Lara Can Keep Going But Without Captaincy
Lara (Photo: Shiek Mohamed)
By Orin Davidson
Although most of the attention is focused on two great Australian
players, Brian Lara still manages to make the news
Even as the recently announced retirements of Shane Warne and Glen
McGrath continue to create serious speculation on the future strength
of Australian, the talk somehow veers off in Lara’s direction.
Both Warne and McGrath rate the West Indies captain the most difficult
batsman they encountered while reflecting on their careers before
the international media this week.
And who can deny the triple world record holder.
Lara deserves most of the plaudits showered on him these last 12
months which coincides with his fourth world record set in 16 years.
And he could not have chosen a better time and place for his current
business/holiday as he puts it, Down Under.
It might or may not be a coincidence he is on spot in Australia
during the most hyped Test series in recent times. But as has been
predicted in these columns, the Ashes clash is unfolding as one
of the most one-sided of all, between Australia and England.
Nevertheless, even as England is crashing to only the second Ashes
whitewash ever, after their 1921 hammering, Lara is one of the many
superstars whose experiences are being sought in remembrance of
Warne and McGrath.
Yet he will soon find him self in the hot-seat for another career
defining decision, like all the others on the wrong side of 30 years.
So far the West Indies captain had to make two major ones in 2006
and will have another to ponder on early in 2007.
Agreeing to re-accept the captaincy prior to the Zimbabwe series
this year caused him lots of soul searching, prompted by the wishes
of new West Indies Cricket Board president Ken Gordon.
After the just concluded Pakistan series, Lara made it clear he
is not about to retire from Tests anytime soon while promising that
the World Cup will be his swansong in limited overs competition.
By the time the final run is scored and the last presentation speech
made at Kensington Oval on April 28 2007, Lara will have a huge
weight in his lap, whether West Indies wins or goes out in the first
The captaincy of the team will be foremost on his mind as well as
those of every director on the West Indies Cricket Board.
If Lara’s Test career will continue indefinitely then surely
his hold on the top position cannot be treated likewise.
Not that his presence on the team would be unwarranted.
Any squad around the world worth its salt would welcome Lara with
open arms for its batting lineup, regardless of his ability or inability
to produce in match winning situations.
He is a run machine and can contribute to any victory indirectly
all the time.
The words of Warne, McGrath and Mutthia Muralitharan who also rates
Lara his number one foe, bears credence to his batsmanship.
But not many of those teams would make Lara their captain.
Which is why he should also make the World Cup his swansong as West
None of the world’s great batting geniuses before or after
him made outstanding captains. And Lara is no exception. Sobers,
Richards and Tendulkar were not great leaders. Bradman had a short
stint and although he was unbeaten in the four series he led Australia,
it was not enough to prove his pedigree as captain.
Articulate he may be, suave he may be, but tactically and motivationally,
Lara is not.
His record speaks for itself.
Three stints at the helm produced more Test and series losses than
winners and a number of whitewashes in the mix.
Of course he never had a team of hardened professionals like Lloyd
and Richards had, but in reality his players never improved their
amateurism under his long watch.
Not surprisingly, it is not unusual to observe differences in the
performances of the team when Lara is not at the helm.
By now it ought not be a brain teaser anymore to understand why
the players seem more motivated when he is not around.
The upcoming, West Indies Cricket Board Carib Cup and KFC Cup competitions
would’ve given vice captain Ramnaresh Sarwan the best litmus
test as captain.
He hinted at some measure of ability in leading Guyana to a title
triumph in the Sanford 20/20 series and was impressive in captaining
West Indies to victory over Australia in the Champions Trophy first
Yet there is no better yardstick to measure his full capabilities
than consistency. And Sarwan would not be tested any better than
in a full season at the helm.
His foot injury presently might not allow him that opportunity now.
So far Lara has never made the captaincy the object of his desire
in public settings.
He always talks about the team’s goals before anything personal,
but it would be nice if he acknowledges the squad is going nowhere
under his leadership in Tests.
The 2-0 loss out of three matches, at the hands of Pakistan was
particularly hurtful. It was a reminder they are nowhere closer
to improvement than they were when the decline started in 1995.
At this stage, Lara would have greater peace of mind concentrating
solely on his batting. He is a master at accumulating individual
feats and is proving himself the best ever Over-35 year old batsman
in the world.
His main rival Tendulkar is a far cry from the scoring sensation
he was before his injury- plagued year in 2005. And he is only 33.
And despite Ricky Ponting’s current blitz, time will tell
whether the Australian captain could maintain that momentum five
years down the road at 37.
Yet deep down Lara knows a West Indies re-emergence at the top will
be more satisfying even if Ponting fails to overcome his record
Test runs or centuries tally, that will soon give him his fourth
standing world record.
But he will first have to make his captaincy duties history.
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