There is an air of sage melancholy about Clive Lloyd. It is the measure of the man that he probably knows it. "I just feel unfulfilled," he said. "I have been a cricketer for more than 40 years. There's so much you have seen that you would like to get your teeth into."
Unfulfilled? Here is a man from the humblest of beginnings who entertained and enthralled millions with his skill and power, who forged and led one of the best sports teams of all time and in so doing raised the profile, lifted the hearts and enhanced the status of an entire people. In the years since his retirement as a player he has been perpetually around cricket as manager, committee member, international match referee. Would that all men could be so unfulfilled.
And yet. Lloyd believes he might have done so much more because he has so much more to give. Cricket has provided the ballast to his life as well as many of its good things, and do not suppose for a second he is ungrateful or unaware of its ability to be a force for good. But he also thinks well beyond it.
He thinks of his ancestors in West Africa and how they became slaves, of what could be done for that region now, of the significance of education and reading, of the importance of bestowing dignity andrespect, of the desperate need to revitalise the game in the Caribbean quickly, of establishing it properly in the US, of the need to help destitute former players fallen on hard times using the riches of the modern game, of using those same riches to ensure all cricketing nations are rewarded, and, occasionally, of the desirability of putting a retractable roof on the Old Trafford cricket ground.
"I never look at things in black and white," he said. "I have been happy, I have no problems. Cricket was the best thing that happened to me. There are peaks and troughs but it's how you approach things, and you have to try to look beyond certain things.
"I managed to do what I did without a father and I've gone through life trying to work things out for myself. I was never coached as a captain or a leader. I picked up on things my mother taught me and looked at other people, so I think I've done well in that respect. I think I still have something to give to the world. I am a deep sort of person."
If Lloyd never gave another darned thing to the world of cricket he would owe it nothing. His achievements as West Indies captain and batsman only become greater as the years go by, while the efforts of his successors remain both feeble and a betrayal of his legacy. But it is to that very betrayal he is now turning much of his attention – between the contrasting worries of Africa, America and Manchester roofs.
He retired as an internationalmatch referee earlier this year and at the age of 63 he has been invited to play a key role in the latest attempt to reignite the spark in the damp squib of Caribbean cricket. He has become a member of the West Indies board and is chairman of the cricket committee. For the first time since he was last captain – and that was 22 years ago – he feels he may have real influence again. He also sits on the committee at Lancashire,the county heilluminated for 18 years, and where he still lives.
This has coincided with the publication of an authorised biography* of his life by a boyhood fan, Simon Lister, a timely reminder of his imperishable, not to mention unparalleled, achievements in the game. He played 110 Tests, 74 of them as captain, of which West Indies lost only 12, he played 82 one-day internationals, led his country to two World Cup victories and also played more than 508 matches, 219 of them first-class, for Lancashire, where he remains a folk hero.
If this well-crafted volume errs too far towards a subjective assessment – on this evidence, canonisation would be the least that Lloyd couldexpect, when a knighthood would be more appropriate – it is remarkable for his under-statement. Here he is with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a pop at whomsoever he likes. After more than four decades in the game there must be somebody, somewhere who has upset him so much that he can turn them over now. But nothing. Or almost nothing. There is a page devoted to Mike Brearley, who was casually disparaging about Lloyd's leadership in a book, The Art of Captaincy, 22 years ago, but this is taken up with an apology from Brearley effectively saying he never meant it.
Of course there are ups and there are downs, but Lloyd is dishing no dirt. Considering that this is also the age of cheap shots – Lloyd's memoir comes out in the very week that Duncan Fletcher, the former England coach, has been trashing all and sundry in his – it is remarkable. It is easy to conclude who seems the more impressive man, and to know with whom you might wish to go for a pint.
"I just want people to know what I have done and how I have done it really," Lloyd said. "Do you need to do what I understand Fletcher has done in his book in saying what he has about Andrew Flintoff?
"There is a guy who has given his all for you, his blood almost, you have bowled him into the ground, he has won the Ashes for you really and you kick him in the stomach. Is that right?
"I am sure there must be other teams where the guys have done all sorts of things. You want to enjoy yourself as well as play and practise. That's why we had a curfew when I was captain. Because we had big drinkers. I don't think Mr Flintoff is a better drinker than some of the guys we had."
