West Indies’ World Cup disasters deal a blow to fragile Caribbean cricket
Posted by Dresonic on April 2, 2007
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) – It didn’t look as though Brian Lara had lost a cricket match. It was as if he had lost much more.
The West Indies, that most artificial of geographical groupings based loosely on former British colonies, had just lost their third World Cup match in a row, breaking the hearts of a region that is used to decades of cricket supremacy.
The fact that the World Cup was being staged in the Caribbean for the first time did not help either.
In most countries, such a failure might result in the captain or the coach being fired along with the selectors.
But in the Caribbean, the very future of West Indies cricket is at stake. The sport is under pressure from the growing American influence of basketball and the global pull of soccer.
Cricket is simply not the number one choice for young Caribbean sports fans anymore.
West Indies cricket officials had hoped the World Cup would rekindle interest in the sport in the Caribbean. But the murder investigation into death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer in Jamaica and the poor performance of the home team have cast a pall over the tournament.
Lara’s team was hammered by 103 runs by Australia, seven wickets by New Zealand and 113 runs by Sri Lanka. These results are unacceptable to West Indies fans, knives are already out and recriminations have started.
Colin Croft, one of the seemingly endless chain of pace bowlers once produced by the West Indies in the 1970s and 80s, said Sunday’s toothless loss against Sri Lanka was embarrassing. “The West Indies cricket team, based on what I saw yesterday, is in a very bad state overall,” he wrote in the country’s main newspaper The Guyana Chronicle.
Although his team isn’t mathematically out of the tournament, Lara acknowledges it is in disarray.
“These are really desperate times, and the guys have to pick themselves up and know what is in front of them,” Lara said after the defeat. “We’ve got to get into the frame of mind of winning everything from now on. We didn’t play like it was a crucial World Cup match.”
West Indies cricket, consisting of nations as disparate as Jamaica, Guyana on the South American mainland and dozens of island countries, frequently splits, on and off the pitch, into factional squabbling.
Arguments between Trinidadians, Jamaicans and Guyanese are frequent and critics say it has ruined any hopes of achieving the kind of team spirit that so often inspires other teams to famous fightbacks.
The West Indies body language in recent matches has been visibly negative. There is almost no encouragement between players and fielding became scrappy as the mood turned sour.
Mystifying team selections have not helped. Against New Zealand, pace bowler Jerome Taylor was suddenly replaced by an opening batsman, the untested reserve wicketkeeper Lendl Simmons, a decision that even some of the selectors struggled to explain.
Mike King of the Barbados Daily Nation wrote: “The team have not only played poorly, but have suffered from weak leadership and selection. The decision to drop Jerome Taylor, one of the team’s few strike weapons and replace him for the New Zealand match with an unproven player with a modest record in Lendl Simmons, was shameful to say the least.
“If you play an extra batsman at No 8, he has to be able to bowl. It is even more shocking as Simmons did little to justify even being in the squad of 15.”
The West Indies’ selectors, pace bowling great Andy Roberts, former opener Gordon Greenidge and Clyde Butts, could all find their positions in jeopardy if, as seems certain, the team fails to qualify for the last four of the competition.
Coach Bennett King and Lara – who ranks alongside Sir Garfield Sobers in terms of Caribbean cricket greatness – could also find themselves out of a job at the end of the tournament.
Lara was called upon to try to draw together the disparate strands of West Indies cricket, but appears destined to fail, even though he is still one of the world’s best batsmen.
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