Jimmy Adams injury mystery deepens (23 January 1999)

23 January 1999

Jimmy Adams injury mystery deepens

Trevor Chesterfield

East London (South Africa) - If we are to believe the official version, West Indies all-rounder Jimmy Adams sliced a tendon of the small finger in his left hand with a weapon no more dangerous than the serrated edge of a plastic knife provided in the first class section of an aircraft on its way to South Africa.

It happened, so we were told, while he was slicing something as simple as a crusty bread roll. All so innocent and above board and the injured party was embarrassed by the "fuss and bother the wound" created. As it is the pay dispute and its ensuing aftermath with a tour match (at Randjesfontein) abandoned and the skipper Brian Lara apologising to " . . . the South African fans" for delaying the tour, had left some journalists bemused and skeptical. Something did not quite make two and two.

Against such a background and in the murky light surrounding the start of the tour most forgot about the Adams injury; barely a eyebrow twitched at the mention of a sliced tendon: nothing was said when it was first reported he would be ready in time for the Durban Test of the Castle Lager series. And just a couple of paragraphs greeted management's announcement that the "injury was not healing as quickly as hoped and he is returning home . . ."

Episodes one and two all neatly swept under the carpet. No fuss no bother.

Just as it was assumed he would return for the Standard Bank Series of one-dayers after his promising form in the Caribbean Busta Trophy (first-class) series among the replacements for Courtney Walsh, Clayton Lambert, Stuart Williams and Mervyn Dillon, he was left out. Okay, so the West Indies selectors wanted to experiment for the games against Australia. And as Adams capabilities are well documented, uncapped Keith Semple was the obvious choice.

On the last day of the Newlands Test (the fourth in the series) a whisper emerged from within the ranks of the West Indies about why Adams would not be returning to South Africa: remembering, of course, the replacement names had not been mentioned, although Reon King was confirmed as one of them. It was, came the whisper (initially surfacing in Pietermaritzburg in late December), that Adams had a falling out with Lara, and it had nothing to do with the pay dispute. In fact, it was said a third party was involved. Very interesting . . . And so those early rumours were true: there was a major split in the ranks, that Adams departure was tied up with a far uglier side of the team's character.

Next to surface at Centurion was a casual comment on the day before the final Test when the West Indies held a net session before South Africa. Adams it was said "had been the victim of unhappy circumstances". Hard evidence of what the "circumstances" were about emerged on the evening of day three during a private party. A couple of Windies players, packed and ready for home, mumbled over a glass of their sponsors products about how Adams had been instrumental the season before in shaping A Team unity during the South African tour. The incident on the aircraft gave Lara the chance to get rid of a man whom he saw as a threat to his leadership. If we are to get this unofficial version right, there was a row between Lara and an unnamed member of the side and in the ensuing fracas Adams stepped in between the two and was stabbed in the left hand for his efforts to spread calm in an argument where combustion and emotion had become a volatile mix.

A couple of witnesses were embarrassed by the exchange between Lara and a teammate that had nothing at all to do with how to hold a bat and what technique to use against the bouncers to be delivered by Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock in the Tests.

Now certain truths, suspected yet unproven for weeks, began to emerge. Lara's captaincy role was neither universal nor accepted in the team. Those players in South Africa, Adams among them, were summoned to London along with the team's management. Personalities and egos were getting in the way of on-field preparation and players were pulled into argument and decision making and asked to choose camps.

The claim that the team had gone to London to rally around Lara and the "industrial action" in which a couple of shady characters (former players agents) were involved was a myth said an informant. The team was split into more than two camps and it had nothing to do with inter-island rivalry. If it had, why was it not sorted out during England's tour of the West Indies a year ago and subsequent tours? Manager Clive Lloyd and the coach, Malcolm Marshall, have been firm believers in team unity.

The Adams episode on the aircraft back to South Africa from London was one of several. Some players did not talk to each other except when they had to on the field; and Christmas and New Year were far from festive. Lara admitted there were divisions after the 5-0 whitewash at Centurion Park.

"When we came to South Africa I was confident of (the West Indies) doing well," he said. "But the lack of unity in the team, not being able to fight for the cause together, and coming from different islands, has made it difficult to establish a team of unity."

Was the Lara row with the unnamed player to do with money? Not at all say informants. It was more to do with pillow talk than anything else and from that we can draw our own conclusions.

Source:: Trevor Chesterfield Cricket Writer Pretoria News t_chesterfield@hotmail.com