THE legendary Clive Lloyd, remembered for his loping walk and his imposing presence in the middle for the West Indies, is said to have cried like a ba
by after they lost to India in the Prudential Cup final in 1983.
Those were the great days when the Windies were just invincible — and Lloyd could just not stomach the shock of losing to India.
Although no longer the unconquerable side they were, Chris Gayle — a cool and commanding opener who hardly shows emotions on the field — might still shed a tear if the West Indies were to lose to Zimbabwe in the one-day international series starting at Harare Sports Club today.
But after watching little Zimbabwe shock Australia at the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in September, at least the West Indies know what they are coming up against.
“There is talent in Zimbabwe and we have played them a couple of times,” Gayle, who is captaining West Indies on the tour, said yesterday.
“There is (Elton) Chigumbura, (Stuart) Matsikenyeri, (Hamilton) Masakadza and the other guys. They are always energetic and they can only keep on improving.
But Gayle could still prove Zimbabwe’s nemesis once again by leading from the front.
“Returning to Zimbabwe is special for me and evokes several fond memories of past success and celebrations,” Gayle said. “It was the scene of my maiden Test century in July 2001 (175 at Queen’s Sports Club) and some good one-day knocks too.
“Naturally, I would love to pick up the rich batting form which I have enjoyed over here on previous tours. However, personal exploits — while very important — will be secondary to team goals.
“I cannot stress enough that we must not take Zimbabwe for granted. They can beat the best of teams on their day and the last thing we need is to fall victim to a bad case of complacency against a talented unit which has nothing to lose in front of their home crowd.
“We have to maintain our discipline if we are to do well.”
Exactly four years ago to this day — on November 30 2003 — Gayle was named man of the match after leading West Indies to an eight-wicket win on their last visit to Harare.
Gayle followed his 4-24 at 2,40 with an unbeaten 112 off 75 balls. That his century included only two fours and no six says a lot about the left-hander’s run-making pedigree. He has 15 ODI centuries.
Tatenda Taibu, Raymond Price, Gary Brent and Vusumuzi Sibanda — the only players who have survived from that team — should have bitter memories after they let slip a 2-1 lead to lose that series 3-2.
“The last time West Indies were here we lost 3-2 when we were leading,” Zimbabwe coach Robin Brown said yesterday as he looked forward to his maiden home series with confidence.
“We can reverse that. They are young, we are young. So the best in the series should win.”
Brown vowed it was time for Zimbabwe to cut off their underachievers’ tag.
“As the coaching team and the players we are under some kind of pressure because we want to achieve,” Brown said. “The days of being just competitive have to be over.”
Zimbabwe skipper Prosper Utseya — who ironically won the captaincy on the back of his parsimony during a tour of West Indies last year — concurred with his coach.
Utseya said they were young in age but should stop using “inexperience” as an alibi for their failure.
“It’s only age but we have played a number of games. We can’t still talk about inexperience,” Utseya said.
The great Lloyd, who is back as West Indies team manager, said they expected Zimbabwe to be tough opponents.
“Zimbabwe is looking forward to getting back into Test cricket and they have been working hard and improving,” Lloyd said. “I’m sure the games here will be tough.
“It’s not a warm-up on our way to South Africa. We want to do well like in any other series.”
West Indies have won 24 of the 32 matches they have played against Zimbabwe.
The last of Zimbabwe’s seven victories against the Caribbean islanders was a 21-run success at Harare Sports Club on November 26 2003.
When they last met, during this year’s World Cup at Sabina Park on March 19, the match was closer than West Indies’ six-wicket win suggested.
Utseya said the return of fellow spinner Price — who had turned his back on national duty in 2004 — was a major boost for the Zimbabwe.
“Price is more experienced than me and if I have questions I can ask him,” Utseya said. “We can share ideas so it’s good for us to have him back.”
Utseya said he was pleased with his own batting performance, which he said had not been spurred by the return of Price in the team.
“I’ve been working hard on my batting, so it was just a matter of time,” Utseya said, referring to his maiden first-class century in South Africa last week. “If you look at our local games I have hit a couple of fifties so the runs have been coming.”
Zimbabwe can move back into the top 10 of the LG ICC ODI Championship if they beat West Indies 4-1 in the five-match series.
Currently ranked 11th, Zimbabwe are 11 points behind Ireland but all that can change with a great showing against the touring West Indies.
A clean sweep of the series would give Zimbabwe a total of 35 ratings points, leaving them seven above the Irish and with ninth-placed Bangladesh in their sights.
Brown said his charges were ready for the challenge. “We are more than ready,” he said.
The second ODI is on Sunday at Harare Sports Club, venue of the third meeting on Tuesday.
The last two ODIs will be played in Bulawayo.