Brian Halford
23rd January 2020

Lloyd: “I have never ever looked back and said ‘what if'”

In part two of his Former Bears feature with Brian Halford, Andy Lloyd opens up about his England career which was dramatically cut short on his Test debut.

Many cricket fans recall Andy Lloyd’s Test career and especially the brutal way it ended almost before it had begun.

On June 14, 1984, on his home ground at Edgbaston, Warwickshire opener Lloyd made his Test debut against the great West Indies side at its peak. He was making a good fist of it, ten not out after half an hour, when a short ball from Malcolm Marshall struck him on the temple.

"I became a more attacking player and took more chances. I went from being an accumulator to a guy who took the game to the opposition."

Andy Lloyd

In that sickening instant, Lloyd’s innings, his season and his Test career was over. It is a defining image of the raw pace and hostility which underpinned West Indies’ domination of world cricket for more than a decade.

What not so many cricket fans will recall is that that was not Lloyd’s first appearance for England. He had played throughout the preceding ODI series and settled impressively into international cricket, ending the three games as England’s top-scorer, above the likes of David Gower, Allan Lamb and Ian Botham.

It was a strong start from the left-hander, though his ODI debut at Old Trafford was overshadowed slightly as England copped one of the all-time great limited-overs knocks – Viv Richards’ 189 not out.

“It was an incredible innings,” he said. “At lunchtime West Indies were 102 for seven with Viv on about 51 and batting with the tail. We came in for lunch, with David Gower captaining England for the first time, and it could not have gone any better, apart from getting the great man out. Then after lunch…well I have never seen anything like it. He just obliterated any ball that went near him and they ended up getting nearly 300. It was just awesome batting – 189 was a phenomenal score in that era.

“We lost that game but won the next at Trent Bridge and I had a decent series and scored more runs than any other England player. When we left after the third game, the Test team hadn’t been picked but David said to me: ‘See you at Edgbaston.'”

Six days later, Sunday June 10, the squad for the first Test was announced and for Lloyd, who had continued his good form with 72 against Essex at Ilford the previous day, there was good news.

“We were in a kitchen in Newmarket before playing the Sunday League game at Ilford,” said Lloyd. “In those days you found out the Test team from the eleven o’clock news on the radio. They went through it in alphabetical order – Fowler, Lamb, Lloyd…and the champagne corks were popping. I didn’t hear the rest of the names!

“That afternoon, Graham Gooch, who was banned from international cricket at the time, came over to me and said: ‘Good luck mate, you’ll need it against that lot’ and he picked up my bat and said ‘that might be a bit heavy, I’d get one a bit lighter if I was you…'”

While Warwickshire (having lost to Essex having made them follow on) headed for Leicester for their next championship game, Lloyd returned to Edgbaston to prepare for his Test debut. Awaiting him in Birmingham, a West Indies pace attack of Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Michael Holding and Eldine Baptiste – and a bitterly cruel twist of fate.

First up, a bizarre piece of team selection from England.

“The night before the game we were going to blast them out with pace and bounce.” recalls Lloyd. “Then we ended up playing two spinners. Nick Cook and Geoff Miller played and I had played at Edgbaston long enough to know that spin-bowlers were not going to win you Test matches there. There was always some uneven bounce. Good seamers could knock you over – and West Indies had four of the best.

“We batted first and Graeme Fowler and Derek Randall got out cheaply. David Gower was at the other end and, to be fair, I was doing okay – ten not out. Then a ball from Malcolm came back at me off the pitch and I tried to corkscrew away from it and got hit. Down I went and that was that. My eyesight has never recovered. From that point I lost 50 per cent of the centre vision in my right eye.

“I knew that had a problem when the physio Bernard Thomas came on and I looked at the boundary advertising and couldn’t read ‘Rediffusion’ – that was when I knew something was wrong and was happy to go off. By quarter past twelve I was in the QE and a specialist was telling me I was going to struggle to get this eyesight back.”

An international career which had begun so promisingly (Wisden’s report of the Test states that Lloyd retired hurt “after showing a sounder technique and greater resolution than some of his team-mates were to do”) was terminated in a flash. It was a moment that not only ended his Test career but also altered the rest of his life – yet Lloyd reflects upon it with immense dignity and not a trace of anger or animosity.

“I can honestly say that I have never ever looked back and said ‘what if’,” he said. “I’m very philosophical. I might have ducked out of the way of that one and then my middle pole might have gone out next ball.

“I have absolutely zero animosity towards the West Indies and never have had any. It was part of the game. Clive Lloyd came to see me. Malcolm came up to me next time we met and asked how I was doing. All those West Indian guys we played against in those days, every single one of them – Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Des Haines, Viv, Richie Richardson, Larry Gomes, Jeff Dujon – were great guys. These are just good people. They were a fearsome group of people when they were on a cricket field, but they were nice guys.

“Of course it had a big effect on my life but not all in a bad way. I didn’t play again that year, I wasn’t incapacitated but needed some looking after, and a girl I had met earlier in the summer flew over from Australia to look after me and stayed with me all summer and we ended up getting married.”

In cricketing terms, Lloyd’s international career was over, but his influence on Warwickshire was only just beginning. He returned to the team in 1985 and showed that his powers remained with 989 championship runs at 35.32. And ahead lay a new challenge, the captaincy, a role in which he was to transform the Bears from a moderate unit which mostly bobbed along the bottom or in mid-table to one capable of regularly challenging for trophies

“I knew I wasn’t going to play for England again because of my eyesight so I concentrated very hard on Warwickshire and put everything I had into it,” he said. “I became a more attacking player and took more chances. I went from being an accumulator to a guy who took the game to the opposition.

“The captaincy was good for me. Being captain was something I wanted to do and I was going to do it my way. I felt the team needed some impetus. Ever since I’d started playing in the mid-70s the team had always struggled. Warwickshire didn’t win enough games and it was all a bit laboured and static.

“I got some fantastic advice from a great man, Allan Border, when we played in a Prince’s Trust match at Edgbaston. We had a long chat at the Metropole at the NEC and he said: ‘Never ask anybody to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself’, ‘don’t ever shirk a challenge’ and ‘when you are top in games, be ruthless – you’ve got to win. So many of his words stick with me.”

Border went on to make Australia the dominant team in world cricket. And Lloyd set about installing a mindset in Warwickshire which would make them the dominant force in county cricket.

Part three continues next Thursday.

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