Dubai: It was at a pub in Melbourne in 1976 that Clive Lloyd, the ‘Super Cat’ of West Indies cricket, hatched the blueprint for the success of his team that rode on his vision to dominate world cricket like no other side in history for the next 15 years. This may sound incredulous, but it comes from Dr Rudi Webster, the respected sports psychiatrist who was one of the closest friends of Lloyd and worked with the side for years — apart from being manager of the West Indies team in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket.
The news of Lloyd’s knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in the 2020 New Year Honours list, was greeted with a great degree of surprise by the man himself. “I was told it was due to happen in 1985 but I was not a citizen of the UK,” Sir Clive told the media and added: “But better late than never, as they say.”
The likes of Frank Worrell, Gary Sobers and Wesley Hall were the ones before him who received the honour for their ‘services to the game of cricket’ — and Dr Webster feels Lloyd’s biggest service lay in galvanising a “diverse collection of talented individuals who lacked direction, focus, discipline and common purpose and transformed them into an extremely disciplined, highly motivated and all-conquering unit that dominated world cricket for 15 consecutive years”.
In an email interview to Gulf News, Dr Webster recalled that a few days after a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Australia, he and Lloyd had stepped into a pub to drown their sorrows. “I asked him two questions about the West Indies cricket: “Who are we and what do we want; where are we now and where do we want to go?
“After a few pints, Clive’s creative instincts took over and he started to tell me about his agenda for change. He showed me his vision for the team — the best team in the world for the next 10 years — and he explained his strategic plan for making that vision a reality. He told me that he would search the Caribbean for players with the ‘right stuff’ and would mould them into a highly motivated, disciplined and professional unit.”
“His vision was music to my ears,” Dr Webster said, adding that while Lloyd’s abilities as a batsman and supremely athletic fielder was legendary, his art of captaincy and management hasn’t often got it’s due. “There is a perception in some quarters that with the quality of batsmen and the fast bowling quartet at his disposal, Clive’s team would have run over anyone. It must be noted that in the very early stages of his captaincy, the likes of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Vivian Richards, Larry Gomes, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft and Malcolm Marshall did not have much of a reputation because they were just embarking on their Test careers. It was under Clive’s guidance and leadership they developed quickly and soon became the champions and world-beaters that we all admired.”
The exploits of Lloyd’s men made cricketing folklore, inspiring the award-winning book from the documentary: ‘Fire in Babylon: How the West Indies Cricket Team Brought a People to its Feet’ by Steven Riley. Mention the book and Lloyd would not mince his words about his reservations about it. “My issue is he did not give enough credit to our batsmen — without whom we could not have finished many of the matches,” he told Gulf News in an exclusive chat during a visit to Dubai last year.
The observation, in a way, brought back shades of Captain Clive in him — who believed in defined roles for his teammates and giving them the due. “Clive was not a flamboyant leader; he was a quiet achiever,” said Dr Webster. “Most of his players will tell you that his greatest strength was his knowledge of the players and his ability to press the right buttons to motivate them. These assets were largely responsible for his success,” said Dr Webster, who once had the likes of Sir Viv Richards, Greg Chappell and golfing great Greg Norman among his ‘patients’.
Lloyd, however, stayed away from any academic discourse on his art of captaincy — à la Mike Brearley — and relied on life lessons instead. Dr Webster summed up his philosophy aptly: “Many years ago Clive told me: “My greatest lessons in leadership came from looking after my family. My father died when I was twelve years old and I became the only breadwinner in the family. I had to look after the home, my mother and my sisters, so I was like the head of everything — the leader. I didn’t look at it as leadership then but that is what it was. Those roles and responsibilities contributed greatly to my character and personal values.
“Later on, I was able to take the family values of caring, sharing, respecting and trusting that I acquired during that time to the West Indies team. I believe that imprinting that strong sense of family in the team contributed greatly to the closeness of players in the team and to their performance on and off the field.”
Arise, Sir Clive!
Straight Test wins under Clive Lloyd
Tests for which the Caribbeans were undefeated under him
West Indies routed England, their old rivals, twice by that margin under him