Embarrased Itself Not Lara
By Orin Davidson
Brian Lara’s heady days of a May of success turned upside
down in the time it took to complete four Test matches.
His reaction to India ending a 35-year-old winless Test series
victory drought in the West Indies, after being drubbed in
the Limited Overs series, was indicative of a man deeply hurt
by the turn of events, but not entirely surprising.
Being the type of person capable of carrying fans to the heights
of ecstasy and the depths of infuriation, Lara’s attacks
on West Indies officialdom has been received with varying
levels of condemnation, silence and some appreciation.
For those turned off by his antics in the past, Lara has been
condemned for behavior unbecoming of a gifted and accomplished
individual. To others Lara has been shortchanged by a Board
which allowed India to run away with a morale boosting series
victory that was undeserved under the double world record
More so, India’s fine comeback from a 4-1 ODI series
humiliation was hard to take considering the brilliant start
West Indies made in the first half of the tour.
In his native Trinidad and Tobago Lara is normally given royal
treatment, but when it became apparent the West Indies Cricket
Board (WICB) was desperate for a new captain, the Board made
him into a Caribbean Prince.
He was courted from all quarters by its officials who had
the greats of the 1980s Dream Team help encourage him accept
the team’s captaincy for the third time.
When Lara accepted and went on to lead West Indies to a 4-1
drubbing of the world number two ranked Limited Overs team,
after steamrolling Zimbabwe 5-0, all the gloom of the previous
year’s wretched performances were wiped away.
Another victory in the Tests over the always vulnerable India
in the West Indies, would’ve iced the cake as the real
test of a team’s ability lies in the results it posts
in the longer form of the sport.
And when Lara was denied the opportunity to influence changes
to engineer a comeback in the series after India controlled
the first three games, things turned ballistic.
One can understand Lara’s rage because the WICB has
frequently failed to get anything done properly, especially
in the recent past.
It is no surprise the double world record holder consistently
went public with his criticism of the non selection of bowlers
he feels were needed to stop India’s determined run
to a memorable Test series triumph.
In this present calamitous state of West Indies cricket administration,
Lara has the right to state his feelings whether publicly
or privately on issues affecting his team.
Maybe he went a step too far in seizing almost every opportunity
he got with the media to slam the selectors and groundsmen.
Also his frequent tantrum displays over the eventual quality
of the pitches were unwarranted.
Unless Lara was privy to information most of us don’t
have, one should have no doubt chief groundsman Charlie Joseph
did the best he could to recreate the Sabina Pitch of the
past - one of enough pace and bounce that rewards a bowler
if he is good enough and a batsman likewise - which suited
West Indies just fine all along.
But from all appearances the captain felt the groundstaff
blundered by preparing a strip which turned and bounced and
generally gave more assistance to the Indian spinners than
his pacemen got from it.
In the same way he feels the selectors erred by not giving
him the players he wanted and made his feelings clear to the
world, more often than was necessary.
But at no time did he embarrass West Indies cricket.
The WICB has embarrassed itself many times over, in past years
with its efforts of lack thereof, to restore the Region’s
cricket to world class standard.
Its dealings with new team sponsor Digicel and the subsequent
fallout with the West Indies Players Association which resulted
in a second string team touring Sri Lanka cannot be matched
in the near future for the humiliation the Board heaped upon
itself and the players.
And the ruling body once again set it self up for more stick
by not properly streamlining Lara’s return to the captaincy.
By not making him part of the selection panel, the Board initiated
the rift, in the event of unfavorable results, knowing Lara
could be demanding especially in times of crisis.
It must be remembered the Board was the one that chased after
him for the captaincy, not the other way around.
Furthermore in light of the heavy authority bestowed on coach
Bennett King, it is astounding the WICB thought it would’ve
been okay with Lara having no input in team matters, considering
the former’s unproven credentials.
The revelation that a letter received during the final Test
by Lara five weeks late, appointing him a selector is as ludicrous
as they come and only added fuel to Lara’s rage.
And when one takes into consideration the Board’s unbelievable
lapse in having the players begin the series without contracts
of any sort – tour or retainer, nothing could be more
embarrassing to West Indies cricket in the present circumstances.
No doubt it all re-kindled an anger Lara developed during
his removal from the captaincy during that acrimonious sponsorship
row that resulted in the Sri Lanka debacle.
It started with the Board’s attempt to muzzle the player
after his private press conference and was blown out of control
by the letter fiasco.
Even if the consistency of Lara’s attacks were uncalled
for, his actions were understandable.
The West Indies Board is one ruling body that could drive
any player to the deepest levels of despair without displaying
any indication of letting up.
No wonder his thinly veiled threat of abdicating the captaincy
unless changes are made in the selection panel, has left a
satisfying feeling in the stomachs of all the real supporters
of West Indies cricket, long fed up with the Board’s
handling of its affairs.
When all is said and done Lara is not the first West Indies
captain to vent his frustrations in unorthodox manner. When
Sir Vivian Richards took time off from his team’s post
tea appearance on the field, to let English journalists feel
the length of his tongue during the 1986 series versus England
at the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG), he was provoked by
a different source, but not to the extent Lara and his teammates
are being subjected to now.
Whether Lara’s preferences for this series would’ve
reversed the result, we would never know.
It is clear though that West Indies batting let them down
throughout the Test rubber.
In the first Test it was left to the numbers 10 and 11 to
save the game at the ARG, then at Beausejour in St. Lucia
a complete second innings collapse and defeat was averted
Then in Jamaica, the first innings only yielded 103 runs which
cost them the match and the series.
If Lara’s outbursts and the team’s latest failure
does nothing to make the WICB a more responsible ruling body,
nothing else will.
It is a frightening prospect.
Orin Davidson Column