Calls for a change of captain August 2, 2004

Pressure on Lara increases with each defeat



Brian Lara: in the firing line © Getty Images
The vultures, sighted in the Caribbean in the spring, are circling over Brian Lara and his position as captain of West Indies. With each defeat at the hands of England - and there have been six in seven meetings since April - the murmurings have become more audible. And after yesterday's loss at Edgbaston, it appears to be open season on Lara and coach Gus Logie.

Veteran broadcaster Tony Cozier, who has not seen eye-to-eye with Lara for some time, didn't mince his words in The Independent. "In any other sport, the captain and coach would feel compelled to tender their resignations, if they had not already been demanded by their employers. The West Indies have not improved under their direction. If anything, their cricket and, more especially, their spirit - most glaringly revealed by their demeanour in the field - has declined even further. As Lara also noted, he did not covet or seek to return to the job from which he resigned after two years in 2000. He was asked back last year by the then president of the board, Wes Hall, and is doing his best. That is clearly not good enough. He is now 35 and, once he sees out this series, should hand the reins over to Ramnaresh Sarwan to see if he can make a better fist of raising the team out of the coffin into which yet another nail was hammered yesterday."

In the Daily Telegraph, Simon Hughes was equally blunt. "Never mind that the bowling attack is toothless and some of the batting gormless, there seems a total absence of basic discipline. It's deep-rooted. Many of the players have raw talent, but few seem able through the application of common sense and effective execution to make much of it. Naivity shines through with a capital N. If a fish is bad, look at its head."

In The Guardian, Mike Brearley, someone who knows a bit about captaincy, highlighted the defensive mindset that Lara is now in, and how he has singularly failed to cope with England's attacking approach. "Lara has been slow to adapt to the new mentality. You must expect to get someone out, otherwise all pressure comes off the batsman and your bowlers run in with heavy, if not also fearful, hearts. Given cannon-fodder fields, they come in with cannon-fodder mentality."

Among former West Indies players, Viv Richards was the loudest voice calling for Lara's head - but that has to be tempered with the fact that Lara and Richards have not exactly seen eye-to-eye of late. "Lara must take a long, hard look at himself," Richards told the BBC. "The side are now in a bad way and, if you have a leader who cannot motivate, you have problems."

With Lara seemingly heading for the door sooner or later, who is his heir apparent? Almost all the papers agree that it is Sarwan, "a man 11 years Lara's junior but with an increasingly old head on his youngish shoulders," according to The Guardian's Lawrence Booth. "Lara's problem right now is that he is fairly conspicuous himself," Booth continued. "Every time he winces, places his hand on his hips or changes the field, the amateur psychoanalysts come out to play. The truth is that he is an often imaginative but increasingly flawed captain in charge of one of the weakest West Indies sides in history. Even Mike Brearley might have struggled with this lot, let alone the 24-year-old Sarwan. But at the moment he is the man in waiting. And West Indies are getting impatient."

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