Clive Lloyd, the 'Supercat' skipper who won the first two World Cup tournaments

Clive Lloyd, the 'Supercat' skipper who won the first two World Cup tournaments

For a decade from the mid-70s to the mid-80s, Clive Lloyd presided over one of the greatest teams in cricket history. It is a matter of opinion whether he was an outstanding captain, but he was certainly a very successful one.

Lloyd's team had an unprecedented run in Test matches as well as ODIs. This included triumphs in the first two World Cup tournaments in 1975 and 1979. A glorious hat-trick was foiled in 1983 when rank outsiders India stunned his brilliant side in an amazing final.

Sometimes Lloyd’s fantastic record as captain overshadows his abilities as a batsman. A left-hander with an enormous stride and a huge back-lift, he was one of the most ferocious hitters the game has known.

In the early stages of his career he was a brilliant cover fielder, earning him the nickname ‘Supercat’, but a back injury due to a frightening fall brought a halt to his prowling, as well as his more-than-useful medium-pace bowling. Lloyd, the winner that he was, then turned into an outstanding slip fielder and set the record for the most catches in World Cup and also in a single match, precedents for others to better.

He led a resurgent West Indies team comprising several rising stars like Andy Roberts, Vivian Richards and Gordon Greenidge in the inaugural World Cup in 1975. On the way to the title in that tournament, there was just one hiccup against Pakistan, but an admirable feat of courage and resilience by vice-captain Deryck Murray saw the West Indies achieve a heart-stopping one-wicket win with two balls to spare. Lloyd himself scored 53 in that match.

Lloyd was still bowling a bit in those days and came up with a few fine spells. But it was in the final that the skipper was at his best with the bat.

He came in with his side in trouble at 50 for three, and played a glorious innings. He added a record 149 for the fourth wicket with 40-year-old veteran Rohan Kanhai. His hundred came off 82 balls, the quickest in the World Cup until Canada's John Davison eclipsed it with a 67-ball century in 2003.

Lloyd was dismissed for 102, having faced 85 balls and hit 2 sixes and 12 fours. He guided his team to an exciting 17-run win against a fighting Australian side on one of the longest days in the game. It was Lloyd’s finest hour, as he lifted the trophy and pocketed the man-of-the-match award.

In 1979 Lloyd’s team was unstoppable. They won all their matches with ease, the only frustration being the washed out game with Sri Lanka at The Oval. Lloyd scored a brilliant 73 not out off 80 deliveries against New Zealand, bagging the prize for the man-of-the-match.

The final against England was hopelessly one-sided as the explosive batting of Collis King and Vivian Richards, and devastating fast bowling of Joel Garner, Colin Croft and Michael Holding, completely annihilated the hosts. Lloyd accepted the silver trophy for the second time. The West Indies had not lost a single match through two World Cup campaigns.

Australians are known to shower encomiums grudgingly, and Neil Harvey noted: "Clive Lloyd's West Indians would have given Bradman's 1948 'Unbeatables' a real run for their money. We'd have won, but only just." He was talking of Test cricket, of course, but Lloyd's men were one-day kings as well.

The first setback for Lloyd and his team came in the opening fixture against India in 1983. Their pride badly hurt, the champions come back with a vengeance and won their next six matches with ease.

Lloyd’s contribution with the bat was minimal. His best was 41 off 42 balls as the West Indies set about correcting the equation in the return match against India. He put on 80 for the third wicket with Richards, raising the platform for an easy win.

Lloyd’s team continued to dominate and stormed into the final. Every punter, critic and fan predicted an easy win for the mighty West Indians, ignoring Australian captain Kim Hughes’ prophetic words at the start of the tournament marking out India as the dark horses.

The West Indians themselves were supremely confident. The spearhead Malcolm Marshall, who had emerged as the most fearsome fast bowler of those heady times, had even ordered a BMW sports car that he was sure he would pay for out of his winnings.

What happened on that day at Lord’s repeatedly brought to everyone’s mind the clichéd glorious uncertainties of cricket. It was a beaming Kapil Dev holding aloft the Prudential World Cup, accompanied by the unusual sight of a dejected Lloyd in the background. Marshall could not take delivery of the beauty on wheels.

That is not how the world of cricket will remember Lloyd though. His name is synonymous with triumph, and his blade, cutting though the air in a huge arc, one of the most punishing in the game. A strike-rate of 84.88 runs per 100 balls in the World Cup, awesome for his times, only emphasizes his savage power.

Lloyd was never the archetypal successful captain, who is prone to making his presence felt by bellowing out commands at every conceivable opportunity. He was more a phlegmatic elder statesman who was able to extract the best out of his brilliant team.

Nobody can argue against Lloyd’s record. He perfected the strategy of a four-pronged pace attack, although it must be said he could do so because he had at his disposal a tremendous array of high-class fast bowlers.

The full significance of Lloyd’s contribution can be gauged from the fact that after his retirement the West Indies failed to make it to the semi-finals in the next two World Cups in 1987 and 1992, barely managed to do so in 1996, cut a sorry figure in 1999 and 2003, were hardly a force at home in 2007, and advanced only as far as the quarter-finals in 2011 and 2015. The middle-order too became fragile, heavily dependent on Richards and sorely missing the reliability of Lloyd.

Lloyd was the link between two great West Indian teams - Gary Sobers’ side of the 60s and his own brilliant outfit of the 70s and 80s. In the World Cup his record as captain has been bettered only by Ricky Ponting.

Just as his battery of pacers had to share the spoils, Lloyd’s opportunities as a batsman were limited in a highly distinguished line-up and more particularly with the great Richards often taking upon himself the task of finishing matters off his own bat. Yet Lloyd’s stupendous century in the 1975 final will be etched in memory forever.

Clive Lloyd’s World Cup batting and fielding record:

Matches 17, Highest Score 102, Runs 393, Average 43.66, Strike-rate 84.88, Catches 12

Also read - Most hat-tricks in World Cup

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