Lara Announces Retirement; Fletcher To Leave England

Friday, April 20th 2007, 7:07 am
By: News On 6

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) _ Brian Lara announced his impending retirement from cricket after leading the West Indies to a long-awaited Super 8s victory at the World Cup.

Also, England announced coach Duncan Fletcher quit after a roller coaster eight years in charge, and a coroner's inquest into the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, believed to have been strangled in his hotel room after the team had been knocked out by Ireland, was postponed indefinitely because of ``recent and significant developments.''

Lara dropped three catches during Bangladesh's innings in Barbados on Thursday. Then he dropped something far more dramatic.

``If this is the last question, then I'll just say that I want everyone to know that on Saturday I'm going to bid farewell to all international cricket as a player,'' he told reporters.

``I've already spoken to the (West Indies Cricket) board about it and I'd just like to thank everyone.''

Lara's team scored 230-5 and bowled Bangladesh out for 131 to win by 99 runs. Because West Indies failed to reach the semifinals, however, Saturday was to be Lara's farewell to one-day cricket. No one expected it would include test cricket as well.

That means the left-handed Trinidadian, who holds the world record test score of 400 and the first-class mark of 501, won't be going to England for the four-test series starting May 17.

After heavy losses to Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa, Thursday's victory was a relief to Lara and the West Indies fans, who are dismayed that their team never got close to winning the title on home turf.

``We had two games and had a lot to play for in terms of pride and we showed a lot of character,'' Lara said.

``To win today was definitely something positive for West Indies cricket. It is good to see the crowd still coming out, they always support West Indies cricket and we want this to continue for many years.''

Ramnaresh Sarwan's 91 not out was the mainstay for West Indies with Shivnarine Chanderpaul contributing 50. By coincidence, those two will be the leading candidates to take over from Lara as the team's captain.

It was Lara's next-to-last one-day international with only Saturday's match against England to come in the same Kensington Oval, the venue for the April 28 final.

Like England, West Indies won't make it that far. Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa have already made it to the last four with only the semifinal lineups still be decided.

The championship continues on Friday with two of those contenders meeting in Grenada.

Australia is on a streak of 20 World Cup victories and New Zealand would like nothing more than to end it. But Ricky Ponting's Australians also want to make up for the Kiwis' 3-0 series sweep in February.

England beat both Australia and New Zealand in a one-day tri-series immediately before that. But that was its lone success in a barren spell that also included falling to the Ashes in a 5-0 test series loss to Ponting's team and a poor showing at the Champions Trophy in India in October,

That meant Lara wasn't the only figure saying farewell on Thursday.

England announced that coach Fletcher, under fire after a series of dismal performances, would quit after that same West Indies game on Saturday.

The 58-year-old former Zimbabwe test player, who lifted England from next-to-last to second in the list of eight test-playing nations and guided the team to an Ashes triumph over Australia in 2005, steps down after eight years.

``I feel it is in the team's best interests over the long term that I should move on and seek a new challenge elsewhere,'' he said.

``This has been a difficult winter for the team and for me personally, but I believe that my record as coach over the past eight years is one in which I can take great pride.''

With the test series against West Indies looming, England hopes to make a temporary appointment within the next few days, the strong favorite being Peter Moores, the national academy cricket coach who guided Sussex to its first county championship triumph in 2003.

Meanwhile, the Jamaican government said that the inquest into Woolmer's death, scheduled to start on Monday in the capital Kingston, has been postponed.

``Due to recent and significant events concerning the death of Mr. Woolmer, the coroner has been advised that the inquest ... be postponed,'' the ministry said. ``These new developments are critical to the progress and results of the case.''

Officials will decide whether to hold the inquest after investigating the new developments, the statement said, raising the possibility that the proceeding might not happen.

An autopsy suggested that Woolmer was found strangled in his hotel room. The postponement comes days after police announced they had received results of toxicology tests but decided not to release the results pending further analysis.