Lara plays true to form

Orin Davidson's Eye on Sports
Stabroek News
March 5, 2000

Not unlike his rasping square drives or his delightful lofted pulls, Brian Lara has played true to form, in his latest withdrawal from the West Indies team.

It may be very difficult to prove that the double world record holder's decision to opt out of the upcoming Zimbabwe series is for reasons other than those he gave that of desiring a break from the sport to rebuild his game.

But his vague explanation though, leaves more room for doubt than conviction that he actually needs to retool his batting.

His impending absence rather, forges a link between his previous non appearances for West Indies, for reasons other than injury or illness.

Lara's latest bomshell, which must set some record for an international player opting out of his team at the last minute, bears an uncanny similarity to the two previous occasions when he left West Indies in the cold.

In 1995 he walked out during the England tour after a dressing room row and again when he decided against touring Australia, two days before departure in the same year, when he was fined, Lara's actions, seemingly smacks of a petulant child protesting at not having things his way.

This time around, the Prince of Port of Spain's withdrawal has come a few days after Sir Vivian Richards was overlooked as team coach, a position Lara had openly stated should be given to the great Antiguan.

Again, dissatisfaction could be attributed to the real cause behind Lara's action which he may have hidden under the cloak of his vague " personal reasons" explanation.

Because of his lack of details and the belatedness of his withdrawal, Lara has opened himself up to serious "body blows" for non commitment to the restoration of the ailing Windies in one of its worse crises.

Because he has so far not denied media reports of his involvement in the big pre-carnival party scheduled for tonight at his home, less than two weeks before the first Test, and which could have jeopardised his place in the team, due to absence from the squad's training camp, also paints a dim picture of his commitment to the restoration of West Indies' fortunes.

One could easily conclude that the Trinidad batting maestro is placing more importance on fulfilling his desire for the good life in a big way at this year's carnival, rather than making his contribution to team preparation at the camp.

In light of the West Indies Cricket Board's belated decision to hold the camp, another example of its lack of early planning, Lara or any senior team member could have been excused for missing a day or two, but not its entire duration.

Zimbabwe might not be a world beater but it is important that West Indies be at full strength to win big and build the type of confidence necessary to avenge the Pakistan whitewash, in the subsequent three-match Test series.

Regardless of whether Lara needs time or not to help deflate his ego built through years of kid gloves treatment in the region, particularly in his home country, one would have expected a firm WICB reaction, given the player's track record.

But to read of president Pat Rousseau's limp reaction, defending Lara's withdrawal, implying that the batsman needs time to recover from the trauma of his team's failures, was another example of the board's ineptness at dealing with its players and situations.

Mr Rousseau seemingly has failed to realise that cricket, like any of the other major world sports is a professional undertaking and that Lara is no schoolboy operating in a man's world.

Lara and all of his teammates earn their livelihood from the sport and as such must adapt a professional approach to their work.

One hardly hears of a Manchester United footballer or a National Basketball Association player taking unspecified breaks at the beginning of a major competition for personal reasons.

Lara may be one of the greatest batsmen ever produced by the West Indies and as such he may be excused for some indiscretions, but never must he be encouraged to continue his unacceptable ways.

The WICB has once again added another blunder to its growing list.