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Windies under fire

West Indies' decision to allow their players time off during their struggling World Cup Super Eights campaign came under fire from former leading Caribbean cricket players today.

Former test captain Richie Richardson called the move "unbelievable" and Joel Garner, the feared paceman of the 1970s and 80s, said it was "madness".

Imran Khan, the team's media officer, said that the players were given the option of taking two full days off after Monday's defeat to Sri Lanka in Guyana which leaves them needing victory in all three of their remaining second stage games to survive.

They reassemble today.

Khan said that five players Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Devon Smith and Daren Powell along with team officials travelled to Grenada. The other players returned to their home islands.

Their next match is against South Africa on April 10 in Grenada.

"I saw them in the first round in Jamaica and I felt they looked really good," Richardson, a flamboyant right-hander who made 5949 runs in 86 tests, said.

"Then, when they came to Antigua it was a totally different ball game and they looked totally flat.

"Now we are hearing they want time to go home and relax. That's unbelievable in the middle of a tournament when they should be representing their people. They have let us down.

"What about teams like Australia and New Zealand who play much more cricket than our guys? Aren't they tired too? We should be bonding as a unit and getting ready for the big matches coming up, not going off in different directions."

Successive defeats to Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka in the second stage Super Eights have left Brian Lara's team in danger of crashing out of the tournament before the semi-finals.

Garner, the giant fast bowler who was a World Cup winner in 1979, lashed out at the team and said heading off was "a bunch of nonsense".

"Going home to do what?" he said.

"It serves no purpose, as a matter of fact it's a bunch of nonsense. We have a drastic situation where we need to win all three matches to qualify for the next stage.

"You can't walk off in the middle of the battle. We have to be together and correct the errors and get things right."

West Indies come up against world No 1-ranked South Africa on Tuesday in a must-win game. After that match they face Bangladesh (April 19) and England (April 21) at Kensington Oval in Barbados.

They won the first two editions of the World Cup, both played in England, in 1975 and 1979 but have not seriously threatened since losing the 1983 final to India.

No host nation has won the tournament. The seven-week event culminates in the April 28 final in Barbados.

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