Fire In Babylon : Attitude is Everything

Fire in Babylon is the best cricket documentary ever! And now the book is out too!  I was lucky enough to see it at the Melbourne International Film Festival a few years ago.

The documentary traced the rise and dominance of the West Indian cricket team from the mid 1970s. That dominance was due to a never-ending supply of fast bowlers, the occasional spinner supplemented by a flamboyant batting side overseen by aggressive captaincy by Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards. But as this documentary shows that was not enough.

For decades, the West Indies always had flamboyant batsmen, the occasional fast bowler but lacked that extra aggressive captaincy. Often they would nearly win and fall down under pressure. They would start to perform consistently but never continue the job : the tied Test of 1961 being an exception!

And they languished until they were soundly beaten in Australia in the ’75-76 Test series. I was lucky enough to see the opening day of the Sydney Test.  Lillee and Thomson were too fast to even see from the ground! Up until then the West Indies had started a path of improvement. And again it had led nowhere.

From that point, the West Indies effectively began again. Firstly, they took their cue from the Australian test team. At that time, the Aussies had the best fast bowling attack in the world, a strong batting side, good spinners and a never say die captain, Ian Chappell.

The West Indies then modelled their team similarly. They brought in fast bowlers, a spinner and found the best batsmen under the astute captaincy of Clive Lloyd. But critically, they realised that wasn’t enough. Secondly, they adopted a new attitude. They gave up the idea that they were pure entertainers or so-called calypso cricketers. They embraced the idea that they were resilient and could win under any and all circumstances.

And their success was extraordinary and long-lived.  They put together a side the likes of which may never be seen again. Four fast bowlers, any of whom could turn a match : Roberts, Holding, Croft, Garner, then Marshall, Clarke, Ambrose, Walsh coupled with some of the best batsmen in the world : Richards (Smokin’ Joe), Lloyd, Lawrence Rowe, Lara.

They were still entertaining : so-called calypso cricketers but with that self-belief and resilience that wouldn’t and didn’t entertain defeat.

And in cricket, that’s all the difference.


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