"Eden Gardens holds special memories for me": Clive Lloyd
‘Big Cat’ feels losing talents to T20 system is hurting West Indies cricket
The City of Joy has had an enduring romance with the West Indies when it comes to cricket — and Clive Lloyd is well aware of it.
The ‘Big Cat’, who was at the helm of an all-conquering team in the ‘70s and ‘80s and led them to back-to-back World Cup wins, admitted it was one of the factors which made him agree to an invitation to visit Kolkata after eight years.
The last time he set foot at the Eden Gardens was in 2016 for the T20 World Cup final, a visit made more memorable when Carlos Brathwaite launched a famous last-over assault to steer the West Indies their second World T20 crown. ‘’It was a memorable visit but my association with this city goes further back in time. I made my Test debut here and scored one of my best centuries—a 161 not out (off 290 balls) to a winning cause in 1983,’’ Lloyd said on the sidelines of one of his programmes during a whistle-stop visit to the city.
‘’It’s a great sporting city and from what I remember, it’s known for its football as well," the 79-year-old recalled. "While our Test matches always attracted a sell-out crowd, when we were leaving the stadium after the day’s play, there would still be about 40,000 people waiting around the team bus."
Not all of Lloyd's visits to Kolkata ended on a happy note though.
Back in 1996, the World Cup semi-final between India and Sri Lanka was brought to a grinding halt due to a major crowd disturbance when the Indian chase started floundering after a decent start. Lloyd, then in his avatar as the ICC match referee, played the role of adjudicator without a bias, had awarded the match to Arjuna Ranatunga’s men on that occasion.
The current state of West Indies cricket—the team failed to qualify for the last 50-overs World Cup in India—hurt Lloyd like it surely must anyone of his calibre and with his history.
‘’There is no doubt that the T20 system is hampering us,’’ says Lloyd, who believes that it is Test cricket which calls for an examination of a player’s character, while the T20 format is more of an exhibition.
‘’If we groom 30 boys, we lose 15 of them to T20 and it takes time to develop them again. No, I am not blaming the franchise leagues or IPL as it has given people a good living. However, we don’t have the reserves of talent like, say, India — who can set up three teams simultaneously,’’ he said.
As a parting shot, Lloyd had a word of praise for the transformation in Indian cricket since our 1983 World Cup win:
"That win had given [India's] limited overs cricket a big boost. Unlike in the past, they now have a good pace attack and wear a far more balanced look,’’ said Lloyd, who was a surprise guest of honour at the 60th year celebrations of Satgachhia High School in Kalna, Burdwan, on Friday, 12 January.