In search of a winning formula

Should West Indies win the World Cup, it could signal the end of Brian Lara's one-day career. "If that happens, it would be a wonderful way to end my one-day career. I don't see any reason why I should continue after that," says the West Indian skipper in an interview with Valentino Singh.

Brian Lara is working on plans to hold an exhibition of his cricket memorabilia in the weeks after the World Cup. The West Indies captain will throw open the doors of his luxurious mansion which overlooks Trinidad's picturesque capital city, Port of Spain. His paraphernalia, dating from his boyhood days in Santa Cruz — where he used coconut bats and marbles to learn the game — through to the bats he used in record-breaking innings of 501, 400 and 375 will be among the items on display.

But among all the awards and trophies, one item is currently missing, one Lara is desperate to add to his collection — a World Cup winners' medal.

"But we have to win it first," the 37-year-old said with a grin. "And I think that we have done well enough over the last year to suggest that we can give a good account of ourselves, if not go all the way."

Of course, the principal obstacle in West Indies' way is Australia, but Lara points to the two victories over the world champions in five meetings in 2006. Indeed, during 2006, the West Indies enjoyed limited-overs wins against most of the top teams, with the exception of England and Sri Lanka. "I think most people would agree that we are capable of beating any team on our day," Lara said.

"Our problem is that we have not done it consistently enough. But we do have the players who can show up on any given day and beat any team, as we did against Australia."

Currently in his third stint as captain, Lara failed to score a hundred in any of his 26 ODI innings last year. However, Lara is not worried.

"We played over 30 games last year and I always had the World Cup at the back of my mind," he said.

"If you look at our performances, you will see that there was a lot of experimenting, especially with the batting. We needed to find a formula for the World Cup. In one match, I batted at nine, so there was a plan. I am confident that the results of those experiments would be evident during the World Cup." Lara has never batted lower than four in any of his 25 World Cup innings.

He opened in his first tournament in 1991-92, when he scored 333 runs overall, including four half centuries.

Four years later, he batted at No. 3, scoring the first of his two World Cup centuries and ending with 259 runs in the tournament. In 1999, he batted at No. 4, but managed just 101 runs in his five innings. However, he returned to the No. 3 slot four years later in South Africa, scoring 248 runs, including his second century.

Finding a way to beat Australia is uppermost in Lara's mind. "Many of our detractors would reflect on our losses to Australia in the DLF Cup Final and the Champions Trophy last year and be critical," he said.

"But, let's face it, in both tournaments, we beat the Australians and got past the other teams to reach the final. They are playing really well and deserve to be favourites, but we have beaten them twice and that's something of a consolation and something which I think that they, too, will have to bear in mind."

If the West Indies should win the World Cup, Lara says it could signal the end of his one-day career. There would be little else to play for. "I think it is a special occasion for us as a people here in the West Indies to show the rest of the world what we are capable of doing," he said.

"There is so much to love about where we live, the people, our culture, the beaches. The world will see what the Caribbean man is capable of doing. It would be nice if the trophy were kept here in the West Indies.

"If that happens, it would be a wonderful way to end my one-day career. I don't see any reason why I should continue after that."

Either way, it will not be the end of Lara in international cricket.

"I am still scoring centuries in Test cricket," he said. "Physically, I feel well. When my body starts to complain then I would have reason to quit altogether. But I still feel I have a couple more runs in me at the Test level."

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