West Indies face fresh crisis

By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
October 21, 1999

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (CANA) - Beset by a series of cheerless performances in recent One-day tournaments in Toronto and Sharjah, the West Indies cricket team which also endured the indignity of a first round exit from the World Cup, now faces another crisis.

The recent inept displays by the Brian Lara-led West Indies squad of young recruits, precocious players and a few old hands, have triggered heated debate across the Caribbean as cricket pundits look for a remedy for such woes.

As was the case following the team's humiliating 5-0 Test series defeat and the 6-1 One-Day International drubbing in South Africa last year, the critics have sharpened their knives and are calling for Lara's head.

The world double record holder, who got a stay of execution a few months ago against Steve Waugh's formidable Australians when his magical batting led to tied Test and One-Day home series, has once again been castigated on call-in sports programmes here.

Despite a 45-ball century in Bangladesh when he was just eight balls short of another batting record for the fastest ever One-day century, Lara was unable to inspire his inexperienced teammates after the successful Singapore Challenge.

The subsequent Toronto Festival resulted in series losses to depleted India and Pakistan teams but after sweeping aside rookies Bangladesh in Dhaka, the Windies subsequently felt the full fury of Sri Lanka and Pakistan when it mattered most.

Minus the aging fast bowling duo of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose and his experienced deputy Jimmy Adams in the last game of the ill-starred Sharjah trip, Lara was left to fight the might of the talented Pakistan team side with a number of fledgling players.

Predictably, the task proved too onerous and the West Indies, whose status as the world's best cricket team has declined significantly over the past three years, made another premature exit from an international tournament.

It was not only the Windies' fifth consecutive defeat against Pakistan but the run-margin of defeat was their heaviest in One-Day Internationals.

After all-rounder Azhar Mahmood sent the West Indies crashing out of the Sharjah Cup on Tuesday, taking six wickets as Pakistan swept to a 138-run victory, two of the Caribbean's foremost commentators Joseph "Reds" Perreira and Fazeer Mohammed called for strict measures to be implemented immediately.

"I think the key factor is discipline. If we have no discipline in our West Indies cricket at the very highest level, where are we going?" asked Mohammed.

Trinidadian Mohammed, who has been providing commentary of the Sharjah Cup for Caribbean listeners, said reaching the pinnacle of world cricket again should not be the priority now.

"Far from thinking about returning to the top, we should be thinking of ensuring that our players, our managers, our captain, those in authority are given that authority and not merely being given positions for marketing and advertising purposes.

"We have to realise that it has to start with discipline and if we don't focus on discipline, everything else will go by the wayside," said Mohammed.

Veteran Guyanese commentator Perreira called for better preparation of the regional team.

"We invested in a young squad, we entered tournaments in Singapore, Toronto and in Sharjah but we didn't look at trying to get that squad into the right shape. We did not arrange a camp," Perreira told CANA.

"There is a lot of work to be done and I have no doubt that the players are talented," said Perreira noting the West Indies Cricket Board must appoint a manager and coach for the tour of New Zealand later this year as soon as possible.

"It's time for the appointment of the manager and coach and get the players into a work ethic and stamp a bit of focus back on what is going wrong because nothing seems to be apparent that things are being done to fix the wrong," said Perreira.

"You see players making the same mistakes, getting into the same problems, having the same technical errors game after game. This has got to be arrested. We cannot simply allow them to go to New Zealand without a substantial camp," added Perreira.

Mohammed also said the recalling of players with modest international records was not viable and noted that an investment in outstanding cricketers from the NorTel under-19 tournament, who perform at the regioanl level would be a better bet.

"We have done that (recycling players) for too long and it really hasn't brought anything to us so that is a non-starter. If they (NorTel players) have been outstanding, they should be given the chance but if you are given the chance at the regional level and you don't shine at the regional level, then you haven't merited selection for the higher level.

"The cupboard may be bare but it is not a free-for-all. You've got to perform and you've got to perform at the various grades before you can merit selection," said Mohammed.

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