Grovel! By David Tossell
Release date: 30th April, 2007
Publisher: Know the Score Books Ltd
Our Price: £12.53
You Save: £6.46 (34%)
With possible record temperatures predicted this summer, it may prove opportune for those of a certain age to cast their minds back thirty years to what remains the hottest summer on record. 1976 was the year of parched lawns and hosepipe bans, although global warming, was not an "issue". It was also the summer when the West Indies began their domination of international cricket, a hegemony that was to last the best part of two decades.
The stage was set for this fascinating Test series by events over the previous 18 months and by what at the time was expected to be a routine pre-series interview on the BBC's hugely popular midweek 'Sportsnight' programme.
Despite winning the first World Cup in 1975, the West Indies had endured Test humiliation in Australia a few months earlier and had been matched by the Indian team just before their arrival in England. When the England captain, Tony Greig, a South African by birth, alluded to perceived mental frailties in the West Indian cricketers' psyche and then concluded his television interview by declaring his intention to make them "grovel", it was like a red rag to a bull for emerging players like Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Michael Holding and Andy Roberts.
Greig (who also writes the foreword), together with Richards, Greenidge, Holding and Roberts, as well as skipper Clive Lloyd, the late Bob Woolmer and David Steele, are among a large cast of characters who spoke to David Tossell for this wonderful ride through the long hot summer of 1976.
He brings one of the twentieth century's most memorable years to life and reveals how the West Indies chose to operate with a battery of intimidating fast bowlers in their search for success. It was a tactic which almost every nation tried to copy until the emergence of Shane Warne and was directly responsible for cricketers at every level of the game dispensing with traditional county or international caps in favour of body armour and reinforced helmets
One of the most potent memories is of cricket grounds crammed with West Indian supporters banging drums and tin cans. The whole series was played out to a cacophony of background noise and colour, yet it also planted the seeds for what is now seen as a sad decline in West Indies cricket.
The over-reliance on intimidatory bowling, which reached its nadir in an X-rated hour at Old Trafford at the height of summer, bred rumblings of discontent amongst officialdom. One of the book's best photographs depicts a helmet-less Brian Close taking evasive action as another ferocious missile from Michael Holding fires down the wicket in the evening gloom.
Ironically, while the West Indian tactics proved inspirational for their supporters over the following twenty years, Caribbean cricket was largely neglected. Over the ensuing years, an increasing number of young West Indians aligned themselves with the USA and their sporting culture, preferring baseball and American Football to cricket.
The World Cup in the West Indies has seen a welcome injection of much-needed finance to its indigenous cricket structure, but the half-empty grounds tell their own story. In England, too, when the West Indies arrive next month, we are unlikely to see the multitude of smiling black faces and their tin cans as we saw in 1976. Was it really 30 years ago? David
Tossell's book makes the reader feel like it was yesterday.
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