Cricket: West Indies reach tour settlement

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BRIAN LARA was reinstated as West Indies captain last night as agreement was reached to allow the tour to South Africa to go ahead.

Lara and his vice-captain, Carl Hooper, were given their jobs back by the West Indies Cricket Board, five days after the pair instigated a players' revolt. Following two days of talks in London between the players' representatives and the WICB's president, Patrick Rousseau, Lara and his team flew last night to Johannesburg, and will face Gauteng in the first tour match in Soweto tomorrow.

Rousseau stayed behind at Heathrow to explain that no extra money was made available, but that wage bands have been adjusted to benefit the more experienced Test performers. The WICB also promised to "take all practical steps" to improve the remuneration of players on future tours.

He said Lara's sacking last week was the result of a "misunderstanding" over permission to travel and a subsequent request to attend a meeting in London. Rousseau said: "It's all been resolved, and Brian Lara and Carl Hooper have been reinstated. It's not a question of giving way. There was just a misunderstanding, and we were not made aware of it until we arrived here. It was important to clear that position pretty quickly and it has now been resolved.

"I don't think we ever came close to calling off the tour. We just kept meeting and talking until we felt the position could be settled. Any dispute must have some spill-over effect. But if we play positive cricket we hope we can win the series."

No disciplinary action will be taken against Lara or Hooper, Rousseau said, adding that the WICB will "consider and review" the grievance and disciplinary code and all procedures including appeals.

Rousseau flew to London at the weekend after the situation threatened to deteriorate. Ali Bacher, the managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, had arrived on Friday, armed with a letter from President Mandela to attempt to iron out the problems. But the West Indies players remained adamant that Lara and Hooper should return to their former jobs and the tour proceed with them at the helm.

The West Indies players had been camped in a Heathrow hotel for a week while the dispute rumbled on. The rooms cost pounds 150 per night, and other expenses were incurred. Rousseau said that cost would not be covered by the WICB.

In a joint statement the WICB and the West Indies Players' Association said: "Both parties recognise the historical and social significance of the South African tour and appreciate the high expectations of everyone in the Caribbean, South Africa and around the world."

That point was acknowledged by South Africa's coach, Bob Woolmer, who was relieved the tour would go ahead.

"It's obviously for the whole country a very important tour and it would have left a void had the West Indies not come," he said. "For South African cricket, it's a culmination of all the Test-playing sides since the unification of cricket in South Africa. It's the final stamp of approval to have the West Indies in South Africa. Also it's a tremendous draw card for the children of Africa to have their mentors over here."

Woolmer doubted that the tour had been thrown into jeopardy was over a "misunderstanding". He said: "I don't think we really know the reasons behind it. It's all very well to say it's a pay dispute, but there's obviously more to it than meets the eye or otherwise the cricketers wouldn't have been so solid in their stand against it."

The tour was initially thrown into doubt when Lara was dismissed last Wednesday. He stayed in London with eight other members of the West Indies squad, including Adams and the WIPA president, Courtney Walsh, while the other seven of the original touring party left South Africa to join them in London in a show of solidarity.

The delayed arrival of the West Indies side in South Africa has caused the postponement of the first match, a charity game against Nicky Oppenheimer's XI. The opening first-class match will be against Griqualand West on Saturday, with the first Test starting on 26 November.

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