Thursday, October 19, 2006

CT Awakes: Lara's farewell gift

Some visionary and inspired steps must be taken and specific empowerment made by the concerned management – including the cricket board, the selectors, the coach and the skipper – in their respective areas of administration for players to start responding with improved attitudes and collective success as the West Indians are doing these days. While the others deserve no less a share of the praise, in this post I wish to concentrate on the person who enacts the last mentioned management role on that list. Brian Charles Lara, the West Indian captain.

At some point of time all of us have secretly or publicly, mildly or strongly held Brian Charles Lara to be a reason for a seemingly perennial West Indian decline. Lara was perceived to be 'selfish' and 'a prime cause of disharmony' within the team even in their better days during mid 90's. A few of the stories of hot-headedness and ego hassles were perhaps true while most of the nasty ones were popularised fables.

The early reputation of Lara continued to haunt him into the second half of his career when he recovered from an impeding mid-career leg injury and decided to concentrate more on being at his sincerest in Test matches. And never did he suffer more from this popular misinterpretation of his habitual blunt talking as high-handedness and disinterest than in his 2nd tenure as captain.

Even after the blatant show of indifference from his other teammates in crunch situations it was pretty much Lara the 'flop' captain who always faced the criticism. And like a true captain he kept taking it without looking in other directions. And through all that negative feedback and advancing age he kept popping in a few unknown magic pills that helped him remain the same positive player and instinctively shrewd captain.

Limited resources never limited Lara's vision of where he wanted to lead the team to. Saddled with the most suspect batting order in international cricket since time immemorial, he is still not averse to risking his reputation and credibility in following his gut instincts. His gamble of playing himself at no. 9 at Kuala Lumpur to let his players get some match practice in an inconequential game again showed that quality of his.

I will now bring up the one point where all criticism of Lara invariably starts: his integrity, his oneness with the West Indian cause. In walking off the square before umpires moved to rule him 'out' as also in separating himself from the grind of international cricket temporarily or permanently for mutual benefits, this man has listened to his heart on most occasions and been misunderstood at times in the process.

While his petulant responses to media glare were not the proudest moments of his earlier career, he cannot be faulted now if he starts expecting generous appreciation for his commitment and endurance, virtues that his nature on and off the field hardly seemed compatible with.

A year back he had publicly declared his retirement from ODI's to prolong his Test career and yet, he has now opted to come back from that retirement for a limited period after he was recently honoured with the West Indian Test captaincy for a third time. He did that not to pocket some career-slog-over earnings before retiring for good. As the leader he felt obliged to be part of the process that aimed at the West Indies team doing well in the upcoming home World Cup.

Are there still people in his homeland and across the cricket playing world that feel Mr. Brian Charles Lara did not put in enough efforts for contributing to the sport that gave him everything? Perhaps it is time that the others, who I believe are a growing majority, simply ask them to shut up and revel in the slow and steady transformation that their old champion is leaving back for his still-admired team. It was obvious from Sarwan's display of leaqdership skills in today's match that Lara has seen a capable successor in Sarwan and is quietly grooming him to take over the mantle smoothly.

Even with its many flaws, Lara's team appears to be finally congealing into a unit that is prepared to kill to win. They look destined to traverse deep into the business end of CT and WC. Irrespective of a West Indian win in either tournament, Lara deserves a healthy round of applause for his immeasurable contribution towards resurrection of the West Indies as a one day side that manages to arouse that feeling in us once again.

The West Indian Test side will certainly not regain even part of its former glory during his playing days but one can expect the Prince to be around in some other capacity in later years to guide the boys towards that vision.

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