Lara will be missed...eventually

Stabroek News
June 27, 2001

The critics are probably smiling. Many believe that Brian Lara, the mercurial and highly talented left-handed West Indian batsman, has been a somewhat continuing negative influence on the re-emerging West Indies cricket team.

The sceptics, and even some of his strongest supporters, would suggest that Lara's injury, the one which has effectively robbed his teammates of his services for at least the next six weeks, could be another episode of a world-beater "crying wolf." No one knows or believes the truth anymore.

Many may even react to the Brian Lara injury with the same apathy that has surrounded the recent resignation of the President of the West Indies Cricket Board and his deputy; they simply could not care less!

Yet, one has to wonder what effect this situation will have not only on Brian Lara's mind and commitment to West Indies cricket, since it was Lara himself, a man at the cricketing crossroads,

who made the decision to leave the tour, but also on the present West Indies cricket team. Says Lara:

"I have never been more than 75-80% fit since early 2000, but in the interest of West Indies cricket, I continued to play with on-going intense treatment. While rest has been the only recommended cure for this, the international cricket itinerary, with three recent consecutive important series against England, Australia and South Africa, did not allow that."

"I am very disappointed at this development, but I also think that we have a very good group of young cricketers now in the senior West Indies cricket team. Marlon Samuels, Wavell Hinds, Chris

Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan are potentially very good players, but they need to speed up their progress, take up the void and accept the opportunities my fitness problems present."

Echoing Lara's thoughts, the West Indies beat Zimbabwe in the first of the Coca-Cola Cup one-day competition, which also features India as the 3rd team. Prominent in that win was the batting of Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Daren Ganga and another Lara-type veteran, Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

So improved, professional and prepared did the West Indies look in winning only their second one-day game in succession for some time, that even the captain Carl Hooper was cautiously, but optimistically impressed. Says Hooper:

"I really liked the consistent energies put out by the players for that first win of the international series. It is also nice to note that we won, I might even say `well', without Brian Lara. Many believe that the West Indies cricket team is a one-man show 'If you get Lara out, then the team folds'. This first-game win was a great fillip for our confidence, knowing fully well that we will not be having Brian's contribution. I know that we are a good team, even without Brian Lara."

Those are truly brave words, since India also demolished Zimbabwe in a much more convincing way than the West Indies had done. India's master batsman Sachin Tendulkar already looks very ominous, while the left-arm Indian seamers, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra have also demonstrated that they will be a handful with the white ball and the cool, but rare atmosphere.

The West Indies did look very impressive in their first game of the series, but "one swallow does not a summer make" even in the Zimbabwean winter.

I expect that the West Indies will do well on this short tour, but I am also sure that not before long, the services of Brian Lara will be missed, badly, both in the one-day and the Test series afterwards. His contribution with the bat is not nearly as important as his cricketing knowledge, which could help all.