I have many, many memories of my time representing the West Indies, each one as important as another, but one thing people continuously ask me about is our victory in the first 1975 World Cup.
While we began to prepare in earnest for the competition, we quickly became aware of just what was riding on our success. Everywhere we went, supporters of no particular team would come up and tell us of the gigantic sums of money passing over the counters at betting shops, pubs and clubs. All of it on the West Indies to win. This created it's own pressures because we understood only too well what was expected of us. Added to this, the sponsors were depending on the West Indies to add a little spice to the event by playing in a truly 'calypso' style.
We were a relatively young and inexperienced side, with a couple of notable exceptions. But for most of us, the pressures were something we'd never experienced before. Personally for me the early rounds were not really successful and I only made my first half-century of the competition during the semi-final at the Oval against New Zealand.
Our group, Group B, was one of the toughest. Only two could qualify for the semi finals from ourselves, Pakistan, Australia and Sri Lanka. Needless to say the colossal approach of our batting and bowling attack clawed our way into the semi-final.
The match against the New Zealanders was the one time in the entire series that I did proper justice to myself and found some form in reaching 55. Kallicharran followed up with 72 and earned himself man of the match and a place in the final with 5 wickets still in hand.
The Final was played at Lords and in the preceding days the tension was palpable. Each time we went to the nets to practice there would be hordes of people there to watch us, all confirming what was expected. On the day, a sell out crowd at Lords was in a festive mood, which exploded into a roar when the Australians exited from the pavilion. Roy Fredericks and I followed, nervous and apprehensive, seemingly floating on air, to a tumultuous welcome from the West Indies supporters.
Lillee and Thomson were soon firing the ball at us as if this too was the most important match of their lives. The cacophony of noise as each ball was bowled signified the approval or dismay of the crowd depending on whom they were supporting.
We did well to take the score to 12 against such hostile bowling when our first set back occurred. Roy Fredericks executed a magnificent hook shot for 6 and in doing so accidentally trod on his stump, dislodging the bails. Every West Indies supporter in the ground and around the world felt the dismay. Kallicharran came out and was soon into his stride but ended up caught behind the wicket and we were 27-2 with the overs disappearing like water down a drain.
The harder I tried to push the score along the worse it became as the Australian's field placing cut off all my shots. At last we reached 50 and I was still there, but the cheering from our supporters didn't last long as Thomson induced me to edge a ball just outside the off-stump to wicket keeper Marsh and I was out for 13. The walk back to the Pavilion was a strange mixture of feelings, a total of 13 was nothing to shout about but yet the edge had been taken off the fast bowling and that Final was Clive Lloyd's match. He batted valiantly and with aggression with his partner Rohan Kanhai, who eventually reached 55 before West Indies finished up at 291-8 leaving Australia something like 5 per over to beat us.
West Indies felt confident when they took the field, after all with a bowling attack of Roberts, Julien, Boyce, Holder and Clive Lloyd himself, we were no mean bowling side. West Indies got an early break through dismissing McCosker, but found a brick wall in front of them when Ian Chappell arrived at the crease. Ian Chappell was one of the most difficult men to remove and the situation couldn't have been more tailor made for him, he made 62 before being run out. That day we excelled ourselves in the field with a performance of devastating skill. The accuracy of our aim in hitting the stumps caused 5 Australian wickets to fall at the most crucial times during that game and non more so than when we took the wicket of Jeff Thomson.
Anyone who has followed cricket will know Australia never knows when to quit and they fought back doggedly with six wickets down to pass the 200 mark but lost 3 wickets in quick succession, then came Lillee & Thomson to the crease.
With the score at 233-9 the West Indies supporters were expecting an early finish but Lillee and Thomson fought through tenaciously, to bring the score to 274 with 8 balls to go. There was no denying that we were in jeopardy of losing the match when Jeff Thomson carelessly took a run and was run out and the Cup was finally ours.
Some people remember this Cup with relish but as I said for me personally it wasn't a great experience but now looking back I know it played a very crucial part in honing my skills into the opening batsmen I was to become.