Wisden Impact Index – Colin Croft played just 27 Tests for West Indies, all between 1977 and 1982. He played alongside Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Joel Garner primarily – part of the fearsome foursome that set the foundation for the world domination Clive Lloyd’s West Indian team was to accomplish.
Croft took 125 wickets at an average of 23.30 during this period – the most in his team. Only Garner played more Tests than him in this period (just one more), which also suggests something about Croft’s consistency. Both Garner and Holding, however, had better bowling averages while Roberts was somewhat on the decline, relatively speaking.
Despite this, Croft is remembered largely as the fourth-best bowler in this lot and more for his propensity to bowl the short ball dangerously than for being a match, and series, winner for his team.
Impact Index finds that he was actually West Indies’ highest impact bowler in that period, remarkable given that a team with such a high-class attack always tends to share impact. In fact, even more significantly, he was the second-highest impact bowler in the world at that point, after Dennis Lillee – who was at his peak and on his way to being the highest impact bowler in Test history at the time.
Croft was the only West Indian to have two series-defining performances, besides Viv Richards, and was higher impact overall than even Viv (high impact bowlers tend to be the highest impact players for obvious reasons in Tests). That marks out his contribution to West Indies’ world domination as legendary – not quite a status Croft enjoys.
This is why he should.
Vs Pakistan, Kingston, 1977. In his debut Test series, the series scoreline against a spirited and talented Pakistan side was 1-1 after four Tests. Croft had taken 8-29 in the first innings of the second Test (his second Test too), which had gone some way in keeping the series alive for the hosts. Now, at crunch-time, he was the leading bowler again, as he took 4-49 to help dismiss Pakistan for 198 and then took the first three wickets before Pakistan had touched 35, as they chased 442 in the fourth innings – a blow from which Pakistan, despite showing enormous fight, never quite recovered from. West Indies won 2-1, largely due to a fearsome debutant amidst them, who had registered a series-defining performance in his first showing.
Croft went on to do well in his tours of Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and England too. And then, England came to the West Indies.
Vs England, Port-of-Spain/ Barbados, 1981. West Indies won the series 2-0 and in both the result Tests, Croft led the way. First, his 5-40 decimated England for 178 as they tried to reply to 426 – the match largely decided there itself. Then, in the next Test, he took 4-39 and 3-65 as West Indies took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, which would eventually be the series scoreline.
This was the second of his two SDs. Bizarrely, he would play just one more Test series, in Australia, which was drawn 1-1. He took 7 wickets in 3 Tests in that series and never played for West Indies again.
Whether it was his reported indiscipline that ended his career prematurely (he was barely 29) or the emergence of a certain Malcolm Marshall, or the infamous Rebel Tour to South Africa in 1983 for which he was banned along with seventeen others, there is no doubt that Croft made an impact for an all-time great West Indian team for which he doesn’t get credit today. He was the leading bowler for Clive Lloyd’s team during those crucial early years.
In fact, if we take 25 Tests as the minimum (which we never do normally because it is just not enough of a sample size), Colin Croft comes up as the highest impact West Indian bowler of all time. And no, it is not just because of his SDs. He also took the highest proportion of top/middle-order wickets than any West Indian bowler in Test history. In proportion to his matches, he broke the most partnerships in West Indian Test history, along with Corey Collymore (who otherwise had almost half the impact of Croft). He inflicted the most pressure on the opposition with his bowling in West Indian Test history, again in proportion to the number of Tests he played. And he was the most consistent West Indian bowler of all time, with a failure rate of 11%.
The endings of some stories just do not make sense. (Jaideep Varma) (Website: http://www.impactindexcricket.com/)
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