Sir Clive Lloyd is 76 next month but still speaks with the authority and passion of a man who once led arguably the greatest team in the history of sport.
Old emotions are stirring, old juices flowing: West Indies are in town. And if those words don’t strike quite the same fear into English hearts as they did when Lloyd was leading them to a 5-0 win here in 1984, he is adamant Jason Holder’s side can at least set tongues wagging in the weeks ahead.
Lloyd has always been wary of casting a shadow over the latest generation of Caribbean cricketers, though he must know that comparisons are inevitable.
Sir Clive Lloyd (above) captained West Indies to two World Cups and 36 Test wins
After all, he captained West Indies to two World Cups and 36 Test wins, losing only 12 – five alone during a mauling by Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in 1975-76 which persuaded him Test matches were best won by fast bowlers and hardened, professional batsmen.
The consequences for everyone else were alarming: between 1980 and 1995, West Indies – led first by Lloyd, then Viv Richards, – did not lose a series. They were not so much a team as a dynasty. Now, ahead of their three behind-closed-doors Tests against England, Lloyd has issued the kind of rallying cry you suspect he rarely had to employ in his playing days.
‘These guys have the chance to move from p.m. to a.m. and the dawn of a new era,’ he tells Sportsmail.
‘They should forget what we did and create a new scenario. They played well at Leeds last time and they can take that as a starting point. No one gave them a chance in that game. Then they beat England in the Caribbean. Again, no one gave them a chance.’
Lloyd has been wary of casting a shadow over the latest generation of Caribbean cricketers
Can they become the first West Indies team to win a Test series in this country since Richards’ side triumphed 4-0 in 1988, England shambolically getting through four captains in five games?
‘That has to be their thinking,’ says Lloyd. ‘They have hold of the Wisden Trophy. It’s not going to be easy but anything that comes easy in life is not worth having.
‘You’ve got to not worry about negative vibes from others. Don’t let them define you.’ Speaking from his home in Kensal Rise, north London, Lloyd says he rates Holder – ‘an intelligent young man, very bright’ – but says it was an error to lumber him with the captaincy in all three formats. That was rectified last September when Kieron Pollard became West Indies’ white-ball captain, but mistakes are a theme that troubles Lloyd.
Take Shai Hope, who sealed that Leeds win three years ago with memorable twin centuries.
They remain the only hundreds of his 31-Test career and Lloyd thinks he knows why, saying: ‘They made a mistake playing him in T20 cricket. He’s a good player, with a good cover drive. But he lost that by playing T20. Now he’s got to work his way back. You can’t score two hundreds in a Test match without being able to bat or concentrate.
Lloyd says it was an error to lumber Jason Holder with the captaincy in all three formats
‘The biggest challenge for this team is batting and concentration. Most young players think they have to play flamboyant shots to get a deal in the IPL or the CPL or the Big Bash. But for some it can spoil their cricket.’
Lloyd’s concern about the batting is well-founded. Since making 354 against Bangladesh in Jamaica two years ago, West Indies haven’t reached 300 in 16 of their 19 completed Test innings.
It is why the absence of Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer – who, along with fast bowler Keemo Paul, opted out of the trip because of the coronavirus – feels all the more acute.
‘It’s a bit disappointing that some of the guys who have the talent didn’t accept this tour,’ says Lloyd. ‘I can understand their reasoning but 20-odd other players have come here and the ECB have done everything to see that people are secure. If other guys do well on this trip, it may be very difficult to come back in.
‘These guys need a tour of this nature. These are conditions you don’t experience every day. It can give you that little bit extra.
West Indies will seek to win a Test series in this country for the first time since 1988
‘Playing here for Lancashire helped me tremendously. Guys like Viv, too. All the fast bowlers: Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Andy Roberts, Curtly Ambrose. They all learned a lot.
‘The only drawback has been not playing against a county team. England is a testing place for mental skills and the ability to handle situations.’
Lloyd admires the hard-working opener Kraigg Brathwaite, whose contribution to the Headingley win in 2017 – innings of 134 and 95 – is easily forgotten. ‘He’s like my old Lancashire team-mate Harry Pilling. Not bothered with how he looks. At times in England, you have to bat ugly.’
And he is excited by the promise of uncapped 22-year-old Barbadian fast bowler Chemar Holder, whose 76 first-class wickets have cost just 24 apiece, as well as batsman Shamarh Brooks and reserve keeper Joshua Da Silva.
Above all, he is an unstinting advocate of Test cricket and a critic of what he sees as the game’s economic imbalances.
‘The ICC shouldn’t be giving four countries lots of money and the rest a small amount,’ he says. ‘Bangladesh and the teams below should be getting the same amount as the others.’
But you sense much would be forgiven if West Indies can beat England. ‘It would be massive for our cricket and the West Indian diaspora,’ says Lloyd. ‘It would give us a lot more strength, because players would then want to be part of our wonderful team.
‘Back when we were winning, people wanted to join the team and be part of the winning combination. Now they have a chance to give the West Indies a lift again. The ball is in their court.’