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All-time XI: West Indies

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
Tony Becca
Viv Richards and Michael Holding: two from the 80s brigade who made the XI  •  PA Photos

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