If you are a cricket disciple of my generation, one of the things you must have grown up with – having witnessed the end of it – would be the folklore of the great West Indies of the 70s and 80s. It was a time when international cricket was played like backyard cricket, wherein, batsmen took guard donned in no Samurai-like protective gear, like now, but an artless cap or helmet, gloves and pads. The West Indians set the benchmark then for what was termed to be brutal.
It is a well-known fact that the current West Indies side doesn’t possess the viciousness that their dynasties once possessed, and are not the team they once used to be. The days of heaving 155 odd kmph beamers at batsmen with the sheer intention of petrifying them are over. World cricket today – barring a couple – is devoid of ruthless, genuine fast bowlers like the West Indies team was once flocked with. This should be reason enough for any cricket fan to watch the documentary on the cricketing giants who redefined fast bowling and bellicosity in their times.
The documentary by Stevan Riley is an inspirational account of the path to dominance of the West Indies in the past. It is an account of how a team brimming with talent capitalized on their strengths to dominate world cricket for two decades. It is a quaint depiction of the larger-than-life perception that we have of the West Indians. The movie features stock footage and interviews with former players of the age like Michael Holding, Clive Lloyd, Andy Roberts, Viv Richards, Joel Garner etc.
The men from the Caribbean were charming tourists – they didn’t manage to win but delighted people with their attitude towards their game. There was talent, but no effectiveness. Finally the day arrived where they had had enough of the mediocrity and the hecklings; that day was the dawn of a new era in West Indian cricket. Clive Lloyd led his troops onto the path of glory that was preordained by the sheer will of the team; glory where they would no longer just play and not compete, as Lloyd said.
The West Indian cricketers talk us through their tour of Australia where they were not just beaten but humbled; the scars remained. The defeat perhaps, ignited a fire; a fire they knew not of, until then. What about the 5-1 defeat to Australia was the catalyst to the swing in attitude is still a mystery, but the outcome of the clandestine was a legendary era in world cricket. It is left for you to evaluate the reason for their sudden success.
Clive Lloyd was instrumental in the radical change that the world saw. He picked his talented men with meticulousness and stirred them to make a statement with their performances – and they delivered. In a matter of months, the team carried a robust brand; the batsmen scored plenty of runs, the bowlers took heaps of wickets, the fielders were agile as ever and the team flourished. They destroyed every team that intruded in their path of glory with aggression, raw pace and menacing glowers!
What makes the documentary such a must-watch is the fact that it is a first-hand account of the chronicles by greats of the game. It also is validation to the fact that cricket expands far beyond boundaries and brings people together – in this case, under one West Indian flag. The team achieved and succeeded against all odds. Fire in Babylon gives one an insight into the antiquity of a revered era by the giants of cricket. It is a brilliant tribute to a bunch of cricketers who pushed their limits to achieve the impossible and raise the bar that would redefine fast bowling. This documentary will make a great watch for a cricket fan of any era. Like Andy Roberts said, “If you can’t take the heat, get out!”