Supercat or King?

From 1980 to 1995, West Indies had 3 full time captains (with the occasional stand-in like Haynes in 1989): Clive "Supercat" Lloyd, Viv "King" Richards & Richie Richardson. We can safely say, thanks to hindsight, that by the time Richardson took over West Indies were in trouble. Experts & commentators clearly separate the Richardson era from the 1980s but they generally club Richards’ & Lloyd’s teams together. They aren’t entirely unjustified given that the backbone of side: Richards, Haynes, Greenidge, Dujon & Marshall played for the best part of the decade.

The Records

A deeper look reveals that while Clive Lloyd’s West Indies were a spectacularly destructive near flawless machine, Viv Richards’ sides had chinks in their armours that were exploited by many sides especially away from their fortresses amidst the Caribbean Seas. In this post I intend to compare Lloyd’s record as captain from 1980 onward. This is because the 70s had a big break with Kerry Packer throwing a spanner in the establishment’s machine. Lloyd’s record wasn’t too shabby in the 70s. West Indies lost just the 1 series: that 1-5 drubbing to Lillee/Thommo. The series that sowed the "pace, pace, pace & more pace" idea in Lloyd’s mind. An idea that became implementation after India chased 403 runs in Port of Spain.

Captaincy by Matches

Matches Won Lost Drawn
Clive Lloyd 45 23 3 19
Viv Richards 48 27 8 13

Captaincy by Series

Series Won Lost Drawn
Clive Lloyd 11 9 1 1
Viv Richards 12 7 0 5

Let me just get a few pesky details out of the way. Richards’ record excludes 2 test matches as stand-in for Lloyd. It also includes two series played in the 90s which should technically be excluded but I have included them anyway. I have also included series where Richards missed a few matches (for eg Haynes vs England in 1989) as under Richards. Likewise for Clive Lloyd.

There is hardly anything to chose between the two but even a cursory analysis shows that Lloyd’s W/L ratio is nearly 8 while Richards’ isn’t even 4. Although Supercat’s ratio is historically great, Richards’ sides never lost a test series. Potayto, potaato, eh?

Home Records

Captaincy by Matches: Home

Matches Won Lost Drawn
Clive Lloyd 13 7 0 6
Viv Richards 23 15 2 6

Captaincy by Series: Home

Series Won Lost Drawn
Clive Lloyd 3 3 0 0
Viv Richards 6 5 0 1

Richards’ sides played twice as many series at home than Lloyd’s. Lloyd’s sample seems too small but Richards’ record isn’t as good as it seems as well. In all of Lloyd’s series West Indies were never in danger of losing. They beat England, India & Australia convincingly and comfortably. It wasn’t so in Richards’ case. West Indies fell behind to Pakistan in 1988 & England in 1990.

Viv Richards and Malcolm Marshall missed the 1st test vs Pakistan. Pakistan took full advantage and duly won it by 9 wickets. Pakistan barely clung on to draw the 2nd test by batting 129 overs after the aforementioned duo returned. West Indies barely won the 3rd test by 2 wickets. Dujon & Winston Benjamin added 61 runs for the 9th wicket to save face. Pakistan felt they were hard done by the umpiring.

England took a surprise lead in Jamaica. The 2nd test was rained off. West Indies were dealt a double blow as Richards & Marshall missed the 3rd test. England bossed the 3rd test and would have won if not for rain and blatant time wasting tactics by stand-in captain Haynes and lost Gooch to boot. West Indies boosted by the timely return of their captain won the remaining two tests to take the series. What if, indeed, for poor England.

The number of series played under Clive Lloyd seems too less but there is enough evidence that they were much superior than Richards’ sides. The pre-Packer West Indies won series against India & Pakistan by identical 2-1 margins. I haven’t included these ties for this post but I just want to present them as evidence to show that Clive Lloyd’s men probably would not have any difficulties in maintaining their excellent record on home soil.

Away Records

Any great side is defined by their victories away from home. Steve Waugh’s Australia won series after series but they could not conquer the final frontier: India. Likewise Ricky Ponting’s side conquered India but he could not lead his side to victory in an away Ashes. Clive Lloyd’s men come out on top again.

Captaincy by Matches: Away

Matches Won Lost Drawn
Clive Lloyd 32 16 3 13
Viv Richards 26 12 6 8

Captaincy by Series: Away

Series Won Lost Drawn
Clive Lloyd 8 6 1 1
Viv Richards 6 3 0 3

Clive Lloyd’s men were the first side other than England to win a series in Australia. A feat that escaped Frank Worrell’s men. Their only loss away from home was the contentious New Zealand series where Holding notoriously kicked the stumps and the midget Colin Croft (6’6″) ran into the umpire. There is enough video evidence (Thank you @robelinda2) to infer that it was a series West Indies would have at least drawn if the umpiring was fair. 

