'Selector' Viv has his say - Lara did well


Tuesday, March 31, 1998

``EVEN though I know he is the right individual for the job, I believe at twenty-something, he did not achieve his true potential in batting as yet to have that freedom to go out and play uninhibited, not having the burden of being captain. Maybe the captaincy came a little too soon for him in that sense.''

The ``Master Blaster,'' Viv Richards was expressing concern about what the West Indies captaincy, at this stage, may not do for Brian Lara, the record-breaking Test batsman. But the former West Indies captain had even more serious qualms about some of the trends emerging from the Caribbean side's recently-concluded Test series against England. Lara's men completed a 3-1 whipping of Mike Atherton's side with a crushing innings and 52-run win in the sixth and final Test in Antigua last Tuesday before going under by 16-runs in the first of five One-day Internationals on Sunday with Lara getting a brilliant century.

But despite the encouraging sign, Richards was uncertain about what the future holds, especially for the top order

Describing the openers as the ``most worrying position,'' Richards told the Express: ``I still do not believe that this opening pair is the pair that is going to take West Indies to another level and into the next generation.''

Barbadian big-hitter Philo Wallace and 36-year-old Guyanese left-hander, put on two half-century stands and a century opening partnership in their three innings in the series.

And Richards conceded that ``We needed someone at the very top of our batting to perform well -consistently! And the matches these guys have played in, they've done that.''

Richards then posed this question: ``The 36-year-old has done well, so where does that put us in rebuilding for the future, touring South Africa? Now that you've picked this individual and he's got runs, can you avoid taking him to South Africa?''

Richards further described as ``cause for alarm'' the trend of recalling aging players, Lambert and wicketkeeper David Williams in particular. But even while admitting that the selection panel `` played it reasonably right this trip,'' given the Windies recent poor performances and the presence of a brand new captain, the ``Master Blaster'' called for a more progressive attitude in selecting the squad for South Africa.

``It is very important in future when we go on tour, that we think of blooding young players,'' he said.

The former skipper cited the introduction of fastbowler Nixon McClean and the recall of fellow pacer Franklyn Rose as two very positive aspects of the Windies' most recent series effort. And he also saw merit in the work of leg-spinner Dinanath Ramnarine who took nine wickets in his two Tests.

``From what I've seen, the guy has justified his pick,'' Richards said. ``He went to Guyana and got wickets.''

Returning to the subject of Lara and the captaincy, Richards observed that, despite not getting really big scores, Lara was still a princely player.

``In this series here, he's got 90-odd, 80-odd. He's just isn't getting three figures. But to me, he's still hitting the ball as sweet as ever.'' But, he added, ``he has to think now of the responsibilities of the team when I would have liked to see him go on for another year or two, achieving his own personal goals.

``He may just use the opportunity to concentrate a little harder,'' he continued, ``because we needed Brian to do well as a batsman at this stage. But we'll just have to wait and see.''

But Richards admitted that he himself had few doubts about the new captain's abilities.

``I think he has moved on smoothly. There are many armchair generals in the West Indies. But I think Brian is an individual who has an individual way on how he would like things.''

``To have won this series,'' Richards ended, ``especially at a time when a lot of people thought our cricket was not looking up, he has done well.''

Source: The Express (Trinidad)

Contributed by CricInfo Management, and reproduced with permission

Date-stamped : 01 Apr1998 - 12:36