Graham Thorpe has plenty of vivid memories from West Indies and England tussles down the years – and the Surrey batting coach believes England are favourites to win in the Caribbean.
Thorpe played three series in the West Indies under Michael Atherton and Michael Vaughan, and he believes new skipper Andrew Strauss is the right man to bring the best out of the England players.
‘I make England favourites but they’ll have to play well,’ Thorpe said. ‘There’s been a bit of a tricky period with the Peter Moores-Kevin Pietersen fall-out, but Andrew Strauss is the right man to be captain. He’ll do a good job.
‘If they play, I expect them to win by two matches. England’s support in the Caribbean is usually fantastic.
‘Andrew Strauss is a tough competitor. I look at what he’s been through the last few years, being in and out of the side.
‘He knows it’s an honour to play for England. I don’t think he’ll accept England players taking their positions for granted.’
Thorpe’s tours coincided with the careers of three all-time greats. In 1993-94 and 1997-98, Thorpe and his colleagues had to endure a barrage of bouncer and toe-crunching yorkers from the incomparable fast bowling pair of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.
Thorpe also has the distinction of fielding in both Brian Lara’s record innings at St John’s, Antigua. The Trinidadian master struck 375 and 400 a decade apart.
The look of horror on Thorpe’s face as he was bowled by a possessed Ambrose is one of the indelible images of Wisden Trophy history.
‘They were great memories,’ says Thorpe. ‘It’s a wonderful place to play because of the history. It was a very different trip in 2003-04 to the previous ones I’ve been on.
‘We had some fantastic matches. I fielded in both Brian Lara’s record Test innings in Antigua, 10 years apart (in 1993-94 and 2003-04).
‘In 1994, we were bowled out for 46 in Trinidad. I remember Nasser Hussain wearing a T-shirt which said ‘It’s nothing to do with me’, because he was 12th man. That’s my greatest memory.
‘It was tough. I thought we were going to win. But then Curtly Ambrose pumped his legs up and annihilated us.’
Thorpe scored his first century against West Indies in the next Test at the Kensington Oval.
‘We picked ourselves up to win the next one at Barbados for the first time in 58 years. I’ll always remember the ironic cheer when we passed 46.
‘Then there was the abandoned Test at Sabina Park (in 1997-98, a series West Indies won 3-1).’
In 2004, England won a Test series in the Caribbean for the first time since 1967-68 under Colin Cowdrey. Thorpe struck a match-winning 119 at Bridgetown, but had to endure Lara retaking the world record with 400 not out.
Strauss hit a century for England on Tuesday in their first tour match in St Kitts, so is confidence is strong.