CRICKET: West Indies sack Lara in pay row

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BRIAN LARA was last night sacked as West Indies captain after a pay dispute with his country's cricket board.

Carl Hooper was also stripped of the vice-captaincy after he and Lara did not travel with the West Indies cricket team at the start of a five- Test tour of South Africa.

Lara, who was appointed captain last year, and Hooper failed to attend a meeting in Antigua yesterday to discuss grievances over tour payments at West Indies' Cricket headquarters on the Caribbean Island.

The West Indies Cricket Board's president, Pat Rousseau, told a press conference in St John that there had been no good explanation why Lara and Hooper had not gone to South Africa. He said a new captain and vice- captain would soon be chosen and the South African tour would go ahead.

Rousseau, speaking after a meeting between the WICB and the West Indies Players' Association, said the board also imposed fines on seven players who had, like Lara and Hooper, flown to London after the one-day tournament in Bangladesh rather than going on to South Africa.

Ali Bacher, the managing director of the South African Cricket Board, thought the WICB had made the right decision and was relieved that the tour would be going ahead as scheduled.

"It is a very serious decision by the West Indian board, and we support them 100 per cent," Dr Bacher said. "It is a decision which shows that no individual is greater than the game."

The West Indies are due to start their tour with a one-day match against the XI of mining magnate Nicky Oppenheimer on Tuesday. The first Test against South Africa begins in Johannesburg on 26 November.

Lara established his place in cricket history with a world record Test innings of 375 against England in Antigua in April 1994. He then joined Warwickshire, amassing a record highest first-class score of 501 not out in an innings against Durham, and helped the county to a historic treble of the County Championship, Benson and Hedges Cup, and Sunday League.

However, things then turned sour. He asked to be released from his three- year contract at Edgbaston, and in 1995 fell out with the West Indies during their tour of England. Talked out of retiring, he then pulled out of a tour to Australia when fined 10 per cent of his fee. He claimed he was burned out and said cricket "is ruining my life".

Success as captain of West Indies against India when standing in for Courtney Walsh seemed to put his career back on track, and he was given the captaincy full-time. Now he is deep in controversy again.