responded by calling Bradman "the white Headley" - a pardonable exaggeration." Wisden Cricketers' Almanack

Vivian Richards
"Viv Richards, more than any other cricketer in the post-colonial world, represented the compelling philosophy that it was necessary to place at the centre of all political life the idea of social justice and mutual respect in human relations, and was prepared to be activist about it." Hilary Beckles

Brian Lara
"One of the best batsmen of my generation, if not the best ever." Sachin Tendulkar
"Lara is the greatest batsman I have ever bowled to." Glenn McGrath

Garry Sobers
"He is simply the greatest cricketing being ever to have walked the Earth…" Don Bradman
"The first complete Caribbean folk hero after George Headley." Michael Manley

Jackie Hendriks
"Jackie Hendriks only played in 20 Test matches between 1962 and 1969. But his is a case of quality over quantity. Technically outstanding, he was what all bowlers want, a consistent keeper; one who has the distinction of not conceding a bye in three innings that crossed 500 runs. Adept to the pace of Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith and the spin of Lance Gibbs, and a capable batsman, there has probably not been a better all-round wicketkeeper for West Indies." Garth Wattley

Malcolm Marshall
"He was my fast-bowling idol. He picked the mistakes of batsmen straight away and spotted their weaknesses. He was a nice fellow off the field, but a fierce competitor on it." Wasim Akram

Michael Holding
"Michael Holding was the fastest I ever faced. I don't think anyone can bowl as fast as he did. I cannot imagine a human being with such a smooth action and with so little effort being able to bowl 95mph-plus, ball after ball." Sadiq Mohammad

Curtly Ambrose
"All I will say about Ambrose is that he could have bowled in any era and been admired. He is quick, he knows what he wants to do with the ball and he is pinpoint accurate. One of the best." Fred Trueman

Lance Gibbs
Lance Gibbs used his great height, lean, athletic build and long, supple fingers to become not only the greatest West Indian spin bowler (309 Test wickets) - but one of the most combative of all West Indian cricketers. Frank Birbalsingh

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 Metman on (July 29, 2010, 23:37 GMT)

Hey! anybody can skipper the Jury"s team.The team will still win!I dont understand why people are so caught with that!Someone said that Gayle av.is about 40,the min.av. for an opener,and what ,may I asked is the min.av.for the middle order?@Eddy 501,Lara was the most selfish record breaker,not the most talented,big man!wrong choice of words.I dont understand your LOGIC" playing along side a man for several years,and choosing someone who you have not seen",and relying solely on rep/av.!Yet you used STATS to highlight the most self centred cricketer the WI have ever produced!another RECORD!This record,I am sure will not be broken!but all the others will eventually be broken ONE by ONE,and some of them YOU will not SEE in your lifetime!By the way EVERTON WEEKES at the height of his career was av.a whopping 136,and at that time tests were few and far between.Walcott at the height of his, scored a then record breaking series total of 827,but had to wait 2 YEARS,for another test.

Posted by prashant1 on (July 29, 2010, 9:29 GMT)

@waspsting. Heck dont get me wrong. I love Lara. Just thinking of the best possible combination. Lara was King against spin and handled the medium pacers like Mcgrath etc too very well. His only weakness, relatively speaking ofcourse, was against raw pace. Away vs. some serious pace the ideal WI team would probably be better with Kanhai, Fredericks etc...

Posted by BRNUGGET on (July 29, 2010, 4:38 GMT)

The perfect team, except for the fact Clyde Walcott should have been there for Hendricks and Andy Roberts for Curtley Ambrose. Amby is very good, but Andy was better, he bowled in an era when there were superb batsmen and lively wickets. From Gavaskar to Ian & Greg Chappell, Majid, Gower, Barry Richards, Asif Iqbal…all rated him the best. He had it all, pace, swing, cut, bouncers and slower deliveries, could extract life from any pitch. Imagine no place for Weekes, Lloyd, Kallicharan, Garner, Kanhai…very difficult to leave this players out. Glad that Sir Viv got all 10 jury votes and 90% of people's votes, he was the best, complete destroyer who massacred bowling attacks like no one could. He had style and was the king on the field. Surprised that Late Macko Marshall got 9 jury votes, wonder who was that who voted against. He is the best quick of all times. Missed the Windies glory of 1960s to mid 1990s.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2010, 22:35 GMT)

