Prime minister upset by Windies team selection

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is threatening the sport’s future in the Caribbean by banning Brian Lara and six other star players over a sponsorship dispute, says Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell.

Mitchell said WICB officials should have heeded the recommendation of his regional cricket subcommittee and explored alternative sponsorship arrangements.

“In the interest of the 2007 Cricket World Cup and West Indies cricket ... nothing should be done to send the wrong message about the importance of cricket and the World Cup to the regional economy and the way of life of our people,” Mitchell said on Sunday.

The day before, the WICB said Lara was excluded because he gave a conditional response to the board’s invitation to be available for the first Test against South Africa in Guyana from March 31.

Lara proposed the six others become eligible for selection, but the board dismissed the idea.

All seven were originally deemed ineligible because their endorsement contracts with Cable & Wireless conflicted with the WICB’s official sponsor and telecommunications rival Digicel.

But while Dwayne Bravo, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Ravi Rampaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Smith were prohibited from playing, the board lifted the ban on Lara because he signed his contract with the board’s consent.

West Indies Players’ Association president Dinanath Ramnarine on Sunday warned the WICB that the association might take tougher action if the board does not reconsider, including possible strike action.

The exclusion of Lara, one of only five players to score more than 10 000 runs in Test history, was a major setback for the West Indies, who have fallen to third-to-last in the International Cricket Council rankings, above only Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul will replace Lara as captain, the board said.—Sapa-AP

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