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West Indies lack class, application and hope
April 11, 2007 21:38 IST
West Indies captain Brian Lara was blunt in his appraisal of the four straight defeats which have ended his hopes of reaching the last four of the World Cup.
"We were beaten badly by better teams," he told a news conference.
But as the passionate and bitter inquest into those dreadful displays begins, plenty more honesty will be required if the World Cup hosts are to find a way to address the decline of the game in the Caribbean.
There were no moments of misfortune, no bad umpiring decisions, no rain stoppages or injuries that could explain away how Lara's side failed to get close to winning any of those four games. They simply were not good enough.
Most of the criticism has focused on the frontline batsmen and indeed two of the top order strokeplayers of whom so much was expected -- Jamaicans Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels -- had tournaments they will want to quickly forget.
But the bowling was little better. Only quickie Daren Powell and to a lesser extent seamer Corey Collymore put in performances they could be satisfied with.
All-rounder Dwayne Bravo, after a promising start against Pakistan in the group stage, failed consistently with bat and ball.
The fielding was never up to the high standards expected at top level one-day cricket.
It was not so much the dropped catches that rankled fans but the general lack of alertness and enthusiasm and the body language displayed in the field that gave a clue to the deeper problems that lay beneath the defeats.
There has been little intensity to the West Indian training sessions and even less camaraderie on display.
While other teams finish off sessions by taking out a football or a rugby ball for a bit of movement and fun, the West Indian players ended most of their practices slumped silently in chairs under a tent roof.
At the end of several sessions, skipper Lara walked off the training ground alone and in silence and the same lack of communication between captain and team was evident on the field -- games drifted away from the West Indies without much sign of Lara rallying his troops.
It cannot be an easy task for a genuine world-class player like Lara, a Test and first class record run scorer as a batsman, to work with those of significantly lesser talent than his own.
As a captain he has failed to replicate the success he has enjoyed at the crease, unable to get the best out of the 15 players made available to him.
The responsibility is not Lara's alone. The side had an Australian coach Bennett King and two Australian assistants and just before the tournament Clive Lloyd, the captain of the West Indian World Cup-winning sides of 1975 and 1979, was appointed team co-ordinator.
It has never been clear exactly what role Lloyd has taken.
Lara certainly tried all the options available to him. Anyone who could bowl was given a chance, all batsmen were used and the batting order was rotated regularly.
But it may be revealing that when faced with criticism of his decision-making by former player Andy Roberts, Lara responded with a reminder that, unlike Roberts, he had not been part of the selection panel for the World Cup squad.
"I was not there in the meeting. The team was selected without me.
"I still go out there and fight my best with the team given to me, with the 15 players," Lara said after the New Zealand defeat, leaving the thought that perhaps he may have chosen some different faces.
The selectors may now wonder if it was wise to go into the World Cup campaign without a specialist spin-bowler in the squad -- Gayle and Samuels can fill up overs with their off-spin but were never a threat.
They may also ponder whether it was the right moment to give chances to inexperienced young batsmen Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard who featured in just one game each in a tournament where the team's batsmen were struggling.
As for the question of the captaincy, with Lara retiring from the one-day game after this tournament, a new face will be needed.
Guyanese batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan is regarded as the frontrunner for the job. The big question is whether Lara will remain skipper of the Test side for the forthcoming tour of England, a topic he has so far refused to discuss.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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