Cricket: Sobers leads attack on `irresponsible' West Indies

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CRACKS HAVE been evident in the make-up of West Indies cricket for sometime. Last weekend they became gaping canyons.

Humiliated inside three days by South Africa in the second Test in Port Elizabeth, West Indies are already 2-0 down in the five-match series and reaping the wrath of their countrymen at home. What will have stung the players even more were harsh words from two of the West Indies former greats who watched the sorry capitulation in Port Elizabeth.

Colin Croft, once a member of West Indies' feared four-pronged fast bowling attack alongside Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Michael Holding, did not mince his words. "This was as disgraceful a performance by a Test team as I have ever seen," he said.

Sir Garfield Sobers, the greatest player West Indies have ever produced, was equally curt. "They must remember that playing for West Indies is a privilege, not a right. Test cricket is all about accepting responsibility and this team is not doing that."

Only the ageing fast bowlers Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh escape condemnation but they have been unable to compensate for the inadequacies of the others. Even the captain, Brian Lara, holder of world records for the highest Test and first-class scores, is failing to live up to his immense talent. As West Indies collapsed ignominiously for 141 in their second innings at Port Elizabeth, Lara top-scored with 39 from 49 balls but it was a mere cameo from a man who only recently was hailed as the greatest batsman in the world.

And Lara admits it himself. "You can't tell me that the Brian Lara we saw today is the Brian Lara of four years ago, or Carl Hooper, or Shivnarine Chanderpaul - reliable people," he said. He refused to blame the pitch. "The West Indies team of the mid-Eighties, [Gordon] Greenidge and [Desmond] Haynes up front would have scored 500 on it. It was fine."

The second Test between Pakistan and Zimbabwe ended in a draw after fog prevented play on the final day in Lahore. "It's a big relief, but we would have liked to have had some cricket," said the Zimbabwe captain, Alistair Campbell, after the umpires called off play because of poor visibility following four inspections.

The Pakistan captain, Moin Khan, was disappointment at being denied a chance to level the series in which Zimbabwe are one up after a seven- wicket win in the first Test at Peshawar. The third and final Test starts at Faisalabad on Thursday.

In all 223 overs and 13 hours play were lost over the five days because of bad light and fog. On the fourth day Zimbabwe were 48 without loss in their second innings, trailing Pakistan by 94 runs, when bad light stopped play. Pakistan had declared their first innings on 325 for 9 in reply to Zimbabwe's 183. "We are really disappointed that weather destroyed our efforts to win here," said Moin. There are fears that there will be similar visibility problems for the final Test.

Worcestershire's former England bowler Phil Newport is to retire at the end of next season to take up a career in teaching. The 36-year-old paceman will follow his former captain Tim Curtis on to the staff at Worcester Royal Grammar School from next autumn.

Newport, who has taken more than 800 first-class wickets, will teach geography as well as coaching the school's cricket team. He said: "This opportunity has come at the perfect time."