Windies head for Zimbabwe

By Ezra Stuart
Guyana Chronicle
June 13, 2001

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CANA - West Indies, embroiled in off-the-field controversies which have resulted in the resignation of two top Board officers, were preparing to leave the Caribbean yesterday afternoon for a historic tour of Zimbabwe.

Rocked by the sacking and reinstatement of team manager Ricky Skerritt following administrative hiccups which culminated in president Pat Rousseau and his deputy Clarvis Joseph quitting their posts in the lead-up to the tour, the Caribbean cricketers journey to Zimbabwe on a pride-restoring mission.

On the eve of the team's departure, coach Roger Harper told CANA they have had several encounters against Zimbabwe over the past 15 months, including last year's home series when they won the two-match Test series 2-0.

"We played against them here in the West Indies. We played them in a One-Day tournament in England and again in a One-Day tournament in Australia," Harper noted.

"They are a very, very competitive side ... but I think at home, naturally they would be even more competitive and even more comfortable, so that means that we would have to work very hard and we have to be at the top of our game," Harper said.

"While I think Zimbabwe is a very competitive team. I don't think we can really say that they are in the same bracket as Australia and that they got the strength and depth as a South Africa either," Harper added.

The West Indies, who have plummeted from the top position in world cricket to sixth place on Test cricket's unofficial ladder, have had a series of dismal results on their last five tours.

A 3-0 drubbing in Pakistan in 1997 has been followed by a 5-0 whitewash in South Africa (1998-1999), a 2-0 loss in New Zealand (1999-2000), a 3-1 defeat in England (2000) and a 5-0 hammering in Australia (2000-2001).

With just a solitary victory over England in their last 20 overseas Tests, the Windies will be hoping to end their miserable run against one of the weaker Test nations.

Harper listed batting and bowling as two of the key areas the West Indies must focus on.

"I think the area that we have to really pay a lot of attention to is batting. We have not been scoring as many runs as we need to. We need to put bigger scores on the board and we have to do this consistently," Harper emphasised.

"I think that is the area that we really have to focus on but we (also) have to make sure that we bowl very well. We are embarking on a tour here without either Curtly Ambrose or Courtney Walsh.

"This is going to be the first tour for a long time where neither of these gentlemen will be with us and it is an opportunity for all of the young bowlers to really step up and deliver the goods," Harper said.

The two Tests in Bulawayo (July 19-23) and Harare (July 27-31), will be preceded by a triangular One-Day series involving India and the host country starting June 23.

The absence of Test cricket's most successful bowler Walsh, who retired at the end of the home series against South Africa with 519 wickets under his belt in 132 matches, has left the Windies' attack without a world-rated bowler.

In Walsh's absence, the inconsistent Mervyn Dillon, a resurgent Cameron Cuffy, and the recuperating Reon King will be asked to shoulder the bowling responsibilities, along with improving leg-spinner Dinanath Ramnarine.

The three remaining bowlers, pacers Corey Collymore and Colin Stuart, along with left-arm spinner Neil McGarrell, only have four Test matches between them.

West Indies' batting will again revolve around star batsman Brian Lara, captain Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul as the dashing Wavell Hinds has only been selected for the One-Day Internationals.

Openers Chris Gayle, Daren Ganga and Leon Garrick are an inexperienced trio while young middle order batsmen Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels are still getting their feet wet in the international arena.

"I think this is the ideal opportunity for the youngsters to really step forward and make their names. I think for the team to be successful, everyone would have to pull their weight and do their job," Harper said.

ONE-DAY SQUAD: Carl Hooper (captain), Ridley Jacobs (vice-captain), Chris Gayle, Daren Ganga, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Neil McGarrell, Mahendra Nagamootoo, Cameron Cuffy, Mervyn Dillon, Corey Collymore, Reon King, Kerry Jeremy.

Colin Stuart, Leon Garrick and Dinanath Ramnarine will replace Kerry Jeremy, Wavell Hinds and Mahendra Nagamootoo for the two-match Test series and subsequent tour of Kenya.