Fredericks, Richards, Kanhai, Headley (Captain), Weeks, Sobers, Dujon, Gilchrist, Roberts, Garner, Gibbs, Collie Smith (12th man) I know it is absurd to choose players because they simply amassed great numbers especially during long and extended careers. The main point is to make an analysis of their performance against outstanding quality of the competition they encountered. The first victim would be Gordon Greenidge. Just look at his numbers for that test series. One has only to recall his abysmal performance against Lillee and Thompson and the other bowlers on the 1975-76 West Indies tour of Australia. Greenidge was the only recognized batsman who failed to record a century against the Australian in test cricket on that tour. He was badly exposed as a fraud. He did not make a score higher than 8 in the four innings he completed. In fact, he amassed the handsome total of 11 runs in four innings an average of 2.75. He was dismissed on several occasions without scoring.

Posted by waspsting on (July 28, 2010, 21:49 GMT)

@prashant1 - check Weekes and Walcott's records against England and Australia in England and Australia. Not extraordinary.

Posted by bbpp on (July 28, 2010, 18:21 GMT)

For those who are wondering why Lara only got 6 votes, it had to be due to his off the field antics. On the field however, he was peerless. Whenever he was batting, love him or hate him, the cricket was compelling and the game revolved around his wicket. Among the modern greats, Tendulkar is closest to him but sometimes he was just a spectator at the other end to Azhar, Dravid, Laxman or Viru as they controlled proceedings. Never with Lara. A century from Lara was often not enough...in Antigua he was once blamed for WI losing a match because (get this!), he scored a hundred against Mcgrath and Co in 1998 TOO QUICKLY! He had reduced them to schoolboys (the great Warne wasn't even picked having suffered in the previous 2 tests) but when he was 3rd or 4th out it was almost game over. Lara came into a team where thegreats Viv, Greenidge, Dujon, Marshall and later Haynes were discarded like used tampons by the WI and with no man in the house he took adv.to act out- and hurt his legacy also

Posted by Venkatb on (July 28, 2010, 16:56 GMT)

Interesting selection - however, a parallel XI may beat this team, perhaps even handily. That would be Haynes, Walcott (wk), Kanhai, Weekes, Lloyd, Worrell (c), Constantine, Hall, Roberts, Garner, Ramadhin. Toothpick Gibbs had two great feats, the 8 wkt haul against India (completely battered by then) and the tied series (tail-enders), Ramadhain had greater variety and better results against better teams. Dujon or Murray are better choices than Hendricks, the latter being first choice even during Hendricks' reign. The batting line-up was always a selection headache but leaving out the 3Ws is sacreligious - among fast bowlers, Hall, for his fearsome bowling action and stats, Roberts for his intelligent bowling, and Garner for his unplayable toe-crusher deliveries and delivery from nearly 9 ft down - add to that Constantine and Worrell - we can create a computer simulated model to see which WI XI would win!

Posted by Silverstar on (July 28, 2010, 16:47 GMT)

WI best x1 vs Aussie best 11.... WI 9-1 ( the one is if we use the current squad)

Posted by kirksland on (July 28, 2010, 15:53 GMT)

Great team selection, only real complaints would be that Dujon has to be in the team, and the argument that he never really was tested againts spin bears no merrit here as Garner should have been selected as the 4th bowler instead of Gibbs, though no disrespect intended to him. It would have been nice to have seen Walcott, but he kept too few games to truely qualify as a full time keeper. This team would only be possibly tested by the Australian 11 and they am quite sure they would fall as well.

Finally why wasnt Tony Cozier included as a juror, him Reds and Faz are the 3 most respected observers of this great game in the c'bean.

Posted by Mahesh_Nathan on (July 28, 2010, 15:47 GMT)

Its tough to pick an all time eleven given the number of great players. However, if I were to compare this team with the all conquering 80's team (probably the best ever) there are two things that fall short. The 80's team had a fearsome pace attack that attacked in packs (4 fast bowlers) and an effective captain. Lloyd was the best captain they had for his steady influence and was responsible for forming and mentoring the 80's team - remember Richards who took over was no half as effective. I would add Garner/Roberts as the fourth pace bowler instead of Gibbs and fit Lloyd in as captain in place of Headley- the team would truly be unbeatable.

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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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