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Lara's last chance

THE decision by the West Indies cricket board to retain Brian Lara as captain for the first two Tests of the forthcoming series against Australia is evidence, if indeed any was needed, of the paralysis that exists in today's cricket set-ups. It is probably the first time that a captain who has been responsible in no small way for the absolute humiliation of a team has been retained.

It is also an indication of the bankruptcy of ideas; the stale notion that the so-called good players must also make good leaders still prevails. And the next millennium is already round the corner. When will this brand of outdated thinking go out of the window? When we reach the year 3000?

It is not as though there is nobody who can take up the reins. Over the past week, there have been at least four proposals by various respected cricket writers -- Ian Bishop, Jimmy Adams, Carl Hooper and Roger Harper, the last probably an indication of the desperation that exists in West Indian ranks. Unfortunately, the selectors have chosen to forgive something which should have been unforgiveable. And it is obvious that they have followed their own noses rather than those of the coach and manager.

Neither Malcolm Marshall nor Clive Lloyd are ordinary cricketers; they were both bloody good at their craft, devoted to the cause of West Indies cricket and they must be hurting inside to see the state of the game in the islands. But the board apparently does not want Lloyd to play a more hands-on role; neither do they want ideas from two of the best of the bunch who made the West Indies the most feared team of the 1980s. It is something like keeping caviar at home and then being content with eating stale bread. Countries like Bangladesh have their faults but even they have been quick to recognise the value of the West Indies team of that era and Gordon Greenidge's services have been used to no small extent to the benefit of the team.

The last time the West Indies played Australia, Lara was responsible for most of the on-field acrimony -- tussles with Ian Healy (over a caught behind decision which Lara felt Healy had grassed) and Glenn McGrath (over words which the Australian paceman had directed at Robert Samuels. At the end of the series Lara uttered some brave words -- that the outcome of the next meeting between the two teams would be different. The West Indies lost the series in Australia by the odd Test of five and Lara was obviously hinting that the Frank Worrell trophy would be regained in the Caribbean. Is such a man the best choice to lead a shattered team against an Australian team which is brimming over with confidence?

I doubt very much whether Lara would like to be reminded about his words as he presides over a shattered team, two members of which -- Stuart Williams and Franklyn Rose -- face disciplinary charges over an altercation on the tour of South Africa. Much of the dispiritedness has been due to the captain's attitude and his inability to wield the team into a unit. A disparate talented bunch will always fail even if they meet up with an ordinary team which is motivated and playing as a cohesive unit. It has nothing to do with psychologists or any other kind of mumbo-jumbo; it is just that some sportsmen think they are superior to others because they happen to have performed better. Such prima donnas can excel in isolation; they can never lead a team.

Two Tests is all it will take to ensure that there is no chance of regaining the Frank Worrell trophy. Changing captains midway will definitely affect a team more than starting the series with a new man at the helm. But then, this is commonsense. And this brand of wisdom does not find too many takers these days. Certainly not among Pat Rousseau and his boys.