Lara returns, controversy follows

says Donald Duff
Stabroek News
May 15, 2000

The West Indies number one cricket superstar Brian Lara has returned to the West Indies team after his self-imposed exile but has brought along the usual controversy that seems never to be absent from his life ever since he shot to stardom with his double world batting records.

On Sunday, local newspaper reports claimed that Lara received an increase in his salary for the tour which went from US$40,000 to US$120,000.

Yesterday, both the West Indies Cricket Board and the West Indies Players Association denied the report that Lara's salary had been increased for the tour commencing June 2 with a match against Worcestershire at Worcester.

"The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) strongly deny that any payment in excess of what has been negotiated by West Indies Cricket Board and the West Indies Players Association for the players, has been paid to Brian Lara for the upcoming West Indies tour of England.

While the WICB and WIPA have been swift in their denial, the initial revelation by the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, whether true or not, is sure to bring a climate of uncertainty and mistrust into a West Indies team that had shown a new, more togetherness sort of attitude.

It is a climate that Nasser Hussain's English team, not to mention the English tabloids, will be sure to try and exploit.

Now that Lara has decided on a return to the fold, the focus of attention will be on how well he will fit into Jimmy Adams' new-look side.

Taking all factors of the equation into consideration, one can deduce that off the field, Lara will not behave any differently than in the past.

However, on the field should be an entirely different matter.

Lara is undoubtedly a batting genius and should he turn his wrath on the English bowlers, a West Indies victory would almost be a certainty, regardless of whether he has regained his focus or not.

The tour of England, whether he likes it or not, will be Lara's biggest test.

It will reveal, whether Lara, has acknowledged that he needs West Indies cricket just as much as it needs him.

It will also reveal whether Lara has been able to metamorphose his attitude; whether he has been able to re-tool his game as he said he would; whether he realises the importance of being a role model and whether he knows the difference between being a great player and a great human being.