West Indies tour saved as Lara is reinstated

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The Independent Online
THE WEST INDIES' first official cricket tour to South Africa was rescued last night when rebel players reached agreement with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and Brian Lara, their world record-holding batsman, was reinstated as the team's captain.

The tour, priceless for the game of cricket in the post-apartheid republic, was in jeopardy because of a pay dispute that led a number of players to refuse to travel to South Africa. The leaders of the rebellion were Lara and his vice-captain, Carl Hooper, both of whom are familiar to cricket watchers in this country after their spells at Warwickshire and Kent respectively.

The WICB responded to the strike threat by sacking Lara, the world's leading player, who holds the Test batting record for his innings of 375 against England in Antigua during the 1993-94 tour. It seemed likely that the WICB would back down, but as negotiations dragged on, at the expense of the first scheduled match of the tour, it began to look as if Lara, no stranger to controversy, had overplayed his hand.

Last night the talks in London, where the rebels had taken refuge after a one-day tournament in Bangladesh, finally achieved a breakthrough. It had all been a mistake all along, apparently.

The WICB's president, Pat Rousseau, announcing that the tour would proceed after an agreement that did not involve an increase in the players' tour fees, said that Lara had been sacked as captain "because of a misunderstanding between the players and the board".

It had taken two days of intensive negotiations to discover this simple fact, but all parties left Heathrow happy enough last night, heading for South Africa.