Desperate times for West Indian cricket fans

Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Georgetown, Guyana:Fans and former cricketers are fast losing faith in Brian Lara's West Indians, who are facing an early exit from the World Cup after three successive defeats in the Super Eights.

The West Indies' semi-final hopes were severely jolted when they crashed to a 113-run defeat against Sri Lanka in front of their supporters at the Providence Stadium here on Sunday.

They were always considered a dangerous side because of their unpredictability, but have looked only predictable in their last three matches against defending champions Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

The West Indies were the surprise winners of the 2004 Champions Trophy in England and also finished runners-up in the 2006 edition in India. But they always looked the second-best side in their Super Eights games.

Batting was their big headache as they failed to cross the 220-mark in their previous three games, with only Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul among the top-order batsmen scoring one half-century apiece.

Opener Chris Gayle's below-par performances only added to their problems, for he was instrumental in giving his team solid starts in the Champions Trophy in India last year when he was named man of the tournament.

The West Indies clashed with three in-form sides early in the second round, but could not raise their performance. Their bowling and fielding both left a lot to be desired under pressure.

The competitive flavour was missing in all the three matches as they lost by 103 runs against Australia, by seven wickets against New Zealand and by 113 runs against Sri Lanka.

No hosts have ever won the Cup and the West Indies look unlikely to break the jinx as they not only have to win against South Africa, England and Bangladesh, but also have to depend on other teams' results.

"It was no April Fool's Day joke. The simple reality was that Sri Lanka gave the West Indies a comprehensive beating, one more complete than they have had for a long time," former West Indies paceman Colin Croft wrote in his Guyana Chronicle column.

"It was terrible and like all the West Indian supporters and former players, this hurts terribly. I don't think that the West Indies have anything special about them now. I cannot remember seeing a team look so poor on the field."

The West Indies had raised their fans' hopes when they beat Pakistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe to qualify with an all-win record. But it turned out to be a deceptive start as they were found wanting against big sides in the second round.

Former Test fast bowler Michael Holding has already hit out at Lara, saying the captain should step down.

"Lara has to step aside, not necessarily as a player, but as captain. He appears bigger than the game. He has got whatever he has wanted," said Holding.

"We haven't seen an improvement when he has taken over the captaincy. Everyone knows he's a great batsman but that's not what it takes to lead a team. I can't even say he is a good captain tactically."

Lara still believes there is a glimmer of hope if his team win the remaining three matches. But their failure to advance to the semi-finals will greatly affect the attendences at the stadia.

Spectators have so far turned up in large numbers only for matches involving the hosts.

"Times are now decidedly desperate for the West Indies cricket team, and this has nothing to do with the World Cup," wrote Croft.

"The West Indies team, based on what I saw on Sunday, is in a very bad state."


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