Clive Lloyd
Clive Lloyd, legendary West Indies captain, has donned many hats for his country's cricket. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Clive Lloyd is someone who can be quite economic with his words of praise for a cricketer. When the legendary West Indies captain batted for Steve Smith’s heroics which saw Australia miraculously winning the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston on Monday, it was a significant endorsement for the former Australian captain’s character.

“I don’t know why they still boo him. He made a mistake and has come back wiser,” said the ‘Super Cat,’ a nickname which Lloyd carries as a legacy from his playing days. “The T20 cricket, which brings in the crowds, is an exhibition while Tests are an examination where all your skills are tested. This guy (Smith) has shown he can play both,” said the leader of the invincible West Indies team of the Seventies till mid ‘80s.

Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interview while on a stopover at Dubai, Lloyd showered praise on the comeback man. “I thought he was a good captain too, I like his determination. I have met him so many times and I admire him as a cricketer and person … he really loves the game,” he said.

Australia's Steve Smith
Reuters Image Credit: Australia's Steve Smith celebrates his back-to-back century against England in first Ashes Test at Edgbaston on Sunday.

Asked if he felt the gritty Australian would be back in the race to be among the world’s top batsmen, Lloyd felt there were quite a few contenders for the top spots — without any bias on any one of them in particular. “There is of course Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, while from England it has to be Joe Root. From West Indies, Shai Hope will be a very good cricketer,” he said.

Ajinkya Rahane

There was a major surprise in store when he rated a “short guy” from India — yes, Ajinkya Rahane — whom he considered to be a very good player. “I think India should have had him in the middle order during the World Cup, but they were finding it difficult to decide on candidates for Tests and white ball cricket. In my opinion, you need a stayer like we had Larry Gomes during our time. You can’t hope the top guns to fire all the time and that’s where a player like him would have come in handy.”

The conversation naturally gravitated towards the current West Indies lot, who are engaged at the moment in a bilateral series with the touring Indian team. The maroon shirts may have flattered to deceive in the recent ICC World Cup — where they were considered as the dark horses — but they started the year with a sensational Test series win against England at home.

The future of Caribbean cricket, as expected, is dear to Lloyd’s heart like nothing else and the 74-year-old is not satisfied with the strong performances only in fits and starts. “We have a good Test side if we have the right people,” he said as he betrayed disappointment at the cricket establishment there not being able to summon the best of talent who are mostly busy playing the franchise leagues around the world.

“My concern is that we are losing too many cricketers too quickly — we just have five million people. If India lose five players, they will make up in no time from the huge pool they have while it’s the same thing with Australia or England. It’s time the West Indies board follows the pattern of New Zealand — where you can go to play wherever you like but you have to come back whenever there are national commitments,” Lloyd, who has worn numerous hats in the West Indies board, said.

The legend is also far from happy that India and the West Indies will be playing only two Tests in the ongoing series. “It’s neither here nor there, you should at least play three Tests or five,” said Lloyd, who nevertheless welcomed the idea of the cycle of World Test Championship. Agreeing to his close friend and cricket enthusiast Shyam Bhatia, present during the interview, Lloyd said: “I thought we should have had it before. If you want to promote Tests, invest more money into it. If there are eight or nine Test playing countries, the ICC should give them equal money and then give them some more according to their rankings. It doesn’t work if you just take care of the top three countries.”

Lloyd’s recipe for World Cup

The format of the 10-team ICC World Cup may have been a hit in England, but Clive Lloyd feels it has shut the doors on the Associate member nations.

“Imagine, a country like Ireland has qualified to play Tests which is supposedly a higher level of the game, but they have to qualify to play the World Cup. It’s not fair as we need to bring in more countries playing the game,” the former West Indian great said.

Asked what potential format which may work better, Lloyd said the International Cricket Council (ICC) can add two more teams and divide them into two groups. “One can have teams qualifying from the groups for quarter finals and semis and if any side picks up momentum late, they can still win the World Cup,” he said during an interview with Gulf News.

Lloyd implored the ICC to take the cue from Fifa who have expanded their field of the football World Cup over the years. “We have to eventually globalise the game. I would even recommend a cricket World Cup in the US — it’s easy to reach there and you can host the event across something like six venues,” he added.