By and large the players of the West Indies team respected thecurfew because they respected Lloyd (and in any case they were winning most of the time). Lloyd, it can now be seen, was a phenomenon. He was born into a God-fearing, lower middle-class family in Georgetown, Guyana, where the virtues of hard work and respect for others were inculcated.
He had to wear glasses from the age of eight after he was struck in the eye by a ruler while trying to break up a fight between two other boys, he almost died from tetanus after a splinter lodged in his arm, his father died when he was 14. He was brilliant at cricket.
When Lloyd took over the captaincy of West Indies they were no great shakes. In the early and mid-1960s they had been the best team in the world, but mild decline had set in. Under Lloyd they were transformed, yet what should be a cause for enduring celebration stillrankles with him. Unquestionably he feels that his captaincy was not given its proper due, and that the team are grossly maligned for the manner in which they achieved their long years of dominance.
First, the captaincy. There is a common misconception that Lloyd got the results he did because he had great players, and especially great bowlers, at his disposal. All he had to do was rotate his overpowering strike force and hey presto.
"We didn't always have just four fast bowlers," he said. "We had spinners and the fast bowlers all started under me. People have not assessed what we were doing. You still have to bat and to field, and get the other guys out. It wasn't as if people didn't make runs against us, but if you didn't get runs against West Indies you weren't considered a good player, and we created that.
"I respected people, I wanted respect back, and if you don't respect me then respect my position. I had a good rapport with the players, I was one of them but I had to deal with them."
Secondly, the team. It was another common theme that West Indies went round the cricket globe putting the frighteners on. Well, perhaps they did, but Lloyd points out that Australia had Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson and plenty of back-up. So was the reaction racism by another name?
"It was a situation where people didn't want to give you respect. They had this feeling that West Indies were calypso cricketers and that's the part I resent. When you're saying to me I'm a calypso cricketer you're also saying I'm not a great thinker, and that is what I wanted to bring out to people, that we were much more disciplined and you weren't giving us credit for that. I don't know whether you would call that racism or not, but people should know that those guys couldn't have done what they did for that length of time by being calypso cricketers."
And now this. Calypsos long ago gave way to requiems. Lloyd has had two stints as manager, the first when his template was still in place and success continued, the second when everything had begun to slip. He could not stem the decline, and if he concedes that the team were unresponsive, he senses that the West Indian board were abject and envious of his presence.
"There's no doubt we got complacent, trying to use the old methods when everybody else had moved on," he said. "Now they have realised that they can't just turn the corner, you have to put things in place, move with the times, get people involved, get them interested."
He is broadly optimistic, but he talks of needing guys "who read books, think about what they're doing, let young men know what great tradition they're joining". And also of persuading the billionaire Texas banker Alan Stanford, who wants a stake in West Indies cricket, to back the domestic four-day game, to nurture the grass roots as well as throwing cash at a fancy-dan Twenty20 contest. In his quiet, under- stated way, Lloyd is full of ideas and of passion. He has been and is a great man of cricket.
Supercat's life and times
NAME: Clive Hubert Lloyd.
BORN: 31 August 1944,Georgetown, Guyana (then British Guiana).
STYLE: Powerful left-handed middle-order batsman, right-arm medium-pace bowler, brilliant cover and slip fielder.
TEAMS: Haslingden, Lancashire, British Guiana, Guyana, West Indies.
FIRST-CLASS CAREER: 490 matches, 31,232 runs, average 49.26, highest score 242 not outv India, Bombay '74-75, 79 100s.
INTERNATIONAL CAREER: 110 Tests, 1966-85 – as captain '74-85: 7,515 runs, avge 46.67, HS 242 not out, 19 100s. 87 one-day internationals, 1,977 runs, avge 39.54, strike rate 81.22. West Indies manager '96-99; ICC match referee '92-2007.
ROLL OF HONOUR: Wisden Cricketer of the Year '71; World Cup winner '75, '79. 26 Tests without defeat and 11 wins in a row as captain. Awarded CBE '93.
FAMILY TIES: Cousin of West Indies off-spinner Lance Gibbs.
'Supercat', by Simon Lister (Fairfield Books, £16). Stockists: 01225 335 813, fairfieldbooks.co.uk