Cricket: Lloyd fears for his West Indies newcomers

BY GRAEME WRIGHT AT BRISTOL West Indies 58-3 v Gloucestershire Match abandoned
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The Independent Online
IT'S A strange language, this English we use. All ironies and metaphors and similes - to use a figure of speech. Take this warm-up game. Even in flannel pyjamas it would have been a struggle to warm up here yesterday. And if that wasn't enough, we did not even have a game once the rain set in after 17 overs.

That allowed the West Indians just over an hour of batting. It was not enough to reveal any more form than the blue-tailed "pom pom" girls who provided the pre-match routines designed to bring a new audience to the game. On days like this, when macs were de rigueur, it was impossible to distinguish newcomers from the old stagers.

It was easier to do on the field. Sherwin Campbell has played in England before, the left-handed wicket-keeper batsman Ridley Jacobs has yet to work it out. So, too, have a number of others, and it is in their inexperience of English conditions that this West Indies squad differ so much from the teams who contested the finals of the first three World Cups.

In 1975 all their World Cup winners had played county cricket; in 1979 only Desmond Haynes had not. Three of the team who lost the 1983 final had not played for a county. For the West Indians in those days, a World Cup tournament in England was the next best thing to a home fixture.

Among the current squad, only six of the 15 have county experience. It makes the loss of Carl Hooper, on the eve of the tournament, virtually insurmountable. "He plays well in these conditions," agreed Clive Lloyd, the West Indies manager and ex-Lancashire stalwart who captained his country to their two World Cup wins. "And you don't replace someone like that easily. He's got an excellent one-day record. If we go all the way, we'll have done very well because I don't think you can bring somebody straight in."

A semi-final place would fulfil Lloyd's expectations. More weather like yesterday's won't help, however, particularly with captain Brian Lara currently resting an injured wrist and Courtney Walsh nursing an apparently wounded knee. Neither played yesterday, which just leaves the games against Warwickshire tomorrow and Surrey on Wednesday for their match practice.

Lloyd certainly hopes that Lara will play before the tournament proper starts for the West Indies against Pakistan here a week today. He knows that the batting is the weaker part of the West Indies' game. They need the runs that Lara gathers. "We feel if there are runs on the board, the bowlers can do the job for us."

At 36 and 35 respectively, Walsh and Curtly Ambrose still make a mean spearhead. They have another experienced campaigner in Phil Simmons, but someone among the back-up fast bowlers, Reon King, Mervyn Dillon and Henderson Bryan, has to make a significant impact. It could be the 29-year-old Barbadian Bryan, whose hard hitting is an asset, and possibly a necessity, in the lower order.

What yesterday's rain prevented was a first sighting of Ricardo Powell, an identical replacement for Hooper in that he bats right-handed and bowls off-breaks. It is expecting a lot of the 20-year-old Jamaican to fill Hooper's boots but the stage is there for him and his fellow newcomers to claim. For, as the Australians discovered recently in the Caribbean, it is dangerous to take these West Indians, old and new, for granted.