WICB gives Lara unwelcome reminder
by Tony Cozier in MANCHESTER
August 12, 2004
AS if there wasn't enough on his plate already, Brian Lara yesterday had an untimely and unwelcome reminder of the curious workings of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) on the eve of the third Test.
He awoke to find that he hadn't been confirmed as captain of the West Indies team for next month's Champions Trophy, even though, as he revealed at the pre-match media conference, he took part in its selection.
Affirmation finally came several hours later, into the late evening in Manchester, that he was cleared to continue in the position by a majority vote following a teleconference meeting of the board, summoned by some members who wanted him out.
By then, the chaos and confusion had long since been created.
Speculation was rife that Lara was gone and that Courtney Browne, captain of the Barbados team that has won the Carib Beer Cup and International Challenge over the past two seasons, had been recalled specifically to take over.
There was no explanation as to why the issue could not have been settled long before the team was announced, as it had to be under the ICC stipulation by Tuesday.
None was needed. It was simply another example of WICB bungling.
Lara initially gained a vote of confidence from the interim selection panel, made up of his long-time mentor Joey Carew as chairman, Gordon Greenidge and newcomer Clyde Butts.
Lara has been widely, and not unreasonably, faulted for his tactical and motivational failure to lead a young team out of a prolonged slump in his second term as captain, not least by former eminent players passionately concerned about the continued downward spiral under his direction.
But the selectors obviously believed that discarding him for a tournament confined to two limited-overs matches at the least, four at the most, would be unnecessarily disruptive.
They would have noted that they had to choose the team in the middle of a Test series in which the West Indies, for the second time in a few months, are once more battling to avoid the added humiliation of a whitewash to their oldest enemy.
The West Indies' next international engagement after the Champions' Trophy ends in late September is not until the annual triangular one-day series in Australia in January. Their next Test after the current series is not until next April, at home against South Africa.
It is ample time to put in place planned changes in team management, get the leading players under full-time contracts for the first time and employ a new, more assertive coach who is to be given wider powers.
It also is an opportunity to arrange special training for those it regards as future leaders. Heaven knows, it is seriously needed.
What yesterday's initial presentation of a team without a captain means is that the West Indies will follow a leader on to Old Trafford this morning lacking the confidence, not only of ex-players and commentators on the periphery, but patently also of some of those who actually run West Indies cricket.
Lara was adamant yesterday that the matter, and the exclusion of others from the present team, would not be a diversion from the job at hand, for either him or the team.
He, of course, has demonstrated that such things often stimulate him to greater deeds.
It is difficult to imagine that there won't be a negative effect on Ridley Jacobs, one of Lara's most experienced and trusted lieutenants, and his young understudy, Carlton Baugh, who have both been dropped. Jacobs, now into his 37th year, has inevitably begun to show the effects of repeatedly keeping wicket to totals in excess of 500.
His right knee has finally given out and he can't take his place behind the stumps today. He deserves a better farewell, hopefully in the final Test at the Oval.
With none of them present during the tour, the selectors could only have excluded Baugh from the Champions' Trophy on the reports of the captain and coach on the spot.
Jacobs' injury has given the diminutive, 22-year-old Jamaican the chance to prove them wrong.
"You have to b e professional to understand that these things are going to happen," was the message Lara said he passed on to those who won't be here for the Champions' Trophy.
"But what is important now is the next two weeks, not what happens in September, " he added. "Everybody has got to try to remain focused."