Lara hails past great West Indies players
By Ezra Stuart

Guyana Chronicle
March 29, 2003

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados - World double record holder Brian Lara has hailed the great West Indian cricketers from the 1950s and 1960s, describing that era as the "renaissance" in West Indies cricket.

In a stirring feature address at the Accra Hotel on Wednesday night at the Barbados Cricket Association's 2002 Awards ceremony, Lara spoke glowingly of the post-war period in West Indies' cricket history.

Speaking to an audience that included a number of former Barbadian cricket icons such as Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Everton Weekes, Seymour Nurse, Charlie Griffith, David Holford and Cammie Smith, Lara noted "the demise of West Indies cricket did not start at the World Cup" in South Africa.

"I see the West Indies' first Test series victory in 1950 against England as the renaissance in the history of West Indies cricket, the rebirth of West Indies cricket," Lara declared.

"The 1960-61 series in Australia, I was not born then but I read about it, it is still considered by me to be the most glorified series that the West Indies have ever played," Lara opined.

"We lost the series 2-1 and 120 000 people lined the streets when the West Indies were leaving after the tour, not because they lost to their team, Australia but because the West Indies were represented by some great ambassadors.

"The late Sir Frank Worrell took 13 of our cricketers down there and played the game like how it should be played and everybody who was around would remember that series.

"The 5-0 drubbing of England and Australia, of course, we all remember but we must also remember what the guys in the 50s and 60s have done," Lara remarked.

"Clive Lloyd inherited that legacy. He inherited a team full of character, character instilled by the late Sir Frank Worrell, as leader of the West Indies during his time, character built by the players during that period.

"With that sort of foundation, I see no other (reason) for us not to succeed and that is what happened," Lara recalled.

"What Clive Lloyd and his team did was special. They were invincible and that invincibility came from their renewed work ethic ... great discipline also we must mention the advent of Kerry Packer, who brought professionalism to the sports in 1978-79.

"But along with Kerry Packer, came the knowledge of commerce, came the knowledge of money and at this present time and juncture in West Indies cricket, it seems like it have had the most lasting effect on us, the advent of money.

"And I beg the young cricketers to understand that, yes, in this day and age of sport, we do have to make a living but we must also understand what we represent, who we represent and how much people want to be in our position at this present time," Lara said to loud applause.

"During that period in the 50s and 60s, at the same time, we were seeking independence as small Caribbean islands from Britain. Cricket represented freedom. It exemplified freedom.

"It gave us dignity and it gave us pride. It also was the unifying force back in the 50s and 60s for all West Indian people," contended Lara.

Also present for the Awards ceremony were members of the Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago teams who will meet in their Carib Beer International Shield semifinal match which starts at Kensington Oval today.

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