Windies sights set low

The West Indies team for the Champions Trophy are undoubtedly the weakest side of the eight in South Africa.

The clash of the senior players with the West Indies Cricket Board has resulted in the board sending a second-string team for this tournament and judging by their heavy defeats in warm-up games, they will be thrashed in the tournament.

Most of the players have no experience of international cricket. West Indies only hope is that the likes of Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan are sent out there like the cavalry for at least two games and prevent the inevitable.

The present side is skippered by Floyd Reifer, 37, who was disappointing when picked for the West Indies a decade ago and is way past his best now.

On the other end of the scale, Andre Fletcher is a promising young batsman but the 21-year-old Grenadian is simply too inexperienced to be playing in a tournament of this magnitude.

The fact that the board also sacked head coach John Dyson does not auger well. Yes, Dyson made some mistakes but overall he won the initially sceptical players over and his record stands up to scrutiny.

In their latest game, Devon Smith and Dale Richards stroked fighting half centuries, but Sri Lanka emerged comfortable five-wicket winners over West Indies with 15 balls to spare in their ICC Champions Trophy warm-up match on Sunday.

Choosing to bat first, West Indies scored 201 all out off 45.1 overs and Sri Lanka replied with 202 for five off 47.3 overs at LC de Villiers Oval.

Smith (67) and Richards (59) were the only significant scorers in the West Indies’ innings as spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis equally shared six wickets to torment West Indies, just three days before their opening Champions Trophy match against Pakistan today.

West Indies recovered from an unsteady start when opener Richards and Smith added 80 runs in 14 overs for the second wicket after Andre Fletcher went cheaply in the third over.

Pacer Nuwan Kulasekara bowled Fletcher (8) with just nine runs on the board, but Richards and Smith lifted the score to 89 before Richards fell to pacer Lasith Malinga, ending a near run-a-ball knock.

Richards thumped 10 fours and two sixes in scoring his 59 off 60 balls in 83 minutes. Without their top-flight players, absent because of a contracts dispute with the board, West Indies plunged to 158 for seven after losing five wickets for 37 runs.

Magic spinner Muralitharan cheaply dislodged Travis Dowlin (9), captain Floyd Reifer (2) and Kieran Powell (0) in a three-wicket burst, while Dave Bernard (6) and Chadwick Walton (0) also departed for single-digit scores.

Darren Sammy (20) added 32 for the eighth wicket with No.3 batsman Smith, who was eighth out for a top-score 67 that included six boundaries.

West Indies, tournament winners in England 2004 and runners-up two years later in India, are in Group A of the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy alongside Australia, India and Pakistan.

Their other first-round fixtures are against Australia on Saturday and India on 30 September.

Group B is made up of South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and England.