A bouncer is an extremely lethal weapon that may be used to one’s advantage or disadvantage. This philosophy was set in stone by the West Indies squad on their 1979 tour to Australia.
The 1979 Windies tour to Australia is one of cricket’s most glorious chapters. It displayed to the world, the indomitable spirit of the West Indies cricket team. The wounded, battered squad rose from the ashes and decided to payback the Aussies in their own language.
It all started in the aftermath of the 1975 world cup. The Windies had won the world cup but Australia believed that they had been robbed off the cup. The Australian believed that they were the true world champions. Therefore, when it came to the Windies touring Australia in the same year, Australia was determined to set the record straight.
It was a 6 match series and the victory margin needed to be absolute to ensure that no one doubted that the Aussies were the best team in the world. In order to achieve this target, the weapon of choice for the Aussies was the “bouncer”. From day 1 of the first test, Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillie decided that every part of the body of the Windies players ws fair target.
They aimed at their hands, jaw, chest, legs and left the Windies bruised. The team had multiple injuries and their morale broke down. The performance of the team was abysmal and the series ended with the Aussies drubbing them 5-1. The Aussies were the undisputed kings of the cricketing world.
The series had such deep and profound impact the Windies that they lost to the Indian cricket team at home.
The Resurgence of West Indies
The Windies were running out of time. The team was soon slipping into a spiral from where the recovery would be very tough. This was when their captain, Clive Lloyd decided that if they wanted to fight fire with fire, he needed to pick up the weapon of the opponent’s choice.
Clive went about building a team of genuine pace bowlers and ensured that the team fielded and pace quartet. He instructed that the team forget about the flow of runs and just go ahead and break the batting team down. The captain was also assisted by the maverick batsman, Vivian Richards who decided that the way to play the Aussie pacemen was to look them in the eye and give it back to them.
Hence, before the 1979 world cup, the West Indies toured Australia again. They had a battery of 4 genuine lethal fast bowlers, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner. Further, Richards had come determined to not get bogged down by the Aussies pacers and bat out of his skin.
The Windies played some fearless cricket in the first test and drew it. This in itself was a statement that the Windies meant business.
In the second test, when Richards was batting, Rodney Hogg bowled a body line bouncer which hit Viv on his face. The crowd went quiet by this body blow and it brought back memories from 4 years ago when the Aussies had decimated the Windies. However, there was a change in attitude. Viv, instead of reacting from the injury, decided to stare back at Hogg. This made Hogg very agitated and he bowled a second bouncer which Viv pulled for a six. Thus began the complete Windies fightback.
The Windies pacers over the next few tests ran through the Aussie batting line up with barrage of bouncers. They gave the Aussie batsmen no respite and no room to breathe. From the other end, Viv scored close to 400 runs in his 4 innings. Every debt that the Windies had from the 1975 series was repaid in full by them in 1979.
This bouncer saga and change of attitude was the beginning of the world domination that the Windies had for the next 15 years. Their fast bowlers were so phenomenal that they were soon called the “Fearsome Foursome.” The style of cricket the Windies decided to adopt inspired generations to come, including to an extent Virat Kohli, and forever changed the way cricket is played.