BestXI: Building an all-time West Indies Championship – Leeward Islands

By April 25, 2020
From left: Viv Richards, Eldine Baptiste, Curtly Ambrose, Andy Roberts, and Kenny Benjamin From left: Viv Richards, Eldine Baptiste, Curtly Ambrose, Andy Roberts, and Kenny Benjamin

Here’s how it’s going to go.

With the Coronavirus killing sports, everybody has been in a nostalgic mood. We remember fondly, the greatest sporting moments in our rich Caribbean history and sometimes turn our eyes to the rest of the world for that instance when we felt unbridled jubilation or shock and awe at a performance.

Here at SportsMax it has been no different and after the early end to the West Indies Championship, we had vigorous debates about which region had, collectively, produced the best cricket team.

Out of that ‘conversation’, if you can indeed call it that, we wondered if you selected the best playing XI of all time from each regional team, who would win.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking to build a BestXI from each regional team. At the end of coming to a consensus about what those BestXIs would like, we will pit them against each other, just for laughs.

Let’s begin with the Leeward Islands, a region known for producing tremendous cricketers, who have made themselves an integral cog in the West Indies machinery. We figured that for each region, we would pick six batsmen, a wicketkeeper and four bowlers.

 

Leeward Islands BestXI

 

Stuart Williams (St Kitts & Nevis)

Stuart Williams was the heir apparent to Desmond Haynes in the West Indies setup but his cavalier way of batting proved his undoing at the highest level. But in first-class cricket, his strokeplay and appetite for runs made him dangerous. He would end his career with 26 first-class centuries and 36 half-centuries to his name from his 151 matches for the Leeward Islands.

 

Kieran Powell (St Kitts & Nevis)

Kieran Powell is a tall elegant left-hander, who now captains the Leeward Islands. He is graceful timer of the ball but you have to watch out for the power that underlines that grace. His 31 average is lower than his talent suggests but his seven centuries and 37 half-centuries mean you never know when he will come off and opposing bowlers will be in trouble.

Richie Richardson (Antigua)

Richie Richardson captained the West Indies as replacement for Viv Richardson, guiding a new set of stars. He did the same for the Leeward Islands, leading from the front just as Viv did before him. Richardson would play 234 first-class matches in which he scored 14,618 runs. Those runs included 37 centuries, 68 half-centuries at an average of 40.71.

Viv Richards (Antigua)

Sir Vivian Richards achievements on the international stage have been given their due and he is undoubtedly the best player to ever come from the Leeward Islands. The Antigua native captained the West Indies with the same confidence and swagger with which he led the Leeward Islands. During his first-class career, Sir Viv was a beast, scoring a mammoth 36 thousand plus runs inclusive of 114 centuries and 162 half-centuries. His average of 49.40 when you consider he played 507 first-class matches is nothing to scoff at either. Interestingly, he also took 223 first-class wickets.

Keith Arthurton (St Kitts & Nevis)

Keith Arthurton was a stylish left-hander whose flair made even the smallest total an attractive thing to watch him compile. His talent did not manifest itself at the Test level but as a first-class batsman he was devastating. Averaging 45.29, his 129 matches cost his opponents 7,926 runs, inclusive of 19 centuries and 47 half-centuries.

Runako Morton (St Kitts & Nevis)

Runako Morton died in a car crash at just 33 years old. By that time, his relationship with the West Indies side had spanned eight years even though he never did command a consistent place in the regional unit. Still, he was a mainstay for the Leeward Islands, playing 95 matches and accumulating 5,980 runs along the way. He scored 14 centuries and 37 half-centuries.

Ridley Jacobs (Antigua)

Ridley Jacobs was an unorthodox wicketkeeper but there weren’t many who were safer. He was also an obstinate batsman, who made sure every innings at whatever level he played, would be prolonged for that much longer. On the way to ensuring he does that, Ridley managed to score 7,518 runs in the 157 first-class matches he played. Included in those runs were 17 centuries and 40 half-centuries at an average of 38.75. Ridley was the man you wanted in your corner in a dogfight and according to his results, he usually won.

 

Andy Roberts (Antigua)

Andy Roberts needs no introduction to this list and, like Viv Richards is an automatic pic after his exploits with the West Indies put him in the category as one of the greatest fastbowlers of all time. Roberts, ended his first-class career after 228 matches, taking an incredible 889 wickets at an average of 21.01.

Eldine Baptiste (Antigua)

From a region of incredible fast bowlers, Eldine Baptiste is perhaps unlucky not to have played more Test cricket but he was a giant of first-class cricket in the region, taking 723 wickets in 245 matches at an average of 24.65. His best bowling figures of 8-76, while special, shows the consistency of effort from a man who has taken five wickets or more in an innings on 32 occasions. He has also taken 10 wickets in a match four times.

Kenny Benjamin (Antigua)

Antiguan-born Kenny Benjamin formed an important partnership with Winston Benjamin in the early 1990s for the West Indies. The two served as backups to Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose and helped to keep the legend of dangerous four-pronged pace attacks from the region alive until the West Indies were overtaken as kings of cricket in 1995 by Australia. Benjamin got his chance with the West Indies because he was impressive for the Leewards, even more so than his impressive namesake, Winston. In just 108 matches, Benjamin took 403 wickets at an average of 23.71, grabbing five-wicket hauls in an innings on 18 occasions. He also grabbed 10 in a game twice.

Curtly Ambrose (Antigua)

Curtly Ambrose is arguably the greatest first-class bowler the West Indies region has ever seen. His well-known accomplishments at the Test level aside, Ambrose was a giant. In just 239 first-class matches the Antiguan bagged 941 wickets, taking five-wicket hauls on 50 occasions and 10-wicket hauls in a match on eight.

Paul-Andre Walker

Paul-Andre is the Managing Editor at SportsMax.tv. He comes to the role with almost 20 years of experience as journalist. That experience includes all facets of media. He began as a sports Journalist in 2001, quickly moving into radio, where he was an editor before becoming a news editor and then an entertainment editor with one of the biggest media houses in the Caribbean.

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