Sobers blames disrespect for defeat

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The Independent Online

Sir Garfield Sobers yesterday blamed complacency for the West Indies' first series defeat by England in the Caribbean since 1968. Brian Lara's side collapsed to a crushing eight-wicket defeat here on Saturday, handing the tourists an unassailable 3-0 lead in the four-Test series. And Sobers, the finest all-rounder of the modern game, felt it was the West Indies' failure to give England the respect that they deserve which paved the way for their recent results.

"I think we underestimated England. We returned home after performing so well on tour to South Africa and thought we would do well at home," he said. "We hadn't heard much about England's bowlers so we underestimated them. Complacency is the only conclusion I can come to for these results.

"And when you start off with a defeat like that it's very difficult to haul yourself up off the ground. But this West Indies side is a good team, make no mistake about that.

"I think they have a lot of ability. They came back from South Africa after scoring over 300 runs every time they batted - that's a very good sign of the calibre of the players we have."

Sobers heaped praise on England's performance and insisted they were starting to see the fruits of a change in selectorial policy which now values youth over experience.

"This England side is a lot better than many I've seen. They've gone past the stage of bringing in older players when things go wrong," he said. "Now they call up younger players which is what they should have done 15 years ago. They have a good blend of players. The bowlers are very useful and stick to their task. England are on the right track and have been for the last four or five years. But they were helped by our poor batting."

Sobers dismissed suggestions that Brian Lara should be replaced as the West Indies' captain following the series defeat. "Brian's contribution has been tremendous. His record in South Africa and Zimbabwe was very good and he came back as the world's No 1 batsman," he said. "The captaincy didn't effect his form in South Africa. He shouldn't be replaced - who is there to replace him anyway? We haven't reached the standard yet where we can afford to replace him."

Newspapers described the West Indies' defeat as a crying shame and a horror story. "It's no longer a drama, it's a horror story," the Barbados newspaper Sunday Sun wrote. "Brian Lara tried to look upbeat, but he was beaten and disgraced."

The Barbados Advocate said that the West Indies had been "Hogged and Harmed" by the bowling of Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison, who did so much for the England cause.

The press singled out Lara for praise in his batting efforts on Saturday after he battled for almost two hours for 33, while the rest of his team folded around him.

"To lose like this, and to England, hurts," the former West Indies' fast bowler Wes Hall added.