World Cup 1979: If The Team To Beat, Remained Unbeaten > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - World Cup 1979: When the team to beat remained unbeaten
In the build-up to the 2019 World Cup, Cricbuzz is publishing an eleven-part series to reminisce every bygone edition. The first instalment harked back to the first ever World Cup in 1975. In this second instalment, Andy Roberts and Deryck Murray talk about how West Indies stayed true to their favourites tag in 1979 and defended the title.
By 1979, there was a sense of inevitability to the West Indians' indomitability. They weren't just world champions but possessed the best players of their generation across all positions, from Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge at the top to Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd in the middle, and of course the four pacemen of the apocalypse. They were the team to beat, but not many opposition teams were queuing up to try their luck doing so.
Deryck Murray: We did understand why we were favourites. That brings its own pressure. It meant that we had to produce that level of performance all the time. Again it was still relatively early in World Cup history. Still only eight teams and we didn't want to leave things to net run-rate, etc. It was up to us to win every league game, and then win the semis and the final. That's the attitude we went out with each time.
Andy Roberts: We knew that as long as we perform to the best of our abilities, nobody can beat us. Now the emphasis is all on batting unlike back then. It can get a little boring now unlike back then, what with 350 being the average total. We had a bowling attack that could win matches on our own.
Setting a template for what was to come over the next decade, and true to Murray's words, the West Indians roughed up India in the opening game before seeing off New Zealand by 32 runs - their smallest margin of victory. The game against Sri Lanka, thankfully for the Asian team, was washed out. Garner and Croft, who'd debuted two years prior, were now established members of the four-prong demolition army.
Roberts: As great a fast bowler as Malcolm Marshall turned out to be, there is no comparison to that original quartet. That's because each of us presented something different. Joel Garner presented the height, Michael Holding presented the smoothness and the pace, Colin Croft presented the angle from which he bowled and I presented the variation because when that four-prong started, I wasn't bowling as fast as I was when I went to India in 1974. I added more variations.
Meanwhile, in the other group, England and Pakistan had held sway over an Australian squad weakened by the World Series exodus. And when they faced each other in a somewhat inconsequential league encounter at Leeds, their only motive, as captain Asif Iqbal would put it, was to try and avoid facing the West Indians in the semifinals. The defending champions weren't taking it completely for granted though.
Murray: One of the good things in being in a tournament like that was that we were all together even the day after the match. It wasn't just a practice day but we could sit and talk. Not only in a euphoric way that we'd won a game but about the why and how we got into a tricky situation and who should bowl and field where if ever we were in the same position.
Roberts: Now there's so much talk about rest. Back then we went from county cricket to Test cricket and then back to county cricket. And we practised a lot between matches, bowling a lot in the nets. People wonder why fast bowlers are breaking down so much these days. That's happening because of lack of work. How can you only bowl four overs in the nets but then be expected to bowl 25 overs in a Test match innings or even 10 during an ODI.
Iqbal's fears came true as Pakistan ended up coming up against the rampaging men from the Caribbean at The Oval. To their credit, they ended up providing Lloyd & Co with the only "tight game" as both Roberts and Murray recall even if the numbers suggest a rather straightforward win - Pakistan lost their last 9 wickets for 74 after threatening to come close to the target of 294. It was then England's turn to face their demons in the final. With West Indies 99/4, maybe even the most cynical of English fans might have sensed a miracle. But England's biggest scourge, Viv Richards, thought otherwise and Collis King was about to have his finest hour.
Murray: Many people say Collis making 80 was a greater contribution to our success than Viv making 138. It might not add in terms of statistics. It wasn't difficult for the adjudicators to give Viv the MoM. But, especially for us, we can't commend Collis highly enough for that innings.
Roberts: Viv's knock was a very mature innings. When Collis King got going, he never tried to match him shot for shot. Collis was going so he just played his part and gave Collis his leeway. That's what you call maturity. He wasn't like some star batsmen who would have wanted to dominate themselves.
Not many expected the hosts to put forth a real challenge to the target of 287-which required them to score at nearly 4.8 an over. Geoff Boycott and Mike Brearley decided to lay the foundation in their own fashion batting 38 overs to put on 129 at 3.39. And for a bowling attack renowned for blowing away all comers, it's almost surprising to hear Roberts recall the strategy he'd discussed with his colleagues.
Roberts: In ODI cricket now, everyone's talking about taking wickets. But we didn't always want wickets. Our objective was to not let you score runs. It's not about how much runs you make but how much your opposition makes. You could score 400/2 and my team could make 401/9, I still win. Back then, if someone was not scoring, we wouldn't try to get him out. Now the emphasis is always on wickets. Why do you want Graham Gooch come in and get the ball away when Boycott and Brearley weren't getting the ball away. Common sense don't go anywhere in cricket anymore.
(Roberts's economy rate of 3.24 remains the best among all bowlers in the eleven editions of the World Cup so far)
I remember Brearley lobbed a ball in the direction of Clive at square-leg, I shouted from mid-on to Clive to "drop it, drop it" and he dropped it.
The West Indians stuck to their defensive strategy even once the openers were dismissed, and Gooch recently recalled seeing eight fielders manning the boundary as England looked to keep up with the required run-rate of over eight an over.
Murray: We had to fall back on Plan B both while batting and bowling. When we weren't getting wickets, we tried to ensure that we starve England of runs and therefore put pressure on them. And in the end we were able to bowl them out when they tried to pick up the pace.
England lost their last eight wickets for 11 runs, the second worst collapse for the last eight wickets in ODI history as it turns out, as Garner yorked them into submission. West Indies were world champions yet again and it would take an unfancied India to stop their rampaging run four years later.
Roberts: Towards the end of 1979 and the start of 1980, we did feel like true world champions, when we beat Australia in their den in Test cricket. Then, we had beaten everyone in the world.
Murray: All I can say is I never ever lost a World cup game, and nobody can take that away from me.
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