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WICB Embarrased Itself Not Lara

By Orin Davidson

Brian Lara’s heady days of a May of success turned upside down in the time it took to complete four Test matches.

His reaction to India ending a 35-year-old winless Test series victory drought in the West Indies, after being drubbed in the Limited Overs series, was indicative of a man deeply hurt by the turn of events, but not entirely surprising.

Being the type of person capable of carrying fans to the heights of ecstasy and the depths of infuriation, Lara’s attacks on West Indies officialdom has been received with varying levels of condemnation, silence and some appreciation.

For those turned off by his antics in the past, Lara has been condemned for behavior unbecoming of a gifted and accomplished individual. To others Lara has been shortchanged by a Board which allowed India to run away with a morale boosting series victory that was undeserved under the double world record holder’s watch.

More so, India’s fine comeback from a 4-1 ODI series humiliation was hard to take considering the brilliant start West Indies made in the first half of the tour.

In his native Trinidad and Tobago Lara is normally given royal treatment, but when it became apparent the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) was desperate for a new captain, the Board made him into a Caribbean Prince.

He was courted from all quarters by its officials who had the greats of the 1980s Dream Team help encourage him accept the team’s captaincy for the third time.

When Lara accepted and went on to lead West Indies to a 4-1 drubbing of the world number two ranked Limited Overs team, after steamrolling Zimbabwe 5-0, all the gloom of the previous year’s wretched performances were wiped away.

Another victory in the Tests over the always vulnerable India in the West Indies, would’ve iced the cake as the real test of a team’s ability lies in the results it posts in the longer form of the sport.

And when Lara was denied the opportunity to influence changes to engineer a comeback in the series after India controlled the first three games, things turned ballistic.

One can understand Lara’s rage because the WICB has frequently failed to get anything done properly, especially in the recent past.

It is no surprise the double world record holder consistently went public with his criticism of the non selection of bowlers he feels were needed to stop India’s determined run to a memorable Test series triumph.

In this present calamitous state of West Indies cricket administration, Lara has the right to state his feelings whether publicly or privately on issues affecting his team.

Maybe he went a step too far in seizing almost every opportunity he got with the media to slam the selectors and groundsmen. Also his frequent tantrum displays over the eventual quality of the pitches were unwarranted.

Unless Lara was privy to information most of us don’t have, one should have no doubt chief groundsman Charlie Joseph did the best he could to recreate the Sabina Pitch of the past - one of enough pace and bounce that rewards a bowler if he is good enough and a batsman likewise - which suited West Indies just fine all along.

But from all appearances the captain felt the groundstaff blundered by preparing a strip which turned and bounced and generally gave more assistance to the Indian spinners than his pacemen got from it.

In the same way he feels the selectors erred by not giving him the players he wanted and made his feelings clear to the world, more often than was necessary.

But at no time did he embarrass West Indies cricket.

The WICB has embarrassed itself many times over, in past years with its efforts of lack thereof, to restore the Region’s cricket to world class standard.

Its dealings with new team sponsor Digicel and the subsequent fallout with the West Indies Players Association which resulted in a second string team touring Sri Lanka cannot be matched in the near future for the humiliation the Board heaped upon itself and the players.

And the ruling body once again set it self up for more stick by not properly streamlining Lara’s return to the captaincy. By not making him part of the selection panel, the Board initiated the rift, in the event of unfavorable results, knowing Lara could be demanding especially in times of crisis.

It must be remembered the Board was the one that chased after him for the captaincy, not the other way around.

Furthermore in light of the heavy authority bestowed on coach Bennett King, it is astounding the WICB thought it would’ve been okay with Lara having no input in team matters, considering the former’s unproven credentials.

The revelation that a letter received during the final Test by Lara five weeks late, appointing him a selector is as ludicrous as they come and only added fuel to Lara’s rage.

And when one takes into consideration the Board’s unbelievable lapse in having the players begin the series without contracts of any sort – tour or retainer, nothing could be more embarrassing to West Indies cricket in the present circumstances.

No doubt it all re-kindled an anger Lara developed during his removal from the captaincy during that acrimonious sponsorship row that resulted in the Sri Lanka debacle.

It started with the Board’s attempt to muzzle the player after his private press conference and was blown out of control by the letter fiasco.

Even if the consistency of Lara’s attacks were uncalled for, his actions were understandable.

The West Indies Board is one ruling body that could drive any player to the deepest levels of despair without displaying any indication of letting up.

No wonder his thinly veiled threat of abdicating the captaincy unless changes are made in the selection panel, has left a satisfying feeling in the stomachs of all the real supporters of West Indies cricket, long fed up with the Board’s handling of its affairs.

When all is said and done Lara is not the first West Indies captain to vent his frustrations in unorthodox manner. When Sir Vivian Richards took time off from his team’s post tea appearance on the field, to let English journalists feel the length of his tongue during the 1986 series versus England at the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG), he was provoked by a different source, but not to the extent Lara and his teammates are being subjected to now.

Whether Lara’s preferences for this series would’ve reversed the result, we would never know.

It is clear though that West Indies batting let them down throughout the Test rubber.

In the first Test it was left to the numbers 10 and 11 to save the game at the ARG, then at Beausejour in St. Lucia a complete second innings collapse and defeat was averted by rain.

Then in Jamaica, the first innings only yielded 103 runs which cost them the match and the series.

If Lara’s outbursts and the team’s latest failure does nothing to make the WICB a more responsible ruling body, nothing else will.

It is a frightening prospect.

Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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