Brian Lara: Competitive first-class cricket key for West Indian success

The talent available in the Caribbean is promising, admits Lara, but it needs to be handled well.

Brian Lara is greeted by Sachin Tendulkar at an event to announce the Road Safety World Series in Mumbai on Thursday.   -  AP

If West Indies has to improve its performances, players from the Caribbean need to be engaged in “good first-class cricket,” according to Brian Lara.

Speaking to scribes at the Road Safety World Series — a T20 tournament where he will captain a West Indies side — Lara spoke about Caribbean cricket, World Test championship and more.

Q. Despite playing at home, the West Indies failed to put up a fight against India in the limited overs and Test cricket. What’s the reason?

A. You need to give credit to India. The batting, bowling and fielding were exceptional. I thought their fast bowlers, sometimes, were unplayable. You need to credit India for where their cricket is. It is at a very high point. In terms of the West Indies, we came around a win against England some six months ago, which was promising. So, you expected the team to follow that form, but after that there was a lot of one-day cricket, so a lot was happening over the last five-six months, with almost the same players, so the attrition that’s coming, the West Cricket Board and management has to see if they can solve. You see some of the cricketers are pretty much understanding the shorter version of the game, but the longer version of the game, they missing some key elements.

If you [have] got to improve, we first need to play good first-class cricket in the Caribbean. There has to be competitive first-class cricket, where the batsmen can spend time at the crease and the bowlers can bowl long spells and see if we can work from there. I still believe that the talent that’s on show for the West Indies is very promising. Maybe, the entire batting line-up is in their twenties. They are capable of performing well.

What’s the challenge the teams face while playing in India?

To be successful anywhere in the world, you have to adapt very quickly. If you are playing in Australia, India, South Africa, the West Indies — they are all very different conditions. First and foremost, everyone who plays at the international level has a certain level of skill and talent. How you approach the game and your mental strength is the key. Adaptation to various conditions is the key. To stay a step ahead and not having excuses are the key to play successfully in any part of the world.

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What are your thoughts on the change in captaincy in West Indies cricket?

Jason Holder has always been the Test captain. The change, I suppose, is in the limited-overs game. Kieron Pollard has got some experience and I also believe that a captain is only as good as his team and the people who support him. I am sure, he will get the support. That’s where half of your job is done. Tactically, he has played cricket all around and he understands what he needs to do, so it’s not a bad decision. He is committed to the West Indies cricket for a long period of time. It’s a step in right direction. Let’s see how it goes.

On the West Indies’ chances in the T20 World Cup

It’s still quite a long way. Whatever tournament that the West Indies go in to, they have never been the favourites at that point of time. Even the tournaments we won in the past. What we do have is the quality of players in the shorter version of the game. A lot of young players are coming into the team. In the present team, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran are very, very good in T20s and limited versions.

Kieron Pollard being named the 50-over and T20 captain is a step in the right direction, says Lara. Photo: Getty Images

 

The talent is there and I have said in the past that the West Indies has some of the top talents, but how we handle the talent is the most important part. I reckon [in] the next eight or 10 months before the World Cup, there will be a lot of planning. We are always a team. If you ask any captains in the world, they are always wary of us. They never, ever take us for granted, which is a good thing. So, we will make a good show in the World Cup.

There was a time when India’s record abroad was quite forgettable. But that trend has changed now. How did India become a good touring side?

I think it’s all about role models. Sachin will talk about Sunil Gavaskar as his role model. If you look at the players now, I think if you look at the 1990s, even though they weren’t amazingly successful, but the likes of Sachin, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and what they did and what they stood for, it was a different sort of Indian cricket team coming in and moulding and trying to play cricket around the world and be successful.

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I still reminisce Sourav taking his [shirt off] and running on to the field, the success they had in Australia and the Carribean. The team is now using those role models of the 1990s is showing how good they are and playing in various conditions in the world. The Indian team may not be most respected team when they travelled, [but] they were very respected at home. But now, India on a world stage, wherever they play, is a force to reckon with. That’s come from the years of preparation, the role models who have come through — from Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin, Rahul, right from making an impact to the present lot.

Do you think the World Test Championship should have started earlier?

Yes I think [it should have started earlier]. For someone who has played for 16-17 years, who has played over 100 Tests, you felt that it became monotonous, you just keep travelling and cracking up the numbers, you win or lose a series, it mattered. In terms of Test Championship, where there is an end, it culminates into a team becoming champion, that is something that should have happened a long time ago and [I’m] happy to see it now. Even if you play against minnows — Afghanistan, Bangladesh — it means something, and I feel it will create more excitement with spectators knowing that this is not another series and leads to something. Credit must be given to ICC for introducing this was important, a little late.