Lara's position precarious even on favourite ground

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The West Indies return to Edgbaston with happy memories. They have enjoyed commanding victories in their last three Tests here, in 1995 and 2000 before the end of the third day.

The West Indies return to Edgbaston with happy memories. They have enjoyed commanding victories in their last three Tests here, in 1995 and 2000 before the end of the third day.

It is where their captain, Brian Lara, amassed his unbeaten 501 in his first season for Warwickshire in 1994: still first-class cricket's highest individual score.

Even Corey Collymore, the swing bowler replacing the injured teenager Ravi Rampaul, has Edgbaston connections. He spent the last half of last season on Warwickshire's staff.

It is the kind of trivia teams as desperate for success as the present West Indies turn to for a little inspiration. It is clutching at straws. In the four years since the last Test between the teams at the venue, England have continued the progress that began in that series, which they won 3-1. The West Indies have, at best, stood still.

Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ridley Jacobs, three stalwarts, are back for the West Indies. Chris Gayle, out for a duck in his only Test of the series, is the only one of the young brigade returning.

England have gone forward by dint of strong leadership, careful planning and hard work. It is the glaring absence of such attributes that explains why, in the intervening four years, the West Indies' only victories on foreign fields have been over Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Lara was candid enough yesterday to acknowledge that his future at the helm might depend on his team's performances.

"If you don't get things done your position will be looked at," he said. He spoke of players so young and inexperienced that some had played more Tests than first-class matches. It meant they were having to learn on the job.

"But it's something I've put my name down for and I'm going to continue doing." The coming three Tests are likely to determine whether he will or not.

All the inexperience of his players Lara refers to is counterbalanced by their youth. That, at least, should be an asset in the field but at Lord's, both in the Test and in the preceding NatWest Series final against New Zealand, they have resembled a bunch of geriatrics.

Scarcely a return from the deep found its intended target on the full or at all. Jacobs, the oldest man on the field, was either sprinting around to gather, bending to pick up, stretching to catch or screaming "back up". Ramnaresh Sarwan relayed most of his throws underarm to an intermediary and missed a dolly in the deep.

Fielding, even more than batting and bowling, is the barometer that measures the spirit of a team. For a long time now, it has registered a very low reading for the West Indies and that is a reflection of the leadership.

Comments