West Indies in South Africa 1998-99 November 5, 1998

West Indies board fires Brian Lara and Carl Hooper

Haydn Gill in Antigua

The chaos, confusion and controversy that have plagued West Indies' cricket in recent times, escalated to unprecedented heights last night when Brian Lara and Carl Hooper were stripped of their titles and withdrawn from the tour of South Africa.

In choosing to ignore firm written instructions from the team management not to return to London, Lara, the captain, and Carl Hooper, the vice-captain, also stand to be subjected to further disciplinary action at an inquiry in St. John's next week Friday.

The recent events, which were believed to have been instigated by several grouses among the players, triggered a strong reaction from West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Pat Rousseau after he disclosed the board's unanimous action taken against Lara, Hooper and seven other players who remained in London.

"The actions of these players have done really serious harm to West Indies cricket, the reputation of West Indies cricket, the West Indies public, supporters and the WICB," Rousseau said at a news conference at the Rex Halcyon Cove Hotel.

"Equally, it has created major problems for us with our sponsors. We've had several calls on the subject already. They have created enormous problems for the United Cricket Board of South Africa which was very keen on having a West Indies team in South Africa on an historic tour."

The WICB also slapped ten per cent tour fee fines on Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Jimmy Adams for refusing to go to South Africa after they were sent a warning letter from the board to proceed.

First-time selectee Darren Ganga, Junior Murray, Franklyn Rose and Dinanath Ramnarine, who indicated their willingness to travel, but were asked to remain in London until the issue was settled, were fined five per cent of their tour fees.

It was reported earlier this week that tour fees were a major cause why the players refused to head for South Africa after completing their duties in the Wills Cup in Bangladesh on Monday.

Rousseau, the no-nonsense Jamaican whose board has had to endure a series of controversies since his elevation to the top post in May 1996, said however, the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) could not put forward any reason why the players refused to move on to South Africa.

"[It is hard] to believe that players, on the information we have - on the flimsiest of reasons - had put that whole tour in jeopardy and brought West Indies cricket into disrepute," he said.

Correspondence from the WIPA to the WICB on October 30 requested a meeting in England to discuss the "one-off nature of the fee agreement recently reached".

Other issues raised included partial economy class travel to Bangladesh, inadequate meal allowances to South Africa and the week-long camp in Johannesburg.

"We were satisfied since the substantive issue of fees had been settled and the others had been resolved with the team management and the United Cricket Board of South Africa, there was no need for an emergency meeting in London," the WICB boss said.

It was disclosed by chief finance officer Richard Jodhan that the WICB had agreed to accept a proposal from the WIPA to increase the overall tour fees by US$30,000.

Jodhan also announced that the fees for the South Africa tour were between 17 per cent and 20 per cent more than those paid on last full tour to Australia two years ago.

The WIPA, which was represented at yesterday's emergency meeting by chief executive officer David Holford and secretary Roland Holder, said the players were unified in their position.

"They have expressed a position of solidarity," Holder said on his return to Barbados last night.

"The players have the interest of West Indies cricket at heart and have always been and will remain committed to West Indies cricket."

The WICB has advised the players in London, other than Lara and Hooper, that arrangements would be made for them to travel to South Africa as early as today and that the selection panel had been instructed to convene a meeting at the earliest possible opportunity to choose a new captain, vice-captain and any additional players required.

Rousseau also said arrangements were being made with a counsellor to join the team in preparation for a series of five Tests and seven One-Day Internationals against a side which is seen as one of the toughest in world cricket.

The tour officially opens today with a week-long fielding session.

Source :: The Barbados Nation (http://www.nationnews.com/)