The “revolution”, then, is mainly a West Indian phenomenon. The change in West Indian cricket has been profound. The nature and extent of this change can be seen most easily in the success of West Indian cricket during the last five years. There has been more to this success than “brightness” and “exotic” flavour. In the first place, the West Indies has finally emerged as the leading cricket country. Ever since the tour to Australia in 1960-61 when, as Jack Fingleton says, the West Indies team won the “gold” of defeat but lost the silver of victory, the West Indies, in successively outclassing India, England and Australia, has demonstrated clearly that the potential for greatness which West Indian cricketers have always possessed in plenty but which has never been consistently realised has at last been translated into the world supremacy of the West Indies cricket team. The West Indies team has reached its pre-eminent position not because the other cricketing countries have grown weaker, but because the West Indies has become stronger. It is true that the West Indies team has managed to retain a nucleus of five or six brilliant players throughout the last five years, but the situation is no different from that of the ‘fifties. Yet no real comparison can be made between the performances of. the West Indies teams of these two periods. It would seem that in the most recent period, unlike the earlier period, the ·west Indies team bas. become stronger mainly because the. brilliant talents of the individual players are being fully exploited in the interest of the team.
Secondly, the West Indies, in the process of securing its cricket supremacy, has shown how a spectator sport in danger of death by tedium and spectators’ Jack of interest might be revitalised. The West Indian cricketers always seem aware of the responsibility of cricket and cricketers: the game exists to give pleasure and entertainment to players and spectators. Foreign commentators and spectators have been most impressed by this aspect of West Indian cricket. Johnny Moyes, an Australian commentator on the West Indies visit to Australia in 1960-61, remarked that the crowds were brought back to the Australian cricket grounds because the· West Indians played cricket both “as a game and an entertainment”; and the Australians’ tumultuous and sentimental “au revoir” to the West Indian team as it left Melbourne in 1961 was doubtless the most thunderous demand for an encore ever heard or witnessed. George Duckworth, reviewing the West Indies visit to England in 1963, declared in Wisden that the West Indians’ “sparkling batting, bowling and fielding” forced “the whole nation to follow the progress of the Tests”. Even Christine Keeler and Profumo were occasionally forgotten in that damp, gossip-laden summer when the West Indians entertained at Lords or the Oval. Alan Ross provides the most graceful comment on the impact of West Indian cricket on the English cricket public: “The West Indies were unquestionably the most entertaining side to have played in England in thirty years, and though they had, on green wickets, their weaknesses, that was at least part of their charm. They were never stingy with their gifts, they followed their individual stars, and they provided, even as they gained, enormous pleasure”. It is not surprising, therefore, that the M.C.C. should have altered its timetable of cricket tours so as to enable the English cricket public to see the West Indians again in 1966 rather than in 1970. (The only unfortunate consequence of this new arrangement is that the English spectators will see West Indians twice before the West Indian cricket public sees the English team.)
Thirdly, the achievements of the West Indies cricket team have been marked by a new mental toughness, a sense of team unity and a resilience under pressure seldom observed in the past. This new quality in the performance of the team is the most significant new departure. The West Indies has often produced brilliant individual performers like Headley, Constantine, Challenor and John, but it has never produced until now a consistently outstanding team. Even in the ‘fifties when the West Indies could call on the W’s, Stollmeyer, Ramadhin and Valentine, Christiani, Gomez and Marshall, the success of the team never came near to matching the accumulated brilliance of the individual performers. This absence of team spirit and unity has provoked much comment in the past from foreign commentators in particular who might have consciously exaggerated the defect. To them, West Indian cricketers were primarily a. variant on the Black and White Minstrels; they were a “band of entertainers”, volatile, unpredictable, excitable and exciting, almost childlike. Johnny Moyes thought that when the West Indies team arrived in Australia in 1960 it had “no idea of teamwork; no sense of cohesion”. Despite the triumphant refutation of this criticism by West Indian performance in most of the subsequent Test matches, Phil Tressider, an Australian correspondent of the Playfair Cricket Monthly, could still trot out the hoary myth for inspection at the start of the recent Test series between West Indies and Australia. He said then that the Australians’ “team spirit, resolve and competence”, might well triumph over “the most talented line-up of individuals”.
But despite the probable exaggeration in all these comments, it is fair to say that West Indian teams, until recently, were hopelessly divided mainly along social and insular lines. This partly explains the failure of the teams of the ‘fifties which contained our greatest ever galaxy of stars. Frank Worrell, the most brilliant of these, found the teams so full of “factions” that he could write of joining the “neutralist ranks” during the 1951-52 tour to Australia. (The neutralists were those who refused to offer advice to John Goddard who had profited greatly in England in 1950 from the availability of such advice.) Throughout the ‘fifties West Indian cricket suffered from inept captaincy and slipshod administration; but, in addition, discord was bred in the teams by personal and insular rivalries and loyalties and by the self-centred determination of established players to protect their reputations and positions against the claims of the younger, promising members of the teams.
But since 1960-61, West Indian teams have found a sense of purposeful unity. This is due, in part, to the shrewd and sensible leadership of Frank Worrell. Worrell had always been aware of the glaring deficiencies of the West Indian teams; and after the humiliating experiences of the 1957 tour to England, he realised that it was “clearly time for a new policy” which could exploit fully the potential of all players. His new policy, which he implemented on succeeding to the captaincy, was to give each touring player a fair opportunity to qualify for selection on the Test team; “there was no reason”, he writes, “for us to establish a first team within the team for what were considered important matches, thereby giving the less experienced players an inferiority complex”. The results of this wise decision and direction were and are dramatic. Johnny Moyes had to eat his words (and one hopes that Tressider will publicly follow suit) and he did this very cheerfully. By the time the first Test started at Brisbane, Moyes realised that there were “no divisions” in the West Indies team; “the spare parts came together to form a machine which could function efficiently under the guidance of a master mechanic.”
Events at Brisbane (1960), at Lords and the Oval (1963) and at Bridgetown (1965) point to the continuous presence of the new maturity and team spirit. In all these instances, the West Indies Test team not only recovered from apparently weak positions to draw or win, but also gained great glory for itself by the manner of recovery. In all these instances, there were brilliant individual performances, but the glory was won because the effort was as much a team effort as that of a Hall, a Kanhai, a Hunte or a Nurse. Clearly then, what was initiated with Worrell has not changed. The West Indies has won its way to cricket supremacy by a wise cultivation of the advantages of team unity. This was started with Worrell, and Sobers has already shown that he can exploit and perhaps add to the legacy of team work left him by Worrell.