As England get ready to escape the rigours of a severe winter and fly to the Caribbean, things are rather unsettled on the other side. The question of who will lead the West Indies in this series has yet to be settled as of date. The choice could well be a turning point in the fortunes of the team.
Courtney Walsh put the whole thing in perspective when, after the hammering at the hands of Pakistan, he said he wouldn't have minded being beaten so badly if he was leading a team which little or no ability. But no, said Walsh, this was not the case; the team was being steamrolled simply because the players refused to apply themselves. Walsh himself had a good run and was named man of the series for his 14 wickets. But it was small consolation.
After Richie Richardson was forced to step down following the World Cup, Walsh was given the reins though many took it to be a short-term assignment as Lara was being spoken of as a likely captain. During the tour of Australia in 1996-97, Lara's stock dropped a bit following the row with Healy and the fact that he did little with the bat to justify his reputation.
But during his one Test as skipper, against India in the Caribbean, Lara showed that he can lay claim to the captaincy not simply because of his batting prowess. His astute captaincy helped the West Indies win, a victory that ensured they took the series as that turned out to be the sole Test match which yielded a result.
There was some talk, before the West Indies team was named for what turned out to be a disastrous tour of Pakistan that Walsh would give way to Lara. But that did not happen. And after the tour, Lara's stock has fallen a great deal. He did nothing of note, so much so that many are beginning to speak of either Carl Hooper or even Jimmy Adams -- the latter is not even in the senior team at the moment but is captaining the A team in South Africa -- as a better choice for captain.
Will Lara be good for West Indies cricket? Opinions differ. Some feel the responsibility will motivate him to perform better -- and when he has done well, the team has generally prospered. Others feel that he has been behind the lack of morale in the team and that his elevation will only serve to widen the rifts within the team. Both arguments are not without reason.
Hooper is a gifted cricketer but one who has never fully lived up to his potential. As to his leadership qualities, they are an unknown quantity. He is definitely not as aggressive as Lara on the field. He has long given the impression of being laidback though this may well change if he is given the reins.
Lara, on the other hand, is a bit too aggro at times. Petulant is the word that comes to mind. He has been excused time and again because people have willing to concede that a cricketer of his class is allowed to have some eccentricities. But the tantrums will have to end if he is to become captain. He will have to lead both by example and through camaraderie.
Worrell and Lloyd were leaders in the true sense; Sobers led by example because he was simply too good at everything on the field but he was often aloof from his men. Richards was brilliant but intolerant while Richardson was simply the wrong choice; Haynes should have got the mantle next. Walsh was the right choice at the time but he has been badly let down by the team. The time is right for a transition. As to who should be skipper, wiser heads must decide.