Cricket: Wasim feeling the demands of command post: West Indies' stunning first Test victory has given them a psychological edge over the tourists and their captain

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The Independent Online
AFETR less than three months in office, Wasim Akram, international cricket's newest and youngest captain, has suddenly been confronted with a crisis.

A week after charges of alleged possession of marijuana against him and three of his players in Grenada were eventually dropped, Wasim has to deal with the experience of losing his first Test at the helm for Pakistan by the considerable margin of 204 runs within three days. The effect of Pakistan's capitulation in both their innings at the Queen's Park Oval will be deeply felt at home where the series is regarded as the world championship, no less.

Appointed to succeed Javed Miandad in February after the team's shambolic performance in the one-day series in Australia, the 26-year-old Wasim is obviously seen as a long-term investment, a successor to Imran Khan who announced his retirement after securing the World Cup in Australia a year ago. An immensely gifted cricketer, Wasim is personable and popular and seemed to have settled comfortably into his new role on his first major assignment to the one-day series in South Africa in February.

His team's revival in the one-day series here, overturning a 2-0 deficit to level at 2-2 suggested a reassuring resilience. A close Test series was in prospect. However, in the past 10 days Wasim's world has been turned upside down.

Wasim has been held on a Grenada beach, along with his vice-captain, Waqar Younis, and two of his fellow bowlers, Aqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed, and faced with charges that, though subsequently withdrawn, became the subject of the international media and placed his first Test series as captain in jeopardy.

Even by then it was known that Aqib, an important supporting fast bowler, and Mushtaq, a key leg-spinner were unlikely to take any part in the contest because of serious back injuries. When Pakistan routed the West Indies for 127 within the first three hours on the opening day, the high-fives were clear signs that the traumas of Grenada had been erased and that Pakistan had seized the immediate advantage.

The mood has rapidly turned melancholy again. The limitations and inexperience of their batting and their fragile temperament have been exposed. Of the first six in the order only Javed (118) and the opener, Ramiz Raja (45) had played more than 10 Tests entering the series. The decision to omit two such proven and seasoned batsmen as Salim Malik and Shoaib Mohammad from the touring squad was a mistake.

Nor was it the frailty of the batting on an untrustworthy pitch that was their undoing. On the second afternoon their first innings collapsed to 140 which cost them the initiative and had such a depressing effect that Wasim and Waqar could hardly bring themselves to bowl.

Wasim was no more than a left-arm medium pace trundler, Waqar had 12 ineffective overs broken into three spells and Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson and Brian Lara put the West Indies 320 ahead with seven wickets standing. The match, even then, was as good as over, the resurgence by Wasim and Waqar the following morning, when they took seven wickets for 49, coming too late to affect the outcome.

Wasim's own desperation was obvious in the second-innings slog that lost his wicket as his team slid to defeat. It would have been an intemperate stroke for anyone, but it was an unforgivable one for the captain. On the field he has become irascible at misdemeanours by his fielders and has distanced himself from the shrewd and experienced Javed whom he has regularly stationed on the edge of the boundary.

Now he leads his team into the second Test in Barbados on Friday at Kensington Oval where the West Indies have won their last 11 Tests and have been beaten only once: 58 years ago by England. Wasim faces an overwhelming challenge.

(West Indies won toss)

WEST INDIES - First Innings 127 (Waqar Younis 3-37, Ata-ur-Rehman 3-28).

PAKISTAN - First Innings 140 (I A Bishop 5-43, C E L Ambrose 4-34).

WEST INDIES - Second Innings 382 (D L Haynes 143 no, R B Richardson 68, B C Lara 96; Wasim Akram 4-75).

PAKISTAN - Second Innings

Aamir Sohail lbw b Walsh. . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Ramiz Raja lbw b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

Inzamam-ul-Haq lbw b Walsh . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

Javed Miandad c Murray b Bishop . . . . . . . . . .4

Basit Ali not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

Asif Mujtaba not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

*Wasim Akram st Murray b Hooper . . . . . . . . . .4

Moin Khan c Bishop b Hooper . . . . . . . . . . . .18

Waqar Younis lbw b Walsh . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Mushtaq Ahmed not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

Ata-ur-Rehman c Ambrose b Hooper . . . . . . . . .19

Extras (lb10, nb8). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .165

Fall: 1-17 2-34 3-40 4-42 5-109 6-11 7-114 8-127 9-134.

Bowling: Ambrose 13-3-37-1; Bishop 11-2-28-1; Walsh 12-3-29-3; Cummins 5-1-16-0; Simmons 1-0-5-0; Hooper 11.5-3-40-5.

Umpires: H D Bird and S U Bucknor.

WEST INDIES WON BY 204 RUNS

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