Cricket: Bacher delivers Mandela's plea

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The Independent Online
ALI BACHER, South Africa's top cricket official, delivered a letter from President Nelson Mandela to the rebel West Indies cricketers yesterday urging them to go ahead with their inaugural tour of the republic.

The West Indian team, led by their sacked captain, Brian Lara, are in dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board over pay and conditions. Bacher, the managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, personally delivered a letter from Mandela to the former captain, Courtney Walsh, at a hotel near Heathrow airport. He said Mandela had asked the players to go ahead with the visit, scheduled to start next Tuesday.

"It's important to all younger players in South Africa," Bacher quoted Mandela as saying. "I'm sure that everyone in the West Indies understands that."

Bacher told reporters he was convinced the problem could be resolved. "I am confident there will be a resolution," he said. "President Mandela is one of the great statesmen of our time."

Bacher arrived yesterday morning from Johannesburg to join the West Indies' tour manager, Clive Lloyd, and Joel Garner, the manager of the A team's tour to Bangladesh, in an effort to resolve the crisis.

Earlier, Lloyd said the trio were waiting for a phone call from Walsh indicating when a meeting would take place. "I can't say much. We will discuss it all when we get there. We can't make any proposals yet while we don't know what the players want," Lloyd said.

Garner met the players in their hotel before joining Bacher and Lloyd for talks. The WICB sacked Lara and his deputy, Carl Hooper, on Wednesday and the row quickly escalated when seven other players refused to join the tour.

The nine rebels, who had flown to London after a one-day tournament in Bangladesh, were yesterday joined by the other seven West Indies players who arrived with Bacher and Lloyd from Johannesburg.

Meanwhile, Shane Warne yesterday agreed with the assessment of the selector Allan Border that he is unlikely to return to Australia's Test side for the start of this winter's Ashes series against England.

Media speculation in Australia has been linking the leg-spinner, who has claimed 85 wickets in 17 Tests against England, with a possible return for the first Test at Brisbane on 20 November, after an encouraging comeback following a shoulder operation seven months ago.

Border, the former Australian captain, thinks that match would be a premature return and yesterday Warne said: "All I've been thinking about is getting my shoulder right. I think we've always said from day one we won't be rushing it, so whatever Test, whenever it is, it will be when my shoulder is right.

"I won't be rushing back. I think the selectors are on the same wavelength that I'm on. At least we're going in one direction - it makes sense." Warne was speaking after bowling about 30 deliveries in the nets in Melbourne, watched carefully by the chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns.

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