No Webster to handle WI problems
- Captain Adams has a big challenge

by Tony Cozier in London
Stabroek News
July 13, 2000

Jimmy Adams has identified the crisis that has suddenly overtaken his West Indies team as mind over matter but the "performance consultant" previously employed to deal with such problems is no longer around.

"It's a very big challenge for us to use the time remaining between now and the next games to get us back on track, not so much technically but mentally more than anything else," Adams said after the West Indies' heavy loss by 70 runs to Zimbabwe in the triangular NatWest Series in Canterbury on Tuesday, the third in their last four matches.

But Dr. Rudi Webster, the Barbadian sports psychologist first assigned to the team after the debacle in South Africa last year, has already left to return home via Washington. He was only contracted for the first two Tests of the current series, principally to ensure Brian Lara's smooth reintroduction into the team.

Tuesday's defeat means the West Indies must win their next two matches, against England on Saturday and Zimbabwe on Sunday, both at the north-east town of Chester-le-Street, to keep alive their chances of qualifying for the July 22 final at Lord's.

It doesn't leave much time for captain and management to lift players' confidence, visibly shaken since their all-out, second innings 54 and loss to England in the second Test at Lord's that levelled the series.

Dr. Webster's original appointment was novel and did not meet with universal approval, in spite of the fact that most professional sportsmen now seek, and need, such psychological support.

It is impossible to assess the impact of his work except that the sharp fluctations in West Indies' fortunes have coincided with his own, official on-and-off status.

He was present for the first time during the series against Australia in the Caribbean last year when the West Indies came back after being bowled out for 51 to lose the first Test in Port-of-Spain to win the next two Tests.

Lara, then captain on probation, publicly lauded Dr.Webster's influence as he led the team to its two victories with memorable innings of 213 in Kingston and 153 not out in Bridgetown.

When the West Indies were knocked out in the first round of the subsequent World Cup in England, the so-called "performance consultant" had taken leave of his post to tend to the ailing coach Malcolm Marshall.

He was not retained for the limited-overs tournaments in Singapore, Toronto and Sharjah last year or for the later tour of New Zealand where the West Indies lost both Tests and all five internationals.

The crisis created by such defeats, Lara's resignation as captain and decision to take a break from the game and the furore over the coaching position prompted the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to recall Dr.Webster for the home series against Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

The West Indies, under new captain Adams, new coach Roger Harper and new manager Ricky Skerritt, won three of the five Tests and drew the other two. They also held a 5-2 advantage in the internationals, although losing the best of three finals to Pakistan.

It may be simple coincidence, or it may not, but Dr.Webster was around for the innings victory in the first Test here before leaving for an assignment in an entirely different area in Washington even as England were completing their remarkable triumph at Lord's.

The loss at Lord's, and more particularly the circumstances of it following a first innings lead of 133, was a crushing blow to morale, not least to the new captain, coach and manager who were experiencingd their first defeat in seven Tests.

Its effect has been obvious in the aftermath, compounded by the approved absence of Curtly Ambrose and the injuries that have eliminated Courtney Walsh and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Concentration has wavered and the sense of purpose so evident in the Caribbean and until the reversal at Lord's has suddenly disappeared.

As Adams observed, it is a challenge and he, Harper and Skerritt have to deal quickly with it. They could have done with the aid of a professional to handle the vital, mental part of the equation.

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today