Speaking of Kiwi umpiring I want to include this anecdote on my blog. When India toured New Zealand in 1976, Chandrasekhar’s appeals for LBWs & caught behinds were repeatedly turned down by the umpires. Chandrasekhar bowled one batsman and made a loud appeal. The umpire said, “He’s bowled.” Without missing a beat Chandrasekhar quipped, “I know he’s bowled but is he out?”. No wonder Holding et al lost their collective heads. 

The NZ tour was one of two times West Indies under Clive Lloyd trailed in a series. The second time was after that famous Kim Hughes’ 100*. After the drawn 2nd test, West Indies were in danger of losing the Frank Worrell trophy when Australia ended day 4 190 runs ahead with 6 wickets in hand. The Caribbeans showed tremendous resolve to pick up the remaining wickets for 24 runs and in chasing a tricky 4th innings target of 239 with 17 balls to spare.

Lloyd’s West Indies also beat England in England twice. The first time they took a 1-0 lead with a tight 2 wicket win in the 1st test and would draw the remaining tests comfortably. Their 2nd win in Blighty was the famous Blackwash in 1984. They would beat Pakistan in Pakistan 1-0 in a rain affected series. That would be only defeat Pakistan suffered at home between 1969 & 1995.

Undoubtedly, Lloyd’s high point was their terrific performance in India in 1983. Seeking revenge after India shocked them on June 25, 1983. Marshall & co destroyed India which is so eloquently described by Samir Chopra here. The batsman to suffer the most was poor Jimmy Amarnath. Jimmy, who had just the year before scored nearly 1200 runs vs WI in WI & Pakistan in Pakistan, made Chris Martin look like Don Bradman. He scored just 1 run in 6 innings.

Lloyd’s men also set the record of 11 consecutive test wins and 28 unbeaten matches both of which were ended by Australia in Supercat’s last ever test. A series West Indies would take 3-1 with 3 pulverizing victories in the 1st 3 tests before taking their foot off the gas pedal. Lloyd would sign off after converting the West Indies from an entertaining side to a professional relentless bulldozing juggernaut.

In comparison Viv Richards’ men, brilliant though they were, were just boys away from home. After inflicting a 2nd “Blackwash” on England, Viv Richards’ led his side to 4 straight 1-1 draws, 3 of them away from home. The first drawn series was vs Pakistan when West Indies were “Qadired” out for 53 chasing 240. They showed their characteristic resolve to win the next test by innings even though they scored just 201 runs in their only innings. West Indies almost pulled it off but Pakistan grimly held on to a draw with just 3 wickets in hand in the final test.

West Indies uncharacteristically dropped leads in New Zealand and India. After trailing by more than 100 runs, New Zealand batted out 177 overs vs Marshall, Garner, Holding & Walsh to draw the 1st test. West Indies won the 2nd test but Hadlee, as he so often did, hustled them to 100 all out in the 3rd test and NZ were in complete control of the test. They eventually limped over the line losing 5 wickets in the chase of a paltry 33.

West Indies took the lead in India thanks to a superb 109* from captain Richards. After low 1st innings totals & a near 7 hour 102 by Captain Vengsarkar, WI were set 276 to win. It was the then highest target successfully chased in India. WI were 111/4 at one point but won by 5 wickets in the end. Richards’ masterclass took just 111 balls. Two drawn tests and tons of brainfarts vs Hirwani meant that India drew the series with a 255 run win in Chennai.

West Indies had no trouble dispatching England (4-0) & Australia (3-1) in conditions conducive to their pacemen. That defeat in Australia was to that master spinner Allan Border’s 11 wickets. Border took nearly 30% (11/39) of his test wickets in that match at Sydney. That West Indies were susceptible to spin in this period is an understatement of epic proportions.

Richards’ last series as player/captain was against their whipping boys England away. West Indies’ last 4 series’ scoreline in England read 3-0, 1-0, 5-0, 4-0. West Indies trailed after the 1st test thanks to Gooch’s famous 154* at Headingley. The Windies showed their class by winning 2 out of next 3 tests to take a lead into the final test at the Oval. All Richards’ 60 in his last test innings could do was to keep his average above 50 as England squared the series 2-2.


After over 1600 words, we can clearly see the need to make a second demarcation on the West Indies timeline from 1980 to 1995. Clive Lloyd(’80-’85), Viv Richards (’85-’91) and Richie Richardson (’91-’95). The 15 years divide (almost) into 3 5 year periods under 3 full time skippers. The West Indies only really dominated from 1980-85 under Lloyd. The level under Richards was merely very very good and, to be honest, started to decline at the turn of the decade. The decline continued under Richardson when they were still competitive until Steve Waugh & McGrath delivered a knock out blow from which West Indies haven’t recovered and are discovering newer and newer and newer depths.


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