`Playing for your country was paramount - and so was winning. That's what I hope I can bring to this team'

So says Clive Lloyd, talking to Tony Cozier in Brisbane. Lloyd is charged with reviving West Indies' fortunes in the Test series against Australia, which starts on Friday.
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The Independent Online
Australia has loomed large in the cricketing life of Clive Lloyd. It was here in 1968-69, as a junior at the start of his long and distinguished career, that he witnessed the disintegration of the formidable West Indies team of that era.

It was here, eight years later in the apprenticeship of his captaincy, that he again experienced the ruthlessness of the Australians in a humbling 5-1 drubbing in the Test series.

It was here, under the toughening influence of Kerry Packers' World Series Cricket, that he moulded West Indian invincibility that was to last for 15 years.

It was here, in 1985, that he made his exit as the most successful captain the West Indies have had, a hero decorated with a sheath of honours, significantly among them the Order of Australia.

Now Lloyd returns with as daunting a challenge as he has had to face. He was summoned from his home in England last February to be manager of the West Indies team shaken to the core in the previous 18 months by indifference, indiscipline and internal division.

It led to the loss, on home turf, of the cherished Frank Worrell Trophy to determined Australian opponents and a general upheaval in which captain, coach, manager, board president and, most recently, selectors were all changed.

Lloyd has brought with him on his latest Australian venture as coach and right-hand man, Malcolm Marshall, one of the fast-bowling enforcers during the West Indies' period of dominance.

Both have the advantage not only of reputation and of proven record but of being divorced from the problems that led to the resignation of the captain, Richie Richardson, and the replacement of the coach, Andy Roberts, during the World Cup.

They take over the running of the Test team, on three-year contracts, seeking to regain the world trophy at a time when the new board is making an obvious and concerted effort to break free of the complacency brought on by the long years at the top.

"We are moving in the right direction," Lloyd said. "We allowed things to lapse there for a while and the other countries like Australia and South Africa put things in place to improve their game at all levels. We have got some catching up to do but I can feel there is a buzz about the future."

The future that Lloyd is most concerned about is immediate and starts here on Friday with the first Test of five in a series that Lloyd, and everyone else, recognises as being the West Indies' sternest examination since his own side was thrashed 21 years ago.

"This series is going to be tough, there's no doubt about that," he said. "I am looking for enthusiastic players, players who are not afraid to go out and face the world, players like Brian Lara who came here last time (in 1992-93) and wanted to do something and be something.

"I'm looking for the committed player, the dedicated player," he added. "The appropriate catchphrase would be `if you want to gain altitude, you must have the right attitude.'"

The commitment and dedication, noticeably absent in the loss to Australia in the Caribbean last year, are the assets that Lloyd instilled in his players in his 10 years as captain. "I think it was a matter of trust," he reflected.

"The players trusted me. They realised I was not parochial and believed in what I stood for. I thought it right that we had discipline on and off the field and they appreciated that.

"We discussed things. We have players who desperately wanted to play for the West Indies and, while we weren't handsomely paid, playing for your country, representing your people, was paramount - and so was winning. That's what I hope I can bring to this team."

In the jingoism they have borrowed from American sport, the Australians are calling the series "The Decider" and, no matter what the Pakistanis, South Africans or Indians say about it, Lloyd and almost everyone else in these parts is in no doubt that the victor can justifiably claim to be Test cricket's unofficial champions.

That was a title the West Indies indisputably held for 15 years before very much the same Australians they now face snatched it from them in the Caribbean. They return, under Lloyd, Marshall and a new captain - Courtney Walsh - seeking not only to regain the title but to restore dented pride.

Even if their leadership has changed, they still rely on the same philosophy to win matches: fast bowling supported by the heavy scoring bat of Lara. Yet two of their key wicket-takers, Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, are now well into their thirties and those who support them, Ian Bishop and Kenny Benjamin, are injury prone.

While four of their batsmen average over 50 in Tests it is Lara to whom they look for runs, and it is not a misplaced theory that when he fails the team fails.

Australia look equally as much for their success to the spinning fingers of Shane Warne and one of the most essential of those fingers is still getting over the effects of an operation last May. He has bowled plenty in Sheffield Shield matches already this season with no after-effects, but whether he can stand up to the pressure of two Tests, back-to-back as they are here, remains open to question.

Even so, the Australians have tremendous depth and a team effort, rather than the exploits of an individual or two, is likely to determine the series.

Australia's self-confidence took a dent last month when they lost the one-off Test and were beaten in five one-day internationals in India. What psychological effect those reversals had will be seen over the coming days but the strength of their young brigade was evident in the complete dominance of their reserves, playing under the banner of an Australian XI, in a crushing 10-wicket victory over the West Indies at the weekend.

The Australians have stuck, understandably, with those who have made them the most consistent team in Test cricket over the past couple of years, introducing only one newcomer, Matthew Elliott, a tall left-handed opener from Victoria who has replaced Michael Slater through sheer weight of runs.

They have not lost a series at home since the West Indies were last here, four years ago. Even with Lloyd's influence on the opposition it is hard to see them losing this one.

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