Irish defeat highlights difficulty of Lara's task

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The Independent Online

When the West Indies were bowled out for 25 by Ireland in 1969 it created great headlines, but the defeat was viewed as nothing more than a blip. Clive Lloyd was the only West Indian great who played in the nine-wicket defeat at Sion Mills in Belfast but their squad still contained the likes of Sir Garfield Sobers, Lance Gibbs and Roy Fredericks.

When the West Indies were bowled out for 25 by Ireland in 1969 it created great headlines, but the defeat was viewed as nothing more than a blip. Clive Lloyd was the only West Indian great who played in the nine-wicket defeat at Sion Mills in Belfast but their squad still contained the likes of Sir Garfield Sobers, Lance Gibbs and Roy Fredericks.

The game took place the day after the West Indies had played in a Test match at Lord's and it is believed the tourists were led astray by their hospitable hosts once they arrived on the Emerald Isle.

Thursday's six-wicket defeat against the same opponents in the same city, will be viewed in a slightly different manner. Having a big night out on the eve of any match is now frowned upon and the West Indies fielded a strong side at the start of an important tour. After losing their first home series to England in 36 years during March and April, Brian Lara's side would be desperate to begin a tour, in which they hope to regain the Wisden Trophy, well.

But the inability of the West Indies to defend 292 against Ireland highlights how far they have fallen since they ruled the cricket world in the Seventies, Eighties and early Nineties. It also illustrates how much they need to improve if they are to compete against Michael Vaughan's England this summer.

Lara has been no angel during his brilliant career, and there have been times when his attitude has had a detrimental effect on the side, but one can only have sympathy for the West Indian captain as he attempts to turn this talented but indisciplined group of cricketers into a competitive team.

Lara will not want to dwell on this humiliating display but it has given his fragile squad the worst possible start they could have had to this tour and put his leadership under immediate pressure. Only a fortnight ago the Trinidadian threatened to quit if his side failed to beat Bangladesh in the second Test. This they managed to do but it has done little to suggest that cricket in the Caribbean is moving in the right direction.

The unpredictability of West Indian cricket is one of its attractions, but in the last decade the good days have been vastly outnumbered by those which have caused embarrassment. Arrogance and a lack of investment are the two principal reasons for their fall and the attitudes of current players and selectors have not helped.

Too many of those who have recently represented the West Indies are living on the performances of the past. Most strut about in a pair of sunglasses and a West Indies track-suit thinking they have made it. They expect people to show them respect but do little to demand it. Respect has to be earned and this is what the likes of Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge and Malcolm Marshall did.

These players had enormous pride. They trained hard, played hard and brought huge honour to the Caribbean but all their endeavour is in danger of being wasted by gifted cricketers who fail to show the same commitment. The West Indies selectors also need to offer greater consistency. In an effort to find a winning formula this group constantly change the side and there always seems to be a couple of new names in each squad they pick. These players are not short of talent, but they are very young and inexperienced, and struggle to perform consistently on the international stage.

The performance of Ravi Rampaul, an exciting all-rounder from Trinidad, during the two matches in Ireland is a perfect example. In their first game - which the West Indies won by 96 runs - the 20-year-old took 3 for 25 in eight overs but on Thursday he conceded 74 runs in the seven.

And these problems do not look like going away. The current West Indies team contains far too many Rampauls and it is a surprise that Merv Dillon or Corey Collymore have not been included in either their Test or one-day squads. The consistency that one of these fast-bowlers could possibly offer will be missed during the tour.

* The England and Wales Cricket Board are pushing for Twenty20 cricket to become an Olympic event. Cricket has not been played at the Olympics since Paris in 1900, when Great Britain beat France to win gold. But the ECB believes this fast-and-furious format would be the perfect way of reintroducing the sport. Tim Lamb, outgoing chief executive of the ECB, said there had been initial discussions with the International Cricket Council for Twenty20 to be included at the 2012 Olympics, especially if London hosted them.

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