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Lloyd looks back to the future

By Colin Croft

8 February 1998

THE BUZZWORD in Caribbean cricket during the last six months has been 'transition'. Since the debacle in Pakistan it has never been far from manager Clive Lloyd's lips as he pleads for patience from frustrated West Indian fans.

However, when their side limped home from Pakistan few would have guessed the search for a brighter cricketing future would begin with a nostalgic journey into the past.

If the West Indian selectors caused some astonishment in Jamaica by leaving out fast bowler Franklyn Rose for the ill-fated game at Sabina Park then they raised even more eyebrows here in Trinidad with the recall of Kenny Benjamin. Now, however, the combination of Benjamin, the outstanding Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and the young Nixon McLean could well form the basis of the attack in South Africa later this year.

Although there may be some grounds for concern of the effects the 34-degree Celsius temperatures will have on both Ambrose and Walsh - especially with the third Test here following so rapidly on Friday, the former has showed his vast experience in this match and was rewarded with the outstandingly economical figures of three for 26 from 23 overs in the first innings. He gave nothing away. There was no real attempt to bowl quickly on his part but instead a determination to keep the ball on very full lengths, which allied to that immaculate sense of direction, made sure the batsmen always had to play. After all the talk of retirement during the weeks after his premature return from Pakistan, Ambrose has demonstrated that he has much to offer in this series - if he can stay fit.

Walsh has been different in Port of Spain. He has not bowled with the venom he mustered in Kingston. Instead he has been content to 'do the right thing'. He is resigned to bowling line and length and waiting for the batsman to make the errors.

In contrast, Benjamin has bowled quickly in this match and he must be frustrated that his figures do not paint a proper picture of how well he bowled in two express spells. Given that he has not played Test cricket for two years, he has shown none of the fitness problems that have dogged him throughout his career. He was bounding in with enthusiasm and athleticism, swinging and cutting the ball. He also bowled with real aggression at times. A Test revival at 30? Why not?

But what of the young hopefuls? McLean has speed but also some technical faults that must be ironed out. Indeed he may already have found that searing pace alone does not always account for Test players. You need direction and variation. And he will also have to cut out his propensity for no-balls.

McLean's pace and agility as well as his youth might just be a vital factor next week when older, more battle-scarred limbs, will start to suffer in the heat which shows no sign of respite.

The West Indies have Rose and Mervyn Dillon, ruled out of the first two Tests through injury, in reserve but even so Lloyd and the selectors may still be happier looking back to find a brighter future.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 08 Feb1998 - 18:46