Lara and Logie to blame for malaise

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The Independent Online

The difference between the teams, firmly established in the Caribbean in the spring, is such that the West Indies are once again in danger of the whitewash that only England and India of the major Test teams are still to administer.

Most of the reasons for their plight are of their own making. But the tourist's efforts to be more competitive have been further handicapped in the two Tests so far by umpiring misjudgement in decisions against batsmen on whom they heavily depend.

Yesterday, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle were the victims of further dubious verdicts. Lara is the game's premier batsman, and Chanderpaul one of the most resolute. They were both capable of carrying England well into the last day, if not to the end, and rekindling the spark shown in the field before lunch.

Instead, Lara was given out caught off his pad and Chanderpaul judged lbw when so far forward umpire Darrell Hair could not possibly make a certain judgement that the ball would hit the stumps. Hair has a reputation for being unsympathetic to batsmen who turn the game into a version of football. That's all well and good, but he must stick to the letter of the lbw law.

Gayle enjoyed an outstanding day. His sensible off-spin lifted his team's spirits before lunch and he was 18 away from becoming the first Test cricketer to claim five wickets and score a hundred in the same day when he also fell to a dubious umpiring call.

Yet questionable umpiring decisions, even as crucial as these, have nothing to do with the continuing miserable state of West Indies cricket. They simply make it appear worse.

In any other sport, the captain and coach would feel compelled to tender their resignations, if they had not already been demanded by their employers. There is no West Indian precedent for such action during the course of a tour, and Lara was adamant yesterday that he was appointed for the series and was committed to see it through. The same applies to Gus Logie.

But the West Indies have not improved under their direction. If anything, their cricket and, more especially, their spirit - most glaringly revealed by their demeanour in the field - has declined even further. The board has announced a change in its management structure, with more power going to the coach. It will be scouring the globe for Logie's successor.

As Lara also noted, he did not covet or seek to return to the job from which he resigned after two years in 2000. He was asked back last year by the then president of the board, Wes Hall, and is doing his best.

That is clearly not good enough. He is now 35 and, once he sees out this series, should hand the reins over to Ramnaresh Sarwan to see if he can make a better fist of raising the team out of the coffin into which yet another nail was hammered yesterday.