South Africa v West Indies, 4th Test, Centurion January 18, 2004

Sir Viv overruled by Sir Brian?



Brian Lara: determined to have his own way
© Getty Images

Throughout West Indies' losing tour of South Africa the squad has maintained a united front, and evidence of in-fighting has, for once, been hard to spot. But some of the tensions of the tour bubbled to the surface on Friday, just moments before the fourth and final Test began at Centurion.

West Indies' captain Brian Lara performed an extraordinary about-turn just seconds before the toss, when it appears that he unilaterally reinstated the fast bowler Mervyn Dillon to the starting XI even though the chairman of selectors, Sir Viv Richards, had insisted on his omission.

Dillon had looked clearly the most effective bowler in the first two Tests, which West Indies lost heavily, but Richards imposed his considerable presence and overruled Lara, who had wanted Dillon, a fellow Trinidadian, retained for the third Test at Cape Town. Richards, according to West Indian sources, has long felt that Dillon's figures were inadequate for a man of his experience and ability, and Viv also prefers a bowler to play with more obvious passion and commitment than the laid-back Dillon.

Nobody, though, was prepared for the amazing scene that took place out in the middle at Supersport Park, as Lara delayed the toss by several minutes during a prolonged inspection of the pitch. From the moment Lara started inspecting the pitch to the moment the toss took place, he looked deliberately towards the dressing-room - where a helpless Richards sat - on at least a dozen ocassions.

Then, when Lara joined his opposite number Graeme Smith, he asked him whether he was carrying a pen. A perplexed Smith looked in his pocket, found a pen and offered it to Lara. Odd became odder when Lara asked Smith to make the change himself, holding the teamsheet and requesting that Smith put a line through Adam Sanford's name and write "Dillon" in its place. A dazed Smith duly did as he was told.

Lara then ran towards Sanford to inform him that he would be 12th man, before being heard clearly on the stump mike calling to Dillon, who had done virtually nothing in the pre-match warm-ups, to tell him he was, in fact, playing.

West Indian officials have made no statement about the late team change.