When calypso was king

The West Indies used to inspire fear, awe and excitement among cricket fans

Last updated 21:43 04/12/2008

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The complete set of 1981 Benson & Hedges World Series Cup super series cricket cards don't quite have pride of place in my eight-year-old's bedroom.

In fact, a World Wrestling Entertainment Top Trumps collectors set featuring muscle-bound men with names such as John Cena, Dave Batista and Tommy Dreamer get pored over more often than the weathered cricketers of yesteryear.

But every now and then I stop the madness, set the boy's head straight with a quick tutorial on the 12 most important cards in his room: Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Derick Parry, Deryck Murray, Desmond Haynes, Joel Garner, Viv Richards, Andy Roberts, Alvin Kallicharran, Clive Lloyd, Collis King and Gordon Greenidge played in the Super Series that summer.

These are real superstars, I tell my son, not wrestlers in brightly coloured unitards.

Today's primary schoolers aren't easily sold, but as the West Indies begin their latest tour down-under today, the memory drifts back to heady days when the Caribbean's cricketers ruled the planet.

Since the Windies' acrimonious tour of New Zealand in 1979-80, they have held a fascination for those of my generation.

It was, ironically, those tourists' poor behaviour that captured our imaginations during a test series New Zealand won 1-0.

Fast bowler Michael Holding kicked the stumps out of the ground and Colin Croft elbowed umpire Fred Goodall as he ran in to bowl.

By the time New Zealand toured the West Indies in 1984-85 all was forgotten, with players like the Master Blaster, Viv Richards, held on a par with the All Blacks.

Greenidge, Haynes, Larry Gomes, Richie Richardson, Sir Viv, Gus Logie, Jeff Dujon, Malcolm Marshall, Ron Harper, Holding and Garner - 20 years on, the imperious Windies lineups of the mid-1980s still roll off the tongue.

Richards was king, the most destructive batsmen anyone had seen, or perhaps will see, in full flight.

Richardson was cooler than cool with his wide stiff-brimmed maroon hat and sunnies and the most casual style imaginable.

Even Garner's well-washed, floppy white hat seemed cool in a casual way.

Dujon's athleticism behind the wicket as he threw himself high and wide to rein in wayward bouncers; Marshall, who has since died, with his bustling run to the wicket and blistering pace; Logie under the helmet - back then you had time to watch or listen to every ball of test cricket and, when it came to the Windies, you always wanted them to win, sometimes even against New Zealand.

By the time they returned to New Zealand in 1986-87 their powers had begun to fade.

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Players like Carl Hooper, the incomparable Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh did their best to carry the flame for the Windies through the 1990s, but today they are a pale imitation of their predecessors.

The Black Caps might even stand a chance this summer.

The Windies didn't win the Super Series depicted on my cards that February - New Zealand and Australia met in the infamous underarm final in Melbourne.

It didn't matter back then that the Windies hadn't made the final. And regardless of their results this summer, to previous generations they will forever be the kings of cricket.

TOUR DETAILS

Today-Sunday: Warmup match v Auckland, Eden Park outer oval

December 11-15: First test, University Oval, Dunedin

Dec 19-23: Second test, McLean Park, Napier

Dec 26: Twenty20, Eden Park, Auckland

Dec 28: Twenty20, Seddon Park, Hamilton

Dec 31: First one-day international, Queenstown Events Centre

January 3: Second ODI, AMI Stadium, Christchurch

Jan 7: Third ODI, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Jan 10: Fourth ODI, Eden Park, Auckland

Jan 13: Fifth ODI, McLean Park, Napier

West Indies squad: Chris Gayle (c), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lionel Baker, Carlton Baugh, Sulieman Benn, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Sewnarine Chattergoon, Fidel Edwards, Leon Johnson, Xavier Marshall, Brendan Nash, Daren Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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