It’s been 13 long years since Brian Lara quit international cricket. But the West Indies icon still keeps a tab on world cricket and names K. L. Rahul as his favourite batsman.
“Rahul is just class. He is a great entertainer and a great person to watch,” Lara said. In Mumbai as the captain of the West Indies Legends for the UnAcademy World Series (which has subsequently been called off owing to the coronavirus threat), Lara made it clear that efforts need to be taken to revive Test cricket, as that’s the ultimate format of the game. Not a big fan of day-night Tests or the four-day affair, Lara believes that Test cricket should be marketed well, in a bid to attract more spectators.
In a chat with Sportstar , Lara spoke on a range of issues…
As you walked in to bat for the West Indies Legends, it brought back so many memories. For you, how was the feeling to get out there and face the Sachin Tendulkar-led India Legends?
I didn't know what to expect. First of all, the crowd was just unbelievable. The amount of people that turned up… It was a full house! It didn’t look like it had a spare seat, which is great.
How was it to see Tendulkar back in action again?
People are hungry for cricket, they are hungry to see legends, like (Virender) Sehwag and Sachin (Tendulkar), when they come out to play. So I think it was awesome. The competition was even more than I expected. The way how we set out batting… I am pretty proud of (Daren) Ganga and Shiv (Shivnarine Chanderpaul) trying to pull something off earlier. We sort of faltered at the end, but the Indians — Sachin and Sehwag — batted us out of the game. It was a special day, seeing Sachin back on the field and seeing the crowd reaction. I think it’s a great tournament which is for a cause. Road safety is such a huge thing in India, and not just in India but around the world. To be leading the charge on an improvement in that area, is great. People not only came to see the cricket icons from the past, but they also came in support of the venture, which is great.
You have also been following world cricket pretty closely. What are your thoughts on the overall performances of the batsmen — be it Virat Kohli or Babar Azam…
I follow the West Indies as you know. They did pretty well in Sri Lanka in the T20 version of the game. Around the world, there are so many amazing batsmen to look at. There are Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. My favourite is K. L. Rahul. Cricket is healthy, the commercial side seems to be pretty good, which is important. My only concern is maybe Test cricket. You’d like to see it find a way to shine again. When I was a kid, it was the form of the game that everybody wanted to watch. We had thousands of people outside the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad. When I was a kid, we would be waiting to get inside to watch a Test at six o’clock in the morning. That’s not the case today. Obviously, the game has evolved and it’s a lot more attractive — the shorter version of the game. But my only concern really would be to see if we can get Test cricket to shine again.
What should be done to make Test cricket more attractive?
You look at England. It has done nothing to change, but a Lord’s Test match, or for that matter, every single Test match in England (is still packed). It’s traditional stuff for families to go and watch Test cricket. I was speaking to a guy one day and you know, he was with his son. He said, this is the same thing that his dad did 30 years ago. I think they have created that love and respect for the game in England and also in Australia in terms of a Boxing Day Test, or even any Ashes series, that’s played there.
First of all, that has to come back. You can try to test the game how many ways you want, it’s still a five-day game. They want to change it to four days, it’s still going to be a four-day game. It’s still gonna be long. I think you’ve got to get the people interested, you got to get the kids interested and understanding that vision of the game. Why would I at 50, still love Test cricket? No disrespect to the T20s or the 50-over-game, but a good Test hundred or a great Test spell from any bowler is something to marvel about.
So, you have to get back to the youngsters and make sure that they understand and appreciate that form of the game for them to continue liking it and wanting to see it.
So, would you say that in every bilateral series, there should at least be a couple of Tests if not more?
A couple of Test matches isn’t going to increase the love for the game. It’s simple. Growing up, we wanted to be Test cricketers, and a kid growing up now, wants to be a T20 cricketer. Why? Because T20 is marketed in such a way for kids to want to be T20 cricketers. They don’t want to be anything else. So, the marketing of the sport to children from very early ages is important. And if we are not doing that, it doesn’t matter how many Test series you have. Test cricket in the Caribbean has lost its spunk many, many years ago. Nobody is actually going to watch it and even in a place like India, you would know the difference between India playing a Test match and India playing a T20 game. So, it’s going to be hard work, but I just hope that they can stick around.
You spoke about K. L. Rahul. What is special in him that attracts you?
He’s just class. I mean, when you are watching a player, you want to see him play, you want to see great technique, a good aggressive spirit as well. He is a great entertainer, he’s a great person to watch. It is as simple as that. He’s no better batsman than Virat Kohli. Virat is the best batsman in the world, but it’s just the preference of who I like to see bat. No disrespect to anybody else.
Rahul was not part of India’s Test squad against New Zealand. Do you think that he should be given more opportunities in the longer format of the game?
I am not involved in Indian cricket. I just know that with his technique and the way I see him bat, he should not have a problem being in any team. So I don’t know if it’s the lack of scores or whatever the case may be... that might be his problem, which he has to work out. I don’t think anybody should be given too much of a chance because they look good. He’s got the ability to play all forms of the game and to secure his place. He should be one of the first names after Virat Kohli in any Indian team. And (for that to happen), he’s in charge of that, not the selectors, not any favours or anything. He’s in charge of his own destiny.
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