Devaluing the World Cup By Tony Cozier In GEORGETOWN
Stabroek News
April 3, 2007

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-In the face of the hat-trick of recent losses suffered by the West Indies 2007 World Cup team, once the undisputed kings of world cricket, it can be argued that like the minnows, the West Indies can be accused of devaluing the World Cup

No house will be torched, no effigies burned, no buses stoned and, to be sure, no resignations tendered. But the lamentable cricket that has left the West Indies all but out of their own World Cup at the half-way point demands urgent investigation and attention.

The nine-day break before their next match, against South Africa in Grenada today week (April 10), provides a timely opportunity for West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Ken Gordon and the cricket committee to meet, individually or collectively, with captain Brian Lara, coach Bennett King and team coordinator Clive Lloyd.

The issue might be complicated by the fact that Lloyd is the chairman of the committee but the situation is grave enough to merit such discussion, even if in the middle of the World Cup.

The committee, comprised mainly of former players, need to hear from those at the heart of the team their explanations for the demeaning performances that have compounded the several other problems plaguing the tournament.

The meeting would also dwell on what can be done to prevent a recurrence over the remaining three matches.

Following the open disagreement last week between Lara and Andy Roberts over selection, an hour or two with Roberts and the other members of the panel, chairman Gordon Greenidge and Clyde Butts, would also be beneficial.

West Indies cricket has passed this way more than once. At an earlier nadir, the 5-0 whitewash on the historic inaugural tour of South Africa eight years ago, Lara and Lloyd were in the same positions they are now.

On return home both, along with coach Malcolm Marshall, were admonished by the WICB, then headed by Pat Rousseau, for their lack of leadership.

Lara, in the first of his three stints as captain, was placed on probation for two Tests in the subsequent home series against Australia, a decision that triggered his unforgettable response of scores of 213, 153 not out and 100 in the last three Tests that earned the West Indies an unlikely 2-2 share of the series.

Yet within a year Lara was submitting his resignation as captain after "two years of modest success and devastating failure" and Lloyd was returning to his role as an ICC match referee.

There can be no more "devastating failure" than has befallen the West Indies in the past week.

In the eight previous World Cups, the West Indies have never been as heavily beaten as they were by Australia (103 runs) and Sri Lanka (113 runs).

There has been a lot of talk about the so-called minnows devaluing the tournament. It is a charge that could now be justifiably made against the West Indies, once the kings of the game and champions of the first two tournaments.

The outside chance of a place in the semi-final depends on victory in all the remaining matches. It is a far-fetched notion at present but even performances that would save a little face would be acceptable.

In mitigation, Lara has noted the pressure of playing four days out of six, a consequence of an ill-considered itinerary.

That is counterbalanced by the absence of a physical trainer for the West Indies team since the Australian, Bryce Cavanagh, resigned during the Pakistan tour in December and reports that the level of his regime since taken over by physiotherapist Stephen Partridge had been reduced on the advice of the captain.

Phil Simmons, the former West Indies opener, who is in Guyana with the Ireland team, said he was appalled at the lack of intensity when he watched the team's practice session prior to Sunday's match against Sri Lanka.

It is the kind indifference that continues to drag West Indies down. It can hardly be changed in the space of the next three weeks but the effort must start somewhere. Enough is enough.