They used to be invincible in the 1970s and early 1980s whether they played at home or abroad. They had the best players in the world including Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Viv Richards (who was voted the greatest-ever ODI player in a recent poll conducted by an eminent cricket news organisation), Desmond Haynes, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, and Joel Garner. Beating them was the dream of every captain of all other Test-playing nations.
They remained a strong force in late 1980s when they had the services also of Jeff Dujon, Richie Richardson and Malcolm Marshall (who was named in Cricinfo’s all-time world Test XI).
How dominant they were in those years can be gauged by a look at the results of their series against England in 1976. West Indies thrashed England 3-0 in a five-match Test series. And the series was played in England.
The first and the second Tests ended without results, but West Indies hammered England by 425 runs at Old Trafford in the third; by 55 runs at Leeds in the fourth; and by 231 runs at Oval in the fifth.
This result was achieved although England had such stars as Derek Underwood, Dennis Amiss, Tony Greig, Allan Knott (the greatest wicketkeeper batsman of his time), John Edrich, John Snow (whom our dear Imran Khan used to admire a lot), and Bob Willis (one of the best fast bowlers in 1970s).
But higher achievements were yet to come. They thrashed England 5-0 in England in 1984. They humiliated them again in 1985-86, winning their home series by 5-0.
In these series, England had the services of Graham Gooch, David Gower, Mike Gatting, Ian Botham, and Allan Lamb, who were all without a doubt among the finest players in the world then.
The only time England beat West Indies at the latter’s home was in 2003-04 when the English hammered West Indies 3-0 in a four-match series.
But the English side then had a highly potent bowling attack with Steve Harmison, Mathew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff -- the three took nearly 700 wickets in Tests.
They had a formidable batting line up comprising Marcus Trescothic, Michael Vaughan, Mark Butcher, Nasser Hussain, Graham Thorpe -- none of these played less than 70 Tests. This English side was perhaps the best that England have produced in 40 years or so.
But the team that beat West Indies in St George’s, Granada, in the second Test of the ongoing series has only a few big names -- Alastair Cook, Ian Bell in batting, and James Anderson and Stuart Broad in bowling.
The rest of the team is quite inexperienced with such youngsters as Gary Balance, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, and Chris Jordan.
So it has been a steep downward journey for the West Indies. From being unbeatable in the 1970s and 1980s they so fell in standards as to lose at home against an English side that was one of the greatest in history. But now they have fallen to new lows. They have lost to a side that failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup 2015.
Looking at this result, one can now believe the reports that the youngsters in the West Indies are opting for other sports now such as athletics.
When West Indies won the World T20 in 2012 people expected them to rise again. "Asking them to regain the heights of the 1980s would be too much, but they can still be a force in international competition," said Ed Smith after they lifted the trophy under the leadership of Darren Sammy. But his optimism, shared by many other cricket buffs around the world, has been proved to be ill founded. The West Indians have failed to meet expectations. So disappointing it is!