ONE would have thought that after more than five decades of being involved as a player and administrator, nothing would faze famous West Indian cricketer Sir Clyde Walcott. But confronted with players from 20 cricketing countries last Sunday at the Safari Park Hotel ballroom in Nairobi, Sir Clyde let his guard slip momentarily. The batting legend let out: ''This is the first time in my career that I've seen players from 20 countries gathered in one hall. It is wonderful.'' The official dinner hosted by the ICC for the 20 participating teams at the mini-World Cup was an occasion of celebration for world cricket. It showed the game is becoming more popular in far-flung corners of the globe. They were all there, from Israel toIreland, Denmark to Gibraltar. The three-week tournament for the world's lesser-ranked cricketing nations reaches its climax today at Nairobi's Ruaraka Club with newcomers the United Arab Emirates taking on hosts Kenya in the final. Along with the UAE, Ireland and Namibia were the two other new associate member countries at the fifth ICC Trophy. Next time, there will be more. Among them Scotland and Italy. So when Sir Clyde dropped his guard, it was more in pleasant surprise than genuine shock. He had let the ball go past his bat. He was not beaten. Sir Clyde, the current chairman of the International Cricket Council, was straightforward and reminded the gathered assembly that they had a long way to go up the pitch before they would be acknowledged as serious cricketing nations. ''Your standards cannot be compared with those of the Test-playing nations. But do not be disheartened. Just remember that we were all immature when we first started to play Test cricket,'' said Sir Clyde. The West Indian great related a tale which exemplified the laid back style of his country in the good old days. ''I remember a match 38 years ago which was called off because the umpire had to catch a train. The batting side needed five runs to win with two wickets in hand. But suddenly the umpire picked up the bails and left . . . his train was due. ''This sort of thing happened in the West Indies in those days. Today we are a cricketing power,'' said Sir Clyde, the first West Indian and first non-Englishman to become chairman of the ICC. A member of the famous three Ws - Walcott, Weekes (Everton) and Worrell (Frank) - Sir Clyde said the tournament would, however, give an opportunity for the associate members to assess their strengths (Hong Kong finished joint seventh). But he reminded everyone that in the pursuit of victory, players should maintain the highest standard of conduct on the field - a fact he said he had not seen after witnessing a match. ''The appealing by the two teams was rather hostile. It is a shame since you all carry a big responsibility, being ambassadors of your country,'' said Sir Clyde. With the competitive nature of today's game, Sir Clyde's views will be regarded as old-fashioned. With three places up for grabs at the next World Cup, it was no surprise that constant appealing was a means to an end. However, Sir Clyde, 68, is the first to admit that cricket was a different ball game today, than when he played for West Indies from 1948 to 1960. ''It was more attractive to watch those days. But this does not mean to say it was better. It was more an amateur game and not as professional or as scientific as it is today. More thought is put into the game by players today.'' The right-handed batsman, who scored 15 Test hundreds in 47 appearances for his country, said commercialism and the one-day game was one of the reasons why the whole nature of the game had changed. ''We never played one-day cricket in my time. We played more for enjoyment than as a business,'' said Sir Clyde. He added that the limited overs game had also changed the entire approach of most cricketers. ''The batsman for example has little time to build up an innings. He improvises shots. And because there is so much one-day cricket, this becomes a habit.'' Sir Clyde, who took over as ICC chairman from Englishman Sir Colin Cowdrey last October, hopes that in his tenure, the controversy over the experimental one bouncer per over rule will be settled, that discipline on the field will be maintained and that the nine Test playing countries will standardise playing conditions. Matters which have no immediate bearing on the associate member countries - three of whom will be rubbing shoulders with their seniors in 1996.