Lloyd to restore W Indies prestige

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The Independent Online

reports from Bridgetown, Barbados

In its moment of despair West Indies cricket has turned for salvation to the man who led it through the most glorious period of its history.

In the wholesale change of leadership that has included the resignations of the captain, Richie Richardson, and the board president, Peter Short, Clive Lloyd has been summoned and given the post of team coach instead of Andy Roberts.

Lloyd, now 52 will be at the side of the new captain, Courtney Walsh, charged with more than just offering technical advice on how to counter Shane Warne's flipper or restrict Sachin Tendulkar's scoring.

Lloyd's responsibility is nothing less than restoring the prestige of West Indies cricket that has taken such a battering on and off the field this past year.

The team has been riven with internal dissent and indiscipline that has effectively driven the two Benjamins, Winston and Kenny, out of Test cricket. There have even been splits within the administration itself.

The problems have given rise to a string of embarrassing defeats - to last-placed Sussex by an innings last summer, by an Australian Academy team of teenagers last November and, most shockingly, by the unheard of club cricketers of Kenya at the World Cup.

Among cricketing entities as politically diverse and as scattered overseas as those in the West Indies, unity is a vital but fragile asset. Lloyd spectacularly succeeded in maintaining it through his 10 years as captain, creating a record unmatched by anyone else - 36 wins and a mere 12 defeats in 76 Tests.

There was a powerful lobby for Lloyd to be made manager immediately he played his last Test in 1985 but Viv Richards, his proud successor, refused to be nannied. It was four years before Lloyd came to the post, on tour of Australia in 1988-89 and in the Caribbean against England in 1990.

The West Indies kept on winning but, for reasons that are still unclear, Lloyd was replaced by Lance Gibbs. He moved back to England and and became deeply involved with his old county Lancashire and with the wider West Indian community. More recently he has been an International Cricket Council match referee, as he now is in the World Cup, and a virtual roving ambassador for the game.

He has only been occasionally spotted in the Caribbean and a barrier seemed to have been built between himself and the West Indies Cricket Board of Control for which there can be no other explanation than the insularity and xenophobia that still condition thinking in these tiny states.