Richardson set to pay for West Indies 'shame'

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The Independent Online


reports from Bridgetown, Barbados

Two daily newspapers, the Nation and the Advocate, found the same damning word for their sizeable front-page headlines yesterday.

"Shame", they agreed, best summed up the West Indies loss to Kenya in the World Cup in India on Thursday. Callers who inundated radio phone- in programmes found generally more colourful adjectives to express their anger at the team's performance and the Trinidad Express saw the defeat by one of the minnows of world cricket, in their first international tournament, as no less than "a surrender of West Indian manhood".

At the coincidental meeting of heads of government in Guyana, Prime Minister Edison James of Dominica insisted that the whole state of West Indies' cricket be urgently added to the pressing political items on the agenda.

As the one sport at which the small former British colonies have excelled and the only one in which they compete as a single team, cricket is followed with a passionate zeal throughout the English-speaking Caribbean.

An entire generation has grown up basking in the reflected glory of triumphs in the first two World Cups and 15 years invincibility in Test cricket that only ended last May with defeat in a home series by Australia.

Since then the decline has been steady, with reversals in one-day tournaments in England, Sharjah and Australia and the people, and the players, have found it difficult coming to terms with the shift in fortunes.

Humiliation by a bunch of weekend club cricketers from a country with no background in the game has left those watched the live TV coverage throughout the night disbelieving and disgruntled - and almost universally calling for the head of the captain, Richie Richardson.

Richardson, who succeeded Viv Richards in 1991, has come under heavy criticism as his team has faltered; this could be the last straw. Former players, Richards among them, have blamed his inability to check the slide and the vast vocal majority have long demanded his replacement.

The calls have now become more strident and it is difficult to imagine the 33-year-old surviving Tuesday's meeting of the West Indies Board of Control that will choose the captain for the home series against New Zealand that immediately follows the World Cup.

"Richie Richardson is the man who must ultimately pay the price and his resignation must now be properly offered to the Board in a timely manner," the Barbados Nation wrote in its editorial yesterday.

The Antiguan has made it plain, yet again, that he intends to "hang in there" so that he will have to be pushed.

Brian Lara has been groomed for the position since he was a teenager but recent withdrawals from the team revealed a temperamental side likely to deter those who decide the issue. A more logical choice, albeit in the short term, is Courtney Walsh, the wily 33-year-old fast bowler, who captains Gloucestershire.

But whoever leads the team in future, the day Kenya defeated the West Indies will always be remembered with indignation in this part of the world.

World Cup cricket, page 25