Cricket: Tourists' chapter of accidents

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ONLY PERSUADED to come to South Africa after those tense last- minute negotiations with their board in London over improved pay and conditions, the West Indies cricketers might well be wondering prior to the first Test this morning if it might not have been better to have called the whole thing off.

No sooner had they boarded their flight to Johannesburg, then Jimmy Adams, their seasoned left-hand all-rounder, managed to sever tendons in his right hand cutting through an uncooperative bread roll. He has now been ruled out for six weeks and replaced.

On the ground, the leg-spinner Dinanath Ramnarine also had his tour ended on Monday by a persistent shoulder injury. While they will take the field today with their two essential, but ageing, fast bowlers Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, both are woefully short of match practice after recovering from injuries.

The 35-year-old Ambrose had a painful toenail removed soon after arrival. Walsh, 36, was handicapped by tendinitis in the right knee, a mere hindrance he will endure in his 103rd Test in which he needs only two wickets to pass the West Indies Test record of 376 wickets belonging to Malcolm Marshall, now the team coach.

To heighten misgivings that there is a hex on the tour, the West Indies Cricket Board president Pat Rousseau, his wife and the Jamaica Gleaner sports editor, Tony Becca, were robbed by three armed men when a drive through Soweto with a local official yesterday morning ended in one of the car hijackings that have become part of daily life here recently. They were rescued by other UCB officials on their way to Soweto, a UCB official said. Police in Soweto, the sprawling black township south-west of Johannesburg, said they were investigating the carjacking, a common crime in the Johannesburg area.

As he had been at the heart of the emotional impasse with the players during which Brian Lara and the vice-captain Carl Hooper were sacked and then reinstated, Rousseau has had a rough old time of it of late and it is not as if he can seek solace in his team's dressing-room.

Ramnarine would surely have played in the Test on a straw-coloured pitch that Clive Lloyd described as "very dry". Another leg-spinner, Rawl Lewis, was flying in as a replacement from the current West Indies A tour of India but was expected to arrive only a few hours before the first ball and would not be considered, leaving the traditional attack of four fast bowlers supplemented by the straightforward off-spin of Hooper.

It is not the ideal preparation for a contest against the fiercely competitive South Africans , who are on home territory and desperately keen to erase the aberration of the summer's setback in England when they lost the series 2-1. They acknowledge only Australia as stronger at present and intend to prove it in the coming two months.

The only negative note for South Africa was sounded yesterday by Mvuso Mbebe, the head of the National Sports Council, who said his organisation was concerned with the fact that there was only one non-white player in the South Africa XII, the 21-year-old Paul Adams. That, at least, is not among the several problems that confront the West Indies.

West Indies (possible 12): Brian Lara (captain), Clayton Lambert, Philo Wallace, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Carl Hooper, Stuart Williams, Junior Murray (wicketkeeper), Nixon McLean, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Mervyn Dillon, Dinanath Ramnarine.

South Africa (from): Hansie Cronje (captain), Gary Kirsten, Adam Bacher, Jacques Kallis, Darryl Cullinan, Jonty Rhodes, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher (wicketkeeper), Pat Symcox, Allan Donald, Paul Adams, David Terbrugge.