WEST INDIES cricket has a new captain. And an unusual one at that, a man who does not need to play the game in order to support himself, one who is also a highly educated individual. James Clive Adams has often been mentioned as a likely leader but that was before he was hit on the helmet by a pace bowler and lost the confidence that once made him the leading batsman in Test cricket.
Indeed, there are many who question whether he can hold his place in the team as a batsman. He has not done overly well in recent times but his excellent record in his initial years has helped him keep his Test average at a healthy 45-plus after 39 Tests, with a top score of 208 not out, five hundreds and 11 half-centuries. His one-day record isn't in the same class - he has yet to make a hundred and averages just above 30.
But what is important about Adams is that he has always been seen as a force for unity. He was widely praised for his captaincy on the tour of India with the A team. Unity being something difficult to achieve in West Indies teams, given the fact that the players all come from different countries, Adams was thus seen as a good person to pull the team together. But his confidence has suffered a great deal after his batting went downhill.
What the West Indies need right now is a good leader. They have talent in their ranks but there has been a smouldering discontent with Lara on many fronts. If Adams can overcome these barriers within the team and ensure that everybody pulls in the same direction, then he would have gone more than halfway towards getting the West Indies back to where they once were.
The news that Lara has taken a break from cricket is a welcome one. He has always seen Adams as a rival. Now that he has to play under Adams, a reaction was expected. He was probably aware that nobody else would get the job; Chanderpaul is no leader and, more important, is not a black man. Hooper is unlikely to give up a lucrative contract in Australia and return to the Caribbean. Lara pulled out a day before the announcement. He probably hopes that the gap he leaves in the batting line-up will be glaringly obvious and that officials will prevail on him to return. I, for one, would not be unhappy if he decides to retire right away.
Adams' initial statements after his appointment indicate that he is fully aware of the reasons behind Lara's pulling out. This is not the first time Lara has done this kind of thing. Adams brings to the job an obduracy that is difficult to find. But he badly needs to start converting his early starts into longer innings. The strokes that once were his need to start flowing again. He will have more support from the team than Lara ever had, that is for sure.
Something tells me that the West Indies will not sink any lower. They will come back slowly but surely. A lot of the players who have been performing badly will start to pull up their socks. What appears to be a weak team will show much improved results under Adams. Capable youngsters will begin to come through as well, not incompetents. In short, what appears to be a big setback will be the catalyst that leads to a West Indian revival. And when it happens, remember, you first read it here.