NOT only will it be important for England's captain to call the tactics - and the toss - correctly, it is crucial that he scores heavily with the bat as well. It is vital to keep as many batsmen as possible away from Curtly and Co when the ball is new and hard: seeing the shine off should be his primary concern. Opening the innings in West Indies is the most difficult job in cricket and the most critical to England's success. Atherton should have a target of scoring at least 300 runs in the Test series; if he succeeds, England may have a chance of threatening the home team's supremacy.
IF Atherton holds the key that opens the latch, Smith has the one that unlocks the mortice. Whether he gets to use it depends on how quickly he can get on top of his game. He is a punishing batsman who thrives on the adrenalin rush from facing fast bowling - which is just as well. Though Carl Hooper gets through his fair share of off spin, he is no Tim May. A nervous starter and great worrier, England need Smith in form and full of confidence, with about 380 Test runs to his name by the end of the series, the majority coming in two first-innings centuries during the early Tests.
A FIT Fraser is critical to England's bowling ambitions. Patient and accurate with an unrelenting line and length, he is the ideal bowler - as current orthodoxy has it - for winkling out West Indian strokemakers. It is important that his health is not taken for granted and the temptation to overbowl him is resisted. He has to stay fit - England have fallen apart when he has been injured on previous tours - and weigh in with two match-winning five- wicket hauls and a total of 24 in the series. He is no strike bowler but his presence will be felt at both ends as the pressure tells.
ALTHOUGH he seems to cruise a lot more these days - possibly the result of serious work overload in these relatively lean times for West Indian fast bowling - he always seems to do the necessary when called upon. With the best throat ball in the business, he is at his most dangerous when he senses a breakthrough. Then he seems to move up two gears and keep coming - all day if necessary. England's well-being will be directly proportional to the amount of overs Ambrose bowls. As the world's best new-ball bowler, Ambrose will be disappointed if he doesn't take at least 25 wickets.
IT IS common practice in the West Indies to pension off older players, in favour of blooding youngsters. Haynes is the exception, having defied press demands to drop him. In his own quiet way, he scored the most runs for the home side in his last two series against England in the Caribbean, and bowlers will underestimate him at their peril. Rumours of him having 'lost it' in Australia seemed unfounded when he put Pakistan's pacemen to the sword last year. Playing in front of volatile home crowds seems to motivate him and he could well be top scorer once again for the West Indies.
LOOKING like the young, soulful Sam Cooke, but cast as the new Sobers, Lara has a lot to live up to. For the most, he has not disappointed and is a sublime sight when on song. His strength is in finding gaps on both sides of the wicket. On the small, fast outfields of the Caribbean, this means plenty of boundaries and England will have to work hard to keep him in check once the shine has come off the ball. If he has a weakness, it is one typical of left-handers - the cut. On a good day, anything around the off-stump is summarily despatched. Yet, as for David Gower, it is often his undoing.
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