It hasn't been an auspicious start By Tony Cozier
Stabroek News
March 11, 2007

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The hotel housing four of the teams in Port-of-Spain had to be cleared because of a teargas attack, an embarrassing breach for the combined law enforcement services in-volved.

The Barbados police chief rightly blew his top over the frisking of his officers by overzealous security staff at the Three Ws Oval.

One match in Trinidad was in jeopardy when the teams complained about the state of the pitch.

The company that manufactured the seats for the new stands at Sabina Park was sacked a week before the opening match, a seemingly unnecessary step given the empty spaces during the warm-ups at Trelawney, the other Jamaican venue.

The bumped up prices, for everything from peanuts to patties, from beer to burgers, and the ever-present annoyance of ambush marketing were soon to the fore.

Not surprisingly the clash involved the two telecommunications companies whose wrangle so divided West Indies cricket in recent times.

Such setbacks over the first week of the Caribbean's first World Cup, and others besides, have been moderated by the welcoming efficiency of the hundreds of gaily-bedecked volunteers, certainly at Trelawney and, from all reports, at the three other venues so far used.

And, as the organizers are quick to point out, the warm-ups were not designed for the teams alone but also for the purpose of eliminating the inevitable glitches prior to the tournament proper that swings into full gear at Sabina Park on Tuesday.

We are assured, as we have been all along, that all will be well but it is not undue cynicism to concede that we will continue to keep fingers firmly crossed over the coming six weeks.

Nor, after the West Indies' abject capitulation to India in their last preparatory match on Friday, is it pessimistic to fear for what is to come on the field.

It was, it is true, an unofficial, 13-a-side contest.

The 85 all-out was the type of double-digit total that has become as familiar a feature of West Indies teams as designer sunglasses and glittering gold chains.

In this form of the game, they do not necessarily lead to disaster.

Was the West Indies' most ignominious defeat, when dismissed for 93 by Kenya in the 1996 World Cup, not followed by victory over Australia the next match and a spot in the semi-final?

More recently, the all-out 86 and a nine-wicket loss to Sri Lanka in the qualifying round of the Champions Trophy counted for nothing as they advanced to the final. And so on and so forth.

It is tempting to clutch at such straws for the impact on a floundering sport of a West Indies' triumph in the game's most prestigious tournament on home territory is obvious.

Sadly, the disunity and the absence of proper preparation within the team has become even more obvious.

The lack of intensity in Friday's effort was one symptom.

The pre-match routine was so laughable that John Wright, the former New Zealand opener and India's immediate past coach, believed at first glance they were the day's ball boys tossing tennis balls to each other.

The batting that followed might well have been by the ball boys as well.

The contrast with India's purposeful approach was distressing for the sizeable crowd that had never before witnessed such a high-profile international fixture on the north coast.

The evidence of internal divisions was just as clear cut, as it has been for some time.

Interviewed by Jeffrey Dujon prior to the toss, head coach Bennett King offered the opinion that, since they had batted first in the previous match against Kenya, the West Indies should bowl if the captain won the toss. Lara chose to do the opposite.

It reflected the earlier difference of opinion between King and convenor of selectors, Gordon Greenidge, over the choice of Dwayne Smith in the squad of 15.

It might explain why the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is not sending its three appointed selectors, Greenidge, Clyde Butts and Andy Roberts, to any of the World Cup matches. Greenidge and Roberts will be at Sabina on Tuesday to be honoured along with others from the 1975 and 1979 World Cup champion teams, Roberts at other venues as an official World Cup pitch inspector.

Had they had any input into proceedings, it was unlikely there would be as much messing around with the batting order as there was.

After his hundred against Kenya on Tuesday, Marlon Samuels had restated his preference for batting at No.4. Informed he was in the 13 only on the morning of the match against India, he was then slotted in at No.8.

That placed him one down from Denesh Ramdin, the wicket-keeper who, in his diary on the internet, revealed that he was "a bit surprised by not being selected" for the opening match.

Manager Clive Lloyd, never one to stand for nonsense during his time as the longest serving and most successful captain, might have taken him aside and explained the meaning of team unity and the need for players to accept selections, far less airing their "surprise" globally.

Such players' diaries and newspaper columns are now common place. Almost every member of the England team in Australia recently enunciated his thoughts to a national newspaper, mostly through his "ghost" writer.

It is a dicey practice. Either the player is cagey about what he puts to print, wary of upsetting captain and management, or is utterly frank. In the first case, the readers are not getting full value, in the latter the team's dirty linen gets washed in public.

Chris Gayle, for instance, let it be known in his diary on the same website in December that "I am not a scapegoat bowler to be used only when things are difficult."

It was a interesting insight into his feelings but hardly likely to endear him to captain or coach. And, like Ramdin's "surprise", it provided convenient sledging ammunition for opponents ("hey Chris, Brian not bowling you today?" or "Denesh, I don't think the captain and coach like you").

That the relevant website happens to be run by Digicel during a tournament of which Cable & Wireless is one of the sponsors adds a complicated twist to the tale.

More will undoubtedly follow in several other areas before the finalists - India and Australia once more? - meet in the final at Kensington Oval on April 28.