Pop quiz: There were two teams in the decade of 1980-89 that did not lose a test series at home. Who were they?
A) West Indies & Pakistan
B) West Indies & Australia
C) West Indies & India
D) West Indies & England
If you had said any of A, B, C or D you would be wrong. The answer to the question is West Indies & New Zealand. Tiny New Zealand with a population less than Chennai. A country that generally loses its best athletes to rugby somehow went undefeated at home during which they faced the team of the decade twice and came out unscathed.
Test match results of all Test playing nations in the 1980s
The Kiwis were one of only 3 sides that won more tests than they lost. The Kiwis won 4 tests against minnow Sri Lanka but continue to stay in 3rd place behind West Indies and Pakistan. West Indies are the only side whose ratio remains unchanged because they never faced Sri Lanka until late 1993.
Test match results of all Test playing nations bar Sri Lanka in the 1980s
The Kiwis were more than formidable at home in the 1980s. The trailed in a series only once when the Caribbeans visited in 1987 and won a home series against every other team at least once. No other team managed to do this, not even the mighty West Indies.
Test match results of all Test playing nations at home in the 1980s
What is the big deal about home record you ask? The Kiwis still stay in 3rd place when you take into account their record away from home. They won historic series wins in England and Australia. They managed to square the series 1-1 in India before being spun to defeat by Arshad Ayub & Hirwani. They matched West Indies toe to toe in the 1st two tests in Viv Richards’ debut series as captain before the Caribbeans raised their level a few notches to win the 3rd & 4th tests.
The Kiwis did not have a great batting line up but it was of rigid quality. They had just one excellent batsman in Martin Crowe. He was ably supported by grafters like John Wright, Bruce Edgar, Bruce Reid, Andrew Jones & Jeremy Coney over various periods and a lower order pest in Ian Smith. Richard Hadlee, talented enough to score an 88 ball 100 vs Roberts/Croft/Garner/Holding, completed a solid if not spectacular top 7.
The bowling was led by the irresistible Sir Richard John Hadlee the only active player to have been knighted. He was ably supported by solid seamers like Ewen Chatfield, Martin Snedden, Lance Cairns and the spin of John Bracewell. Hadlee took 289 wickets in just 53 tests at an unbelievable average of just 19.28. The highlight was the near selfless act of catching Geoff Lawson and thereby giving Vaughan Brown his only test wicket. Why was it selfless? Hadlee had taken the 1st 8 wickets to fall and the last wicket to give him 9 wickets in the innings. His 15 wickets in the match gave the Kiwis their first ever test win on the other side of the Tasmanian sea.
The Kiwis had the 3rd best record of the 8 test playing nations. They were spectacular at home and a bone-in-the-meat type of side away. Given their meagre resources they massively overachieved and were the only team other than Pakistan to stand up to the fearsome foursome that was the pace attack of the West Indies. If we take the small population and the presence of All Blacks into consideration, it is safe to say that pound for pound New Zealand were the best team in the 1980s.