BRIAN LARA has to be held accountable

Published : Aug 21, 2004 00:00 IST

The West Indies' heavy loss to England in the second Test at Edgbaston was their eleventh in Brian Lara's 20 Tests at the helm since his second coming. There have only been four victories and of them, one each have been against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, writes TONY COZIER.

BRIAN LARA finds himself under the pressure a succession of West Indies captains have inevitably endured as the price for the failure of their teams.

Like Sir Garry Sobers and other illustrious predecessors before him, Lara has discovered that his immense stature as a player does not absolve him from criticism of his leadership or guarantee his tenure.

Former players now commenting on the series in England for the media have joined the growing list of those who are convinced the West Indies must now turn to another leader.

"Lara must take a long, hard look at himself," Sir Viv Richards, the former captain who was chairman of selectors before quitting prior to the tour, said. "The side are now in a bad way and, if you have a leader who cannot motivate, you have problems."

Time for a change

Ian Bishop, the fast bowler who played most of his 43 Tests alongside Lara, is also convinced it is time for a change.

"There is an understanding that the raw materials at hand for the West Indies are not the same as they once were, but there is more talent in the side than is apparent at the moment and that is down to the leadership," he said.

"The time may be right to replace Brian Lara as captain," he added. "He has undoubtedly tried his best and the team are trying their hardest too, but they are still losing heavily and nothing is changing."

As the most prestigious and high profile position in the most passionately followed sport in the West Indies, it inevitably attracts comment and controversy.

Incensed fans went so far as to burn an effigy of Sobers in Port of Spain in 1968 after a reckless declaration opened the way, for England, for an unlikely victory in the fourth Test.

When India, under Ajit Wadekar, defeated Sobers' West Indies 1-0 in the 1971 series in the Caribbean, the classic calypso hailing the exploits of "Gavaskar, the real master", chided the great left-hander.

"Sobers, as a captain, he need plenty coaching," the line went.

Richie Richardson was booed by the Sabina Park crowd when he led the team out following its loss to South Africa in the 1992 World Cup and his comment that it was just another cricket match.

Virtual mutiny

On the 1995 tour of England, Richardson found himself facing a virtual mutiny, instigated by Lara, during a team meeting in London. A year later, during the World Cup in India and Pakistan, he jumped before the board could push him out of the captaincy.

The difference with Lara is that he has had to endure it twice during a period when West Indies cricket has been in the most emphatic decline in its history, even as he himself has confirmed as one of the finest batsmen of all time.

Initially appointed in 1998 to replace Courtney Walsh following the West Indies' defeats in all three Tests in Pakistan, the first of the clean sweeps that have since become commonplace, Lara resigned two years later after what he described as "moderate success and devastating failure".

The successes were at home, 3-1 over England and 2-2 over Australia that featured his two stirring match-winning innings, 213 in Jamaica and 153 not out in Barbados.

The failures were the 5-0 whitewash on the first, ill-starred tour of South Africa and the subsequent loss of both Tests and all five one-day internationals.

Interim captains

Jimmy Adams and Carl Hooper led in the interim and Lara returned to play under both. But neither could survive continuing reversals on the field and the expectations of an unforgiving public.

Adams was fast-tracked into the job on Lara's withdrawal two weeks prior to the home series against Zimbabwe and Pakistan in 2000.

The West Indies won both but defeats that followed in England, 3-1, and Australia, another 5-0 whitewash, and Adams' own poor batting form, led to the instalment for the 2002 home series against Indian of Hooper, who had announced his retirement prior to the 1999 World Cup.

It was a recall of a talented, but mercurial, cricketer that stirred such controversy that Michael Holding, the great fast bowler of an earlier generation and a now respected commentator, withdrew from his TV contract for Hooper's first series in charge.

The West Indies managed only four victories, against 11 defeats, in Hooper's 22 Tests in charge.

When they were knocked out after the first round of last year's World Cup in South Africa — as they had been under Lara in 1999 in England — Lara was asked by West Hall, then president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to return to lead the team.

Lara said at the time it would be a "dereliction of duty" not to accept. He spoke enthusiastically about the prospects of leading, and moulding, a team filled with talented young players.

Once more the success has been moderate and the failure devastating.

The West Indies' heavy loss to England in the second Test at Edgbaston was their eleventh in his 20 Tests at the helm since his second coming. There have only been four victories and of them, one each have been against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The most crushing defeats have been the five inflicted by England in the six Tests between the teams in the Caribbean in March and April and the subsequent two in England. Lara's mounting frustration was evident in his statement prior to the second Test against Bangladesh in Jamaica in June.

His unbeaten 400 in Antigua in the preceding series had reclaimed his world Test record score but, more significantly, had prevented a dreaded whitewash against the West Indies' oldest opponents.


When his team was embarrassed by Bangladesh, Test cricket's newest and weakest team, in a drawn match in St. Lucia a few weeks later, Lara declared that he would stand down as captain if they could not win the second and final match.

They duly did, by an innings.

It was his way, Lara explained, of motivating his players. It sounded more like desperation and motivation, a prime responsibility of any leader, has been clearly lacking in the series that has followed in England.

Lara was adamant after the defeat in the Edgbaston Test that he had been appointed for the series and was fully committed to seeing it through. To use his expression when he took over from Hooper, it would be a dereliction of duty if he didn't.

But he has been unable to raise his team out of its prolonged slump and, as its captain, he has to be held accountable — as Hooper, Adams, Walsh, Sobers and others have been before him.

JOHN GODDARD: The only captain other than Lara to have two stints. Led the West Indies to their first triumph in England in 1950 but was replaced by Jeffrey Stollmeyer following a 4-1 loss to Australia in Australia two years later. Reappointed for the series in England in 1957 but replaced by Gerry Alexander following a 3-0 defeat.

Garry Sobers: Took over from Frank Worrell in 1965 and led the West Indies to series wins over Australia (2-1 at home), England (3-1 away) and India (2-0 away) before going 20 Tests without a win against Australia, New Zealand and England (away), India and New Zealand (at home). Replaced by Rohan Kanhai in 1973. Continued to play under Kanhai until his retirement in 1974.

Rohan Kanhai: Captain for 13 Tests in 1973 and 1974 (won 3, lost 3, drew 7). Replaced by Clive Lloyd in 1974.

Richie Richardson: Made captain on Viv Richards' retirement in 1991. Captain for 24 Tests (won 11, lost 6, drawn 7). Led West Indies to first series loss in 15 years, to Australia in 1995. Dismissed during 1996 World Cup, replaced by Courtney Walsh.

Courtney Walsh: Took over briefly while Richardson was ill in 1994-95. Returned in place of Richardson in 1996. Record: 22 Tests, won 6, lost 7, drawn 9. Replaced by Lara in 1998.

Brian Lara: Took over in 1997 when Walsh was dismissed after 3-0 loss in Pakistan. Resigned in 2000 after 18 Tests (won 5, lost 11, drawn 2). Replaced by Jimmy Adams.

Jimmy Adams: Took over from Lara in 2000. Replaced by Hooper in 2001 after 15 Tests (won 4, lost 8, drawn 3).

Carl Hooper: Recalled from retirement to take over from Adams. Replaced by Lara in 2003 after 22 Tests (won 4, lost 11, drawn 7).

Brian Lara: Brought back for his second stint instead of Hooper in 2003. Captain for 20 Tests since (won 4, lost 11, drawn 5). — Tony Cozier

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