West Indies off-field problems continue By Tony Cozier In COLOMBO
Stabroek News
September 24, 2002

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THE off-field problems continued for the West Indies team here yesterday.

Already rocked by the mystery of Brian Lara's illness that has kept him out of next month's tour of India and the doubt over the death of Runako Morton's grandmother, the latest issue combines sex and gambling.

West Indies team manager Ricky Skerritt was obliged to respond to a newspaper story that police reported three prostitutes in his own room and that of team scorer and analyst Garfield Smith at the team's Taj Sumudra Hotel.

In a letter to the sports editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper here that carried the report, Skerritt's attorneys. Simon and Associates, said the article, under the headline 'Battle with bookies in Colombo extends to prostitutes'.

The letter charged the newspaper report "contains absolute falsehoods and innuendoes made deliberately with the intention of causing damage to out client's good name and reputation".

Released on his behalf by the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL), it added: "The insinuation that three prostitutes were found in the rooms of our client and his colleague, Garfield Smith, is false, mischievous and malicious".

The newspaper report stated one of the women reportedly in the relevant rooms was the daughter of a former chief of police. Another was 17 years old.

The lawyers' letter continued: "Our client has reason to believe that the relevant portion of the article in question has been deliberately planted by interested parties to sully the good name of our client and the West Indian cricket team.

"Our client, since his arrival in Sri Lanka, has repeatedly complained to the International Cricket Council's security officials about the behaviour and attitude of certain security personnel, assigned to the team hotel," it added.

They had, the letter charged, been "high handed, authoritative and officious in acting well beyond their scope of duty".

The letter continued: "Our client has also had to admonish certain media personnel who were attempting to vilify certain members of the West Indian team and invade their privacy.

"It is in this background that the above article has been caused to be published in your newspaper.

"Our client wishes to state that all visitors to his suite during his stay in Sri Lanka are persons of impeccable character and of a standing in society and that such persons will continue to be welcome to visit his suite. Our client therefore reiterates that your article is false and outrageous."

The attorneys' letters charged that the newspaper's correspondent "should have chosen to verify his facts" from Skerritt prior to publication of the article concerned.

They sought publication of their latter in the Mirror "adverbatim" in the interest of justice and fair play.

It threatened it would take "all necessary steps in law" if the paper did not carry the letter within the next 72 hours and, in any event, on or before Thursday with "the same prominence given to the article under reference our client has instructed us to take all necessary steps in law".

Whether the Daily Mirror adheres to the demand or not it immaterial.

The damage has already been done and further undermines the credibility and reputation of West Indies cricket.

Following the criticism of the players' attitude on the 'A' team tour of England and Canada last July and August and the craping report of the Shell Cricket Academy by two Australian coaches, the latest episodes since the team has been in Sri Lanka are genuine cause for concern.