Sat | Dec 10, 2016

The best versus the best

Published:Tuesday | December 16, 2014 | 12:00 AMTony Becca
WICB Media photo West Indies fast bowler Jerome Taylor gets some help from team physiotherapist CJ Clark during the West Indies training session at SuperSport Park, South Africa yesterday.
WICB Media photo West Indies players Chadwick Walton (left) and Jermaine Blackwood during a West Indies training session at SuperSport Park in South Africa yesterday.
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When the first Test between South Africa and the West Indies begins tomorrow morning, it is expected to be a one-sided affair, a contest between the number one and the number eight, a no-contest, or better still, a contest between David and Goliath.

To many people, the only chance the West Indies have of winning the match, or the series, is not only if Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels really score a lot of runs, but if the batsmen, led by youngsters Kraigg Brathwaithe and Jerome Blackwood, can miraculously defy Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel; and if their bowlers, led by youngsters, Jason Holder and Sheldon Cottrell, find a sling-shot, do a David, and produce a few accurate and deadly shots.

The South Africa team, including the likes of batsmen Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, and Faf du Plesis, and bowlers Robin Petersen, Morkel, and Steyn seems awesome and too much for the West Indies, especially for a West Indies missing Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, and Sunil Narine.

On top of that, out of three series in South Africa, the count is an emphatic South Africa 12 wins and the West Indies one.

There was a time, however, in the age of Apartheid, when the two teams were good, really good, and people wanted to see them battling each other.

They never met.

Those were the days when South Africa, the land of Apartheid, played only England, Australia, and New Zealand, and the West Indies played every team, with the exception of South Africa.

It was a pity.

Both teams were probably at their best in those days. Both teams had victories over Australia at the time, and the world wanted to see a battle between the two, probably on a neutral ground, a showdown for the unofficial title as world champions.

The South African team would have included Eddie Barlow, Barry Richards, Ali Bacher, Graeme Pollock, Colin Bland, Trevor Goddard, Bruce Irvine, Denis Lindsay, Mike Procter, and Peter Pollock, with Barlow, Richards, and Graeme Pollock rated among the best batsmen of the day; Bland, one of the best fielders of all time; Lindsay, a top class wicketkeeper; and Proctor and Peter Pollock, two very good fast bowlers.

The West Indian team would have included Conrad Hunte, Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Gary Sobers, Seymour Nurse, Jackie Hendriks, Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, and Lance Gibbs, with Hunte, Kanhai, Sobers, Hall, Griffith, and Gibbs in a Rest of the World X1 against England in the summer of 1966, and Hendriks probably the best wicketkeeper of his day.

THE UNPLAYED GAME

It was a match that should have been played - deserved to have been played - but was never played.

There was one match, however, which many fans, in their wildest imagination, spent time wondering what if as they ponder that same South Africa, of the 1960s, up against the West Indies team of the 1980s.

That match would have brought together the South African team, which beat Australia 4-0 in 1969-70, after the Aussies defeated the West Indies 3-1 in the previous season and the world champions, West Indies.

That South Africa team would have remained basically unchanged while the West Indies team would be Gordon Greenidge, Roy Fredericks or Desmond Haynes, Lawrence Rowe, Viv Richards, Alvin Kallicharran, Clive Lloyd, Deryck Murray, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, and Colin Croft.

What a match the first one would have been, and what a match the second one could have been. Although one would have been real and one would only have been contested in the imagination, they both promised to have been thrillers, probably cricket's best.