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September 13, 2002
The Rediff Cricket Interview/ Brian Lara
'It is the worst injury I have had in my life'True to type, Brian Lara was the last West Indian player to enter the hall for the ICC Champions Trophy media conference. "Just two minutes," he said, oozing gallons of attitude.
Lara, 33, holds the highest Test score (375) and first class score (501) besides holding the fortunes of a team in decline.
Sharing the blame for the West Indian wane, Lara spoke to Assistant Editor Faisal Shariff in Colombo about a cricketing resurgence in the Caribbean.
What are the West Indies' chances in the Champions Trophy?
It is important we do well because the further we progress in this tournament the more important it is for our morale. I think this tournament will set the guidelines for the World Cup in South Africa next year. We don't want to exit after playing South Africa and Kenya. We want to get right up to the final and show what we are made of. I think we will gain a lot of respect if we do that. I expect the boys to play to the best of their ability and give a good account of themselves.
Sachin Tendulkar and you have always been compared as the best batsmen of the modern era. He has just played his 100th Test.
I am very close to 100 Tests myself. He is playing more Tests than I am playing at present, but I must say it is a great achievement for a 29 year old to play 100 Tests. I think he will accomplish a lot more. The level of consistency he has achieved over the years is tremendous. I think he has got the world at his feet and I suppose he is taking one thing at a time. As a friend I am proud of his achievements and hope he goes onto greater things.
When you were captain you had a lot of pride...
This team has gelled very well. We have a lot of young players -- Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Wavell Hinds. They are coming to terms with international cricket; a couple of years ago they hardly had first class experience. Now they are coming up trumps. I expect them to do well in this tournament. I see us as being a force to reckon with in the near future.
What goals do you set yourself?
My goal is to see the team win, and to play a part. I have a reputation to keep. My goal at all times is to see the team do well. To win this tournament would be a great boost for us for the rest of the Asian tour, which continues for three-and-a-half months. We end sometime towards Christmas with Bangladesh. So it would be nice to end on a high.
Sachin Tendulkar is the most consistent batsman in the world today but you are known to win matches single-handedly. Would you ever want to swap that with him?
No, I look at Tendulkar and think that he is a great player. He is someone you want your little one to follow but I have my career and am quite happy with the way things have gone. I am sure he feels the same. He would not exchange that for anything.
What is your role in the team now?
I am not the captain, but in my own right I am a leader and as a batsman I give advice to the young players. I have been captain in the past and I know what it takes to gel a team and get it going. Every senior player has to play a part and help the skipper by performing their duties on the field and secondly by performing their duties off the field. I don't see myself as a father figure but as someone who the younger players can come to and talk to about cricket. Not just batting but cricket in general and I am ready to impart with any information or advice I have. So far it has been a great relationship between myself and the younger members in the team.
Would you want to lead the team again?
Right now I am just playing and that is my only goal. I was captain at one point in time. Right now I just want to play and perform as a batsman and a team member.
What is the status on your injury?
I am not hundred percent fit yet, and it will take a long time. It has had a huge psychological effect on me where I am unable to try certain things and am uncomfortable doing some things. It is the worst injury I have had in my life. I now see what sportsmen who go through long periods outside the game feel. Hopefully my game will get back to its best. Right now I am comfortable but I would not say I am hundred percent fit. I played with the injury against India and New Zealand but hopefully now I am not so restricted.
Do you think the rivalries between islands in the West Indies has led to the decline in standards and team morale?
I think we are doing quite well. The guys are pulling together and we have realized the enormous task we have and the reputation we have and we have to live up to it.
We have to put the insularities to one side and work as a team. We West Indian cricketers are always proud to play for the West Indies and we know we are made up of different islands and different cultures but we have to be able to mesh together, to come together and perform as a team.
How is this young side coming along?
I am very optimistic about cricket in the West Indies. I feel we have a good mix of youngsters and experienced players like Carl Hooper, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Ridley Jacobs and myself. I think we are prepared to lead the game. We have the right kind of youngsters to take the baton and run ahead of the rest. They are capable to taking us back to the top. I think the board is heading in the right direction and the development programs and the small tours -- the Under-15, Under-19 and the A team tours -- are all very successful. We just need these guys to come up and bridge the gap between first class cricket and Test cricket quickly and I think we will be a very good side.
Of course, we will not be the invincible side like we were in the 1970s and 1980s but we will be amongst the best.
Do you think that administrative complacency is the reason for the decline in West Indian cricket?
I don't want to get involved in that. I have been part of the decline. I was there when we were at the top and then saw the period where we declined from the top. There is no one person to lay blame on. The responsibility as a West Indian is on the politicians, the administrators, the sporting fraternities -- to come and pull us out again. Teams go through bad phases, it is a cycle. The Aussies were very poor in the 1980s and they are now a great side.
Do you think the West Indies believed that talented cricketers would continue to pour in without looking to strengthen the infrastructure?
Complacency steps in and maybe that was one of our traits. At present it is no more because we have realized what we have lost because of it. We have a lot of heart in our cricket.
Viv Richards is now the chairman of selectors.
I think it is very important that everyone who has played, been successful and had a long career in West Indies cricket should play a part. Not Viv alone we have Gordon Greenidge as a selector. The board president now is Wes Hall and they all have experience and their coming together is a good thing for West Indian cricket.
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