Team Lara!

sportsbrianlarainmumbaiMUMBAI — Former West Indies captain and batting supremo Brian Lara has said he would gladly have surrendered his batting records in exchange for the opportunity of being a part of an all-conquering regional squad such as that of the late 1970s and 1980s.

Lara, 44, who spoke at a Dell function in Mumbai, India, last night, scored 22 358 international runs with 53 centuries in a glittering 17-year career between 1990 and 2007 but from 1995 until his retirement, played largely in a losing West Indies team. The capture of the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy was his crowning glory.

“I believe most records are destiny. In terms of 375 and 400, in terms of when they were scored and the way they were scored, I believe it was because of destiny. I would give any record away for success. If I played in a successful West Indies team, say for instance in the 70s and 80s, when we won for 15 straight years, I would give away any record for that,” Lara said.

The West Indies batting great also said his teammates were his biggest motivators and dismissed his critics’ claims that he played for himself.

“A lot of media and people said a lot of success was individual. How wrong could that be. My biggest motivation in life has been my team mates. Playing within the team is what motivated me.

“My performances might have led to individual praise but for me playing within the team was the best thing that ever happened to me. I believe a team is a sum of individuals and each individual is depended on each other,” he said.

“The 400 I scored was at a time when England was leading 3-0 in the series in West Indies, with one Test match to go. Drawing that Test match was more important than anything else. We got to 750. Some people said we batted too long,” he added.

Lara said that during his career he relished challenges and preferred to come in to bat when the chips were down.

“I love challenge. When the score was 300 for 2, I didn’t like to bat. I liked to bat at 20 for 3. When the opposition tail is up and I am going with my back against the wall. I relished those occasions. I believe when you show true character under adverse situation, is when you become a true man,” he said.

Lara added he got nervous before going into bat but used to work hard at the nets to be prepared for any situation that might arise.

“Like most sportsmen, I am very nervous before I go on to bat. I think that is something shared by a lot of the top sportsmen around the world. If someone is not nervous, I am not sure what sport they are involved in. Pre-game is where I do a lot of my hard work,” he said.

“I worked as hard as possible on my game in the nets. I trained. Michael Jordan trained so hard that when he got to the game, he was on cruise control. And I felt the same way when I put myself through tougher things and got into the middle,” he added.

The former West Indies captain said he was most critical of himself when he was doing well and not when he was going through a lean patch.

“I am most critical of myself, when I am doing well. When I score a hundred against Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, I know for a fact they will go and check on their computers to see how I was batting.”

“They will pick up a few things where I was lucky enough not to get out, and they will come back the next day, looking to counter that. I do what they do and keep a step ahead of them. When I am not scoring many runs, I tend to be less critical because you are going to go through bad patches,” Lara added.

Lara said former West Indies skipper Courtney Walsh was a true leader and people should try to emulate him.

“Courtney Walsh wanted the team to be successful. He knew exactly what he had to do even when he was not the captain. That for me are the qualities of a true leader. Someone who is not necessarily a captain wearing the arm band but someone who knows their responsibility at all different levels,” he said.

“Courtney Walsh is someone that I will have full praise for and someone whom I consider to be a true leader. His stats don’t show that as a captain, tactically he wasn’t the best but in terms of character trait as a leader he is someone I would love to see a lot of people emulate,” he added.

Lara also took his audience down memory lane as he recalled his formative days in the game.

“My first bat was shaped out of a coconut branch by my brother. And from that day, all I wanted to do was to be a West Indian cricketer. I would play cricket by myself in the yard and the team would be (Gordon) Greenidge, (Desmond) Haynes, (Vivian) Richards, Lara. From a very early age, I saw myself as a West Indies cricketer and nothing else,” Lara said.

Lara also thanked his father for encouraging him and coming along to all his games.

“I must also praise my father. He was tremendous. My dad was there at every single match I played for school, under-14, under-16 right up to when I got into the West Indies team. Unfortunately my dad passed away the very moment I made it into the West Indies team so he actually never saw me play (international cricket). But he was definitely the major influence in my career,” he said.

Lara also gave his thoughts on Indian cricket, especially captaincy, and singled out Sourav Ganguly as his favorite.

“Sourav is my favourite. His leadership against Australia in Australia was astonishing. I have great respect for him,” Lara said.

He also praised Kapil Dev and “good friend” Sachin Tendulkar for their leadership qualities.

“In 1983 West Indies were dominating and I thought it would be cakewalk for them in the final. So I went out to play only to come in and know that India won, which was a surprise and Kapil Dev as a leader had a lot of the role to play [in that],” he said.

“Then there is my friend Sachin Tendulkar, what he has done for cricket, it can’t be repeated. His contribution to Indian cricket and world cricket is immeasurable,” he added.

On current Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy, Lara said: “I spoke to Dwayne Bravo about Dhoni, how he was as a leader while they played together for CSK. He told me one of his key strengths is that he is a great listener. Bravo told me how he sets goals but always looks for ideas and commitment from his players.”

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