Windies squad for crucial tours to be named tomorrow By Adriel Richard
Guyana Chronicle
October 15, 2003

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (CMC) - One of the wishes of Teddy Griffith, the new president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), is to have the West Indies team consolidate a world top-three position in Test and limited-overs international ratings by the time his tenure comes to an end in June 2005.

The long process towards the new WICB president’s objective commences when the selection panel announces the squad for the upcoming tours of Zimbabwe and South Africa tomorrow.

On their second official tours of these two African nations, West Indies play two Tests and five limited-overs internationals in Zimbabwe next month, and follow up with four Tests and another five limited-overs internationals in South Africa that will keep them away from home for another nine weeks.

The African Safari starts what Griffith described as 12 months of a very challenging schedule of international cricket.

Home series against England and Bangladesh follow between March and early June, before the players depart from Britain to play four Tests and two separate limited-overs competitions.

Griffith, who played first-class cricket for his native Barbados and his adopted home Jamaica, noted that though the signs of emergence over the past few years were encouraging, the performance of the team, particularly on the road, has been inconsistent.

He urged the team to use the next year to "cement and procure consistent winning habits and performances".

This they should be able to do against Zimbabwe, but will have to dig deep to accomplish against much tougher South African opponents.

Except for weekend domestic cricket and, players like Vasbert Drakes and Corey Collymore, who secured contracts to play in the English County Championship, most of the players should be fresh from a near three-month lay-off.

They should be mentally and physically prepared for the long road ahead.

West Indies should start favourites against Zimbabwe.

They have won three of their four Tests against the Zimbabweans and have dominated the majority of the limited-over matches between the two sides, winning 14 of 19 matches.

In addition, Zimbabwe’s recent Test form has been woeful.

They have lost their last 10 Tests including the first of two against Australia that ended on Monday.

Last time West Indies travelled to Zimbabwe, they secured a 1-0 series win in the Test and captured the preceding triangular limited-overs series when they defeated India, the other side in the competition, in the final under the leadership of Carl Hooper.

Barring injury or exceptional circumstances, Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan are likely to be retained in the posts of captain and vice-captain for the tours.

These two were at the helm when West Indies performed creditably against Australia and Sri Lanka during separate home series earlier this year.

Lara was the captain however, when West Indies suffered the indignity of a 5-0 whitewash and 6-1 drubbing on their last tour of South Africa. He vowed after the series against Sri Lanka earlier this year, he would take the upcoming series personally and atone for the last time.

He also suggested that the last time West Indies travelled to South Africa the outcome of the series somewhat derailed his career, and victory later this year would expel the demons from that experience.

It will be a tall order for Lara and his men.

In 11 Tests between the two sides, West Indies have won only two, lost seven and drawn two and have similarly struggled in the head-to-head battles in the shorter form of the game -- winning just nine of 27 matches.

They can, however, take comfort in the knowledge that they chased a world record highest winning total in a Test against world champions Australia and conquered a decent Sri Lanka side at home.

If they can recapture that spirit and confidence, Zimbabwe and South Africa should not be too difficult and Griffith will be a happier man.