Richardson draws strength

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The West Indies captain, Richie Richardson, insisted that his side will be a force in next month's World Cup despite an abject performance on their tour of Australia.

Richardson and his team flew out of Sydney yesterday having lost five of their eight World Series matches and failed to qualify for the finals of the limited-overs competition.

Sri Lanka won the right to take on Australia over three matches, starting in Melbourne today, when they defeated Mark Taylor's Australians by three wickets on Tuesday. West Indies' latest failure came after they lost the Frank Worrell Trophy to Australia at home last year, which in turn was followed by their disappointing tour of England.

To make matters worse, the immediate future of their world record-holder batsman, Brian Lara, was still uncertain with less than a month before the start of the World Cup. The West Indies' selectors are due to meet in Barbados next Tuesday to pick their final 14-man squad. Lara has been included in a provisional squad of 18.

Despite the series of setbacks, Richardson insisted: "Our chances are as good as anybody's. But it's going to be very, very competitive."

Richardson was heartened by a marked improvement as his side won three of their last four World Series games. "It showed that we have still got something in us and now we go home to reflect, regroup and work on our weaknesses to try to improve for the World Cup."