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Lara left with little option other than to hope
Simon Evans | March 31, 2007 00:25 IST
Two defeats in two days have left the West Indies facing the prospect of elimination from the tournament they are hosting unless they can rapidly and radically improve their performances.
Brian Lara's side, who won all three of their group games in Kingston, Jamaica, suffered successive defeats to Australia and New Zealand in the Super Eights and face tough games against two other favourites for the semis -- Sri Lanka and South Africa.
The defeats at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium were convincing with the West Indians outclassed in all departments by both their opponents and led their captain to talk of "desperate times".
Lara, the only member of the squad to have been a consistent performer at the highest level, has been loyally protective of his players from the beginning of the tournament but after Thursday's loss to New Zealand his patience showed signs of running out.
His biggest concern was the failure of his frontline batsmen to build major, potentially match-winning innings and he knows that unless that changes the hope of his side becoming the first hosts to win the competition will be quickly ended.
Openers Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul have both proven they have the quality to make big scores against strong opposition but so far it has not happened -- Chanderpaul's century, their only three-figure score from five matches, came against a friendly Irish bowling attack.
Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels have also been unable to take a grip of a game and Lara himself, batting at number five, was left to try to rebuild and consolidate in both the Super Eight matches when his role was meant to be to capitalise on solid foundations built by his top four.
"It's not happening, we haven't made 250 runs in any of the five games we have played so far. I think we have got to look at it," said Lara after the New Zealand defeat.
"If we are going to win the World Cup it is not going to be on the back of just one or two of them or myself it is going to be the entire team and we are just not playing well as a team, especially in the batting department," he said.
While the scorebook shows clearly that Lara is right and the main problem has been lack of runs from the higher order, the defeats have also exposed a lack of penetration from the bowling attack.
Apart from Daren Powell, who has bowled with speed and accuracy throughout the tournament and fellow quickie Jerome Taylor, who was controversially left out for extra batsman Lendl Simmons on Thursday, the West Indies attack is made up of modest bowlers whose main strength are in containment.
Medium pacers Corey Collymore, Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo have little in their repertoire to worry top class batsmen while the spin of Gayle and Samuels is flat and pushed through, designed to eat up overs rather than confound or tempt batters into losing their wicket.
A change is clearly called for but Lara has few options in his 15-man squad.
On the bowling front he has left-arm seamer Ian Bradshaw who has played just one game, against Ireland, and who Lara himself admits has struggled against right-handed batsmen in net practice.
Devon Smith is an opening batsman who has yet to feature in the World Cup but the fact that he has not made a one-day half-century in two years of international cricket hardly inspires confidence that he would strengthen the line-up.
Neither Simmons nor the untested Kieron Pollard have yet to be exposed to world class opposition and their selection ahead of more experienced performers surprised many in Caribbean cricket.
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