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Windies batting failed at the crunch

By Vivian Richards
March 03, 2003 20:52 IST
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It is hugely disappointing to know that the West Indies team will not be part of the Super Sixes. However, we will have to look only inwards to see why and where that dream turned sour. We had a wonderful beginning to the tournament, with a victory against South Africa, but it has been downhill since then.

One of the most saddening features of our defeat against Sri Lanka was the fielding. We gave away more than 15 runs on the field with some sloppy, schoolboy errors. There is a lot of talk about how chasing under lights has been tough in this tournament. We should have concentrated more on the field to ensure that the total was within 200. The basic logic that works here is that the more runs you save, the less runs you chase. In the end sloppiness on the field cost us the game, and with it, a place in the Super Six. It was sad to realize that we had not learnt from our poor fielding effort against New Zealand.

I have seen some of the other sides fielding, and on that evidence, perhaps, we do not deserve to be among the last six. I know that we lost two crucial points after our match against Bangladesh was rained out, but most of the blame lies with us and not with luck. The rain rules were laid down long before the tournament began, so you've got to accept it as part and parcel of the competition.

There have been a few positives, but nothing to compensate for the blow of being knocked out. Ramnaresh Sarwan, who showed the world what champions are made of, was the only positive in that match. It's not easy to come back and play when you are knocked on the head, and it is at moments like that when you realize the mettle of an individual. Things like that still make me proud of West Indies cricket, and even sadder that we are no longer in the running.

Brian Lara played a couple of great knocks, and was unlucky to be run-out against New Zealand. The only game where he was actually dismissed cheaply was against Sri Lanka, but knowing Lara, he would be deeply disappointed.

You are measured according to how far you progress in a World Cup, and we would have liked to test ourselves against the very best. There will be post-mortems, but it is important to accept responsibility for the way things have turned out without making excuses.

For instance, I have no regrets about sticking to our policy of three bowlers. When we started out in this tournament, it was clear that our batting was our strength. It was, therefore, only logical that we would play to our strengths. Unfortunately, after the first match, our batting only clicked against Canada. When our batsmen were losing confidence, picking the extra bowler would have only weakened the line-up. We did not lose our games against New Zealand and Sri Lanka due to poor bowling; we lost because our batsmen did not play to potential. I think our batting line-up has enough talent to chase and overhaul those targets eight times out of ten, but they failed when it came to the crunch.

The media has reported that Carl Hooper will take a long, hard look at his role as skipper of this team. I have not yet had an opportunity to speak to him, but I feel he still has a crucial role to play in West Indies cricket. I share a wonderful rapport with Carl and would hate to see him make a hasty exit from cricket. Recriminations and criticism has caused able leaders and players to leave the West Indian team too often in the past. Carl has to hang in there and pilot the ship till we groom a successor. There is a crucial series coming up against Australia next month, and we will require experienced players like Carl to hang in there. This team has not turned the corner, and it is yet to realize its full potential. Carl will have succeeded in his mission only when that happens; till then he will have to let bygones be bygones, and get ahead with the game.

(Gameplan)

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Vivian Richards