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Walsh to face England after electing to support Lara

By Tom Shaw in Jamaica

15 January 1998

COURTNEY WALSH last night decided to continue his Test career in the series against England that begins in two weeks and pledged his full support to Brian Lara, his successor as West Indies captain.

Walsh, 35, spent a week considering his future after losing the captaincy to Lara before opting to continue a Test career as a fast bowler which has brought him 353 wickets in 96 appearances.

Walsh said that his decision to continue had nothing to do with the 23 wickets he needs to equal Malcolm Marshall's West Indies record, or the fact that he needs only four more appearances to reach the century-mark. He made his mind up after taking 10 wickets in Jamaica's match against Barbados

``I was disappointed to lose the captaincy, but I've decided to make myself available for the series,'' he said. ``A lot of people in the Caribbean supported me, sent me faxes and letters asking me to play on. I'm not doing it because I've been asked by so many people.

``I've got questions to ask myself. I didn't know what was going to happen when I came out to play against Bar- bados. But I can still compete at the highest level, which is the reason that spurred me on.''

Aware that Lara might get an unfriendly reception when the series against England starts in his native Jamaica on Jan 29, Walsh promised the Trinidadian his backing.

``We have a new captain and I'd like to give him as much support as possible - and I think he's going to need it in Jamaica and through the series as well,'' Walsh said.

``I want to squash speculation that there's a lot of rivalry and animosity between us. I think I'll be a better person for this. The game is bigger than anybody.

``I'm not doing it for the record, I think I have something to offer. If I get the wickets I need and we don't win, I'll be disappointed. If I get the record and we win the series that will be more satisfying. There's still a little life left in the old dog and I want to make use of it,'' he said.

``Brian had a rough time when he came to play in Kingston a short time ago. We can come out and support each other and cricket can be the winner.''

Walsh will not play for Jamaica against England in the match starting at Montego Bay on Friday - and neither will his Jamaican new-ball partner Franklyn Rose, a relative newcomer to the West Indies side. Rose took five wickets in the second innings of the match between Jamaica and Barbados and strained a shoulder.

There was more encouraging news for England from Darren Gough, the injured fast bowler, who is on target to be fit for the third Test.

Gough, who had to pull out of the Caribbean tour because of a persistent hamstring injury, is hoping to join the England party as soon as he can and has encouraging news of his recovery.

``The specialists have now isolated the problem area and have adjusted my treatment slightly, and the hope is that I'll complete my recovery in about six weeks,'' Gough said. ``That would allow me to join up with the rest of the England squad more or less as planned.''

The timetable he is setting will make it touch-and-go whether Gough can be match-fit in time to play in the third Test, which starts in Guyana on Feb 27.

England's captain, Mike Atherton, has already said that he hopes Gough can join the tour some time next month, but the Yorkshireman is anxious not to put pressure on himself with strict deadlines.

``I don't want to set myself specific targets because if I don't make them it will be a let-down,'' he said in his column for the Yorkshire Evening Post.

By the time Gough arrives, his fellow bowler Robert Croft is hoping to have re-established his place in the England attack thanks partly to improved batting. Glamorgan's off-spinning all-rounder was given a rough ride with the short-pitched delivery by Australia's fast bowlers last summer and knows that he can expect more of the same in the Caribbean.

Croft, however, is confident that he has ironed out the flaws in his batting, thanks to intensive sessions with former England captain Graham Gooch, with the ball being banged in at him from 15 yards off the fast indoor pitches three or four times a week.

Croft, whose Test average is a dis- appointing 10.61, said: ``Australia's Glenn McGrath worked me out, as he has done with a lot of other batsmen. It was the most mentally tough cricket I'd played. Yet I would go away and score 60s, 70s and 80s with Glamorgan, so I know I can play.

``Basically, I was jumping right across the crease, giving myself nowhere to go and the ball was following me. Now I take a little step across middle and leg so I can come forward to the fuller ball and move back to the shorter one.''

Croft, 27, was eventually dropped for the final Test of the Ashes series, and left to watch spin colleague Phil Tufnell take 11 wickets in the match as England pulled off a 19-run victory.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 19:25