Viv Richards, the former West Indies captain, expressed surprise at the appointment of Brian Lara as West Indian captain for the third time, suggesting that the decision may not be a popular one within the team.

Writing in his syndicated column in India, Richards said he also believed the decision to be based on "commercial considerations", made with one eye on next year's World Cup. "West Indian cricket continues to spring one surprise after the other. The latest one has been the choice of Brian Lara as captain. Clearly it is a decision prompted by commercial considerations, keeping in mind the World Cup. It's also a decision that might last only till that tournament."

But Richards also acknowledged that there may have been little choice after former captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul resigned, to end what was by common consent, a thoroughly unsuccessful tenure in terms of results. "Chances are that Lara's appointment was not a very popular decision among the players. However, this short-term appointment was necessary because some of the other players in contention were not yet mature or responsible enough for the position of captain."

Lara, Test cricket's leading run-getter with 11,294 runs from 124 Tests, was appointed captain last month and has since led his team to a 5-0 sweep over Zimbabwe in a one-day series. Now, though, begins his first real challenge; an ODI series against a red-hot Indian side.

Richards though remained optimistic, both about the long-term future and the series against India. "The West Indian Cricket Board has been lurching from one crisis to another, and hopefully we have heard the last of the one regarding sponsorship. In this bleak scenario, the one thing that the West Indian fans can cheer about is the improvement in the team. Players like Chris Gayle, Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan have joined forces with Lara to lend muscle to the batting.

"The bowling is also looking good with Fidel Edwards holding out a promise of pace. There are players like Dwayne Bravo and Denesh Ramdin who give the team some options lower down the order. All told it is a fighting one-day unit, and Indians might find the opposition quite challenging.

"The Indians would rate this as their best chance to beat the West Indians in the West Indies in Tests," Richards wrote. "However, they will not find it easy because this West Indian team has the ability to cause a few surprises if luck goes their way."