It's pleasing to see the progress West Indies has made — Adams

TWO years after he joined Richie Richardson, Courtney Walsh and Brian Lara in the West Indies' captaincy out-tray, Jimmy Adams is enthused over the progress of the young batsmen who first appeared under his leadership.

TONY COZIER

TWO years after he joined Richie Richardson, Courtney Walsh and Brian Lara in the West Indies' captaincy out-tray, Jimmy Adams is enthused over the progress of the young batsmen who first appeared under his leadership.

Ramnaresh Sarwan making waves. "I'm really excited about the batting unit. In the two years I've been away, it's evolved and getting stronger," says former West Indian skipper Jimmy Adams. — Pics. AFP-

He did not go as far as claiming they can win the World Cup for he accepts that Australia are a mile ahead of everyone else.

``The Australians play the game at a different level to the rest and you really can't see anyone touching them,'' Adams, in South Africa as one of the throng of former Test players commentating for television, said.

``But the West Indies have shown they are capable of beating every other team in the tournament and, once they get through to the Super Sixes, they have a great chance of going on to the final.''

He based his assessment on the batting - and on the influence of Carl Hooper, the man who replaced him as captain.

``It's very pleasing to see the progress that has been made,'' Adams noted. ''I'm really excited about the batting unit. In the two years I've been away, it's evolved and getting stronger.''

``It's good to see young batsmen coming into their own so that each of them, in their own right, is an international quality player,'' he added. ''It's not only individually but also as a unit that seems to be gelling, with the added experience and class of Brian (Lara), Carl (Hooper) and Shiv (Chanderpaul).''

Of those who have established themselves after Adams' exit, Wavell Hinds, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels entered Test cricket under his captaincy.

Hinds is the eldest at 26. Gayle is 23, Sarwan and Samuels 22.

``That's the most exciting thing for me, their ages,'' Adams said. ''You're talking about some of them, two to three years into international cricket, who have had to do a lot of learning at this level under more pressure than most of my generation.''

He pointed out that he and others of his vintage like Lara, Keith Arthurton, Roland Holder and Sherwin Campbell had ''learned a lot of the game at domestic level before getting that level of exposure.''

In addition, he recalled that his lot had the advantage of starting at a time when the West Indies were still winning. The present generation has entered into the "rough circumstances'' of a team enveloped in a culture of defeat.

``What is of concern is their rate of improvement,'' Adams said. "Obviously you want it to be as quick as possible but it has to take time and that's difficult to appreciate for people on the outside who, for better or worse, are concentrating mainly on results.''

He was magnanimous in his praise of Hooper.

``I think Carl Hooper has been very good for West Indies cricket and I'm one who hopes that, between his knees and his desire, he can play for a few more seasons to give the next generation of West Indies cricketers a chance to get their feet firmly entrenched in international cricket before we look for another leader,'' he said.

Adams has spent the time since his dismissal as West Indies captain leading Free State in South African provincial cricket and playing club and league cricket in England.

``I don't look back on the last two years with any regret,'' he said. ''I've had a fantastic time with Free State, both on and off the field, and been able to see at a distance the West Indies team continuing to grow.''

He was philosophical about his removal as captain but upset that the powers that be in West Indies cricket expected too much, too fast.

``You go somewhere and get a whitewash, you know that, as leader of the team, it might come down to you,'' he said, referring to the 5-0 defeat in the Test series in Australia in 2000-01. "That I don't have a problem with.''

What he did have a problem with was the unrealistic expectations that followed the victories over Zimbabwe 2-0 and Pakistan 1-0 at home in his first series at the helm, following Lara's abdication.

``A lot of people involved in cricket in the West Indies got carried away,'' he recalled. "I tried to put it across to them that we were still very far away from where we wanted to be, that if we wanted to challenge teams like Australia, we were just not there.''

``I was labelled as being negative and pessimistic when I saw it as realistic,'' he said. "I'd played international cricket long enough to know what standards would apply and what wouldn't.''

``The sort of solutions you heard people coming up with after the defeat in Australia were just totally unrealistic,'' he added. "Since then, everybody's accepted there is a gap between Australia and the rest of the cricketing world but, at the time, it led to confrontation and differences of opinion.''

Adams acknowledged that he was unlikely to return to South Africa later this year for another season with Free State. His plans following the World Cup involve club and league cricket and television work with Sky Sports in England during the summer.

``I have no plans past September,'' he said. "From there on, we'll see what happens.''

In the meantime, he looks forward to following the development of the young players in the West Indies team.