Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 2, 2011

My Favourite Sporting Photograph

I am gathering together some of my writing over the years and posting to The Sound of the Tooting Trumpet, but this piece sits better at 99.94. Apologies to those who have seen it before.

Cricket is not a sport that lends itself to great photography, but it has produced just about my favourite sports photograph.

On one level, this is a photograph of the great West Indies pace quartet of the early eighties, but it’s actually so much more than that.

In the background, one can discern the peaks of the Trinindadian mountains looming over Queen’s Park, Port-of-Spain, a name redolent of the island’s colonial past. The island’s still troubled present is evident in the fences to restrain the crowd and the shabbiness of the stands (now gone in ICC World Cup redevelopment). The outfield is hardly the green baize of Lords with the fierce Caribbean sun having scorched the grass.

But none of that matters when you look at the four men. They stand in line, slightly impatient, but doing as they are told because they are a team with a job to do. But they are also individuals, each adopting a different stance and each finding a different position for their hands. Andy Roberts, Antiguan, stands at the front, the oldest, the subtlest and the acknowledged leader – a man who spoke little, but every word was cricketing gold. Next is Michael Holding, Jamaican, loquacious off the field, silent and devastating on it. Third in line is Colin Croft, Guyanese, constantly aggressive, sometimes ill-disciplined with a vicious delivery angling into the right-hander. Finally Joel Garner, Bajan, an extraordinarily skilled bowler who used his height and long fingers to great effect.

The West Indies pacemen defined bowling for a generation – the reasons are all there in the photograph. For more, read Zepherine’s excellent piece at Pseuds’ Corner.


  1. With no cricket on telly tonight the sports channel scheduled documentaries on the Tied Test, Bradman and West Indian cricket. They followed those gems with a match from the ’80s, Boon’s first and Rod Marsh’s last, where Holding skippered because Richards and Lloyd were injured. Enjoyable evening and a fantastic education for the children!

    Garner, as he usually did, creamed Kim Hughes’ men, snaring 5/31 from his allotted 10 with four of those bowled by searing yorkers. It was the last match on a long tour so Holding wasn’t at his quickest but he was still fast enough to have Rod Hogg and Geoff Lawson backing away to square-leg like frightened bunnies. Seems they could dish it out but weren’t too keen when it was their turn with the willow.

    On the photo, it is good one but I wouldn’t have noticed how good without your wonderful description. Thanks mate.

  2. Cheers Nesta.

    Garner’s stats are even better than McGrath’s in Tests and just ridiculous in ODIs. What would they have been like if the blokes at the other end weren’t shooting out the bunnies?

    Great education indeed.

  3. Let’s not forget that the Windies produced more super quicks than the four above.

    From memory I can remember spells from Big Sylvester Clarke, Patrick Patterson (the quickest and scariest bloke I ever faced), Wayne Daniels and the greatest of them all Malcolm Marshall. There are a probably few more too!

    They also had a few good youngsters following in their footsteps like Ian Bishop, Courtney Walsh and my favourite, Curtley Ambrose.

    Now players are fully protected with helmets, chest and arm guards I think its about time the ICC relaxed the bouncer rule that was specifically introduced to lessen West Indian dominance.

    Watching batsman duck, weave, hook and pull always makes for exciting cricket.

  4. There’s some fine swing and seam bowling at Newlands as I write. The ball is swinging and cutting both ways and watching Kallis and Amla build a partnership on a tricky greentop under enormous pressure is Test match cricket at its finest.

    Hopefully the rain will stay away until stumps.

  5. That photo made me say ‘awwwwwww’.

    I saw three of them play at the WACA when I was a kid. Michael Holding bowling is still the best thing I’ve ever seen in cricket.

    • Lou – I doubt you’ll see anything better.

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