Cricket: Richardson will retire after World Cup

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reports from Bridgetown, Barbados

Richie Richardson yesterday announ- ced his retirement from international cricket by fax. The West Indies captain, who will step down after the World Cup, revealed his decision in a message from the team's hotel in Jaipur, India, to the Caribbean News Agency here.

"I had made up my mind at the end of the UK tour last summer that I would retire at the end of the World Cup," Richardson said. "I informed the West Indies Board of Control several days ago."

Demanded for some time by several influential former team-mates and a public angered by a string of embarrassing defeats, Richardson's decision accentuates the turmoil that has engulfed West Indies cricket in the past year.

As captain, Richardson has carried the brunt of the blame for the series loss to Australia 10 months ago that ended the proud record of 15 years unbeaten in Test cricket. He has also been held partially responsible for the indiscipline that has undermined his team and the shabby displays that hit rock bottom with the World Cup defeat by Kenya.

If he had not jumped of his own accord, it was almost certain he would have been pushed by the West Indies Board of Control at its meeting in Antigua that coincided with his announcement.

If his departure as captain was not entirely unexpected, his decision to quit entirely leaves a huge vacuum in an already fragile middle order. As he showed with his match-winning unbeaten 93 against Australia on Monday, he remains capable of competing at the highest level. He is, after all, only 33.

His loss, following that of Desmond Haynes a year ago, leaves only Carl Hooper of the batsmen with over 50 Tests behind him. The pressure on the slender shoulders of Brian Lara will now be further heightened.

Even before the Kenyan fiasco, former players such as Jeffrey Dujon, Joel Garner and Carlisle Best had called for his removal as captain, and Viv Richards, his fellow Antiguan whom he succeeded in 1991, added his influential voice only a few days before the African fledglings inflicted their crushing upset.

Richardson's rift in England last summer with Lara complicated the captain's problems. Complaining that Richardson had been too soft on the trouble- makers in his ranks, Lara twice pulled out of the team in the space of six months. His reinstatement for the World Cup, with no preconditions, rankled with Richardson and was a powerful factor in his decision.

Yet there is strong support to make Lara captain, a position for which he has been groomed since leading the West Indies Youth and 'A' teams in his formative years. But the likeliest scenario is that the veteran fast bowler Courtney Walsh will be recalled for the short term with Lara as vice-captain.