Lara proves bigger than WICB

Says Donald Duff
Stabroek News
March 6, 2000

Brian Lara continues to walk where no other West Indian cricketer has ever walked before.

His latest decision to turn his back on the West Indies team for their series against Zimbabwe is true to form for one who has walked rough shod over the region on numerous occasions.

His decision to choose Carnival ahead of West Indies cricket is his right, but in so doing, he has shown scant regard for the team, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) the region's fans and Caribbean unity.

His world Test record, 375, and his world first-class record 501 not out has made the region proud but, in contrast, his treatment of West Indies cricket and its cricket administrators has left a sour taste in the mouth.

One so gifted that he is revered worldwide should surely not trample on the feelings of his supporters. Nor should he, as they say, bite the hands that feed him.

For their part, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board of Control (TTCBC) continue to handle Lara like an explosive keg of powder. As a result, Lara continues to play by his own rules.

Recently, Pat Rousseau, president of the WICB, handled Lara with kid's gloves by defending his decision to make money at his celebrity bash where he reportedly charged $TT300 per ticket instead of going to the WICB's camp in preparation for the Zimbabwe series. What a precedent.

If ever regional cricket was on the brink of disintegration, if ever there was need for unity on all fronts, if ever there was a need for a re-birth so to speak, a time to start afresh with a new management team, this is the time.

Instead, insularity is rife, sparked by the protest of the Antiguans and assisted by various organisations calling for support of their own favourite son for team and captaincy selections.

What is needed now is strong leadership (which is not forthcoming from the WICB) and a support for the system, flawed though it undoubtedly is.

The West Indies selectors, under chairman Mike Findlay, seem to be trying their best with the limited resources at their disposal.

It is clear that there is much thought put into efforts to have the regional team regain its former glory. Unfortunately, the selectors have not been helped by the insular voices crying out for this player or that.

And what about the Prince of Port-of-Spain? He continues to march to his own band, (not Poison) leaving the team repeatedly for non-believable reasons and re-appearing unashamedly when it suits him.

Oh but for a strong Board!

Has the success of being the world record holder at Test and first class levels gone to Lara's head or his feet for that matter?

Or is it that Lara is aware of his appeal and, unlike other stars, is bent on charting his own course, his own destiny, irrespective of the laws of governing bodies such as the WICB.

There has always been sportsmen who defy conventional wisdom, who make it a habit of defying authorities, who consider themselves bigger than the game.

Perhaps Lara is such.

He is certainly not a Tendulkar, that humble cricketer who is gracious not to think of himself as a great cricketer even though millions do.

Nor is he a Steve Waugh, a committed team-man, a man who seems determined to make his Australian team probably the greatest ever whilst carving a name out for himself.

He is Brian Charles Lara, the most controversial, talented, temperamental, and possibly wealthy West Indian cricketer of his generation and perhaps of all time.