Lara calls on WICB to contract players By Tony Cozier in CENTURION
Stabroek News
January 21, 2004

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BRIAN LARA believes it is essential for the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to put its players under contract, as most boards of other Test countries do.

"I think it would be great ifthe (West Indies) Cricket Board would come together and decide that this is an all- year-round sport and that we need to contract these guys to ensure that they stay fit, they stay focused, they stay in the nets and we can keep an eye on them," captain Lara said after his team's 10-wicket loss in the fourth and final Test yesterday that gave South Africa the series 3-0.

It was a scheme he said he had supported for "a long time". But he did not know how far negotiations on the issue had gone between the WICB and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA).

"You can't play international sport today and have nothing to do for four months so that you can do whatever you want and come back to get selected after you've put on 10 to 15 pounds and that's it," he noted.

It was an obvious reference to the period leading up to the South Africa tour when coach Gus Logie and trainer Ronald Rogers reported that several players came to the preparatory camp in Antigua unfit.

"If you're an international sports person, of course it's up to you to maintain your fitness and get yourself ready for severy single tour," he added.

"But it goes hand in hand. You need to be professional on one side and I think the (Players') Association needs to get itself in gear and get this contract system in place."

Fitness was a key factor in the series. "We've been laboured with a lot of injuries on this tour," Lara noted. "At no point did we have (the best) eleven we could play."

Four of the originally selected players - Jerome Taylor, Omari Banks, Marlon Samuels and Wavell Hinds - all had to return home with one injury or another.

Chris Gayle could only bat with a runner in the first Test after tearing a hamstring muscle and had to miss the second. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was ruled out of the third Test and Corey Collymore out of the second and third with muscle injuries. In both matches against provincial teams, coach Gus Logie had to be drafted in as substitute fielder.

"It's been a very tough tour in terms of getting individuals out there and ensuring that you can step up your work rate to get the best out of them," Lara said. "At times, we had to keep certain guys under cotton wool to try to stay fit or get back to fitness for the Test matches."

He revealed that there were times when Rogers had to "ease back because of the situation".

"It was something that definitely upset the rhythm of the team," he said."We weren't able to get things right from the beginning. We just weren't able to get the right team on the park, to get the confidence and morale of the team up, knowing that we were going out there with our best eleven, and these things do have a spiralling effect after one or two Test matches." Lara and vice- captain Ramnaresh Sarwan were among the few who were not sidelined by injury, Sarwan playing in all the matches, both in Zimbabwe and South Africa.