POSTED BY Boria Majumdar ON Apr 19, 2007 AT 02:30 IST ,  Edited At: Apr 19, 2007 02:30 IST
Brian Lara. The name has moved cricket lovers from across the world for over a decade. Rather, let me say ‘mesmerised’. Every time the name has been uttered over the last fifteen years, cricket fans have stood still to listen. It was cricket god calling and fans had to sit down in prayer. Seeing Brian Lara bat is almost a cricket ritual, one of the games uncontaminated joys. Fans have adored him, worshipped him and have been captivated by him. However, as Lara prepares to play his last one day international match of his career and that to on home soil, there’s a new sentiment brewing among his fans. They don’t like him anymore. In fact, they hate him. That’s the sentiment across the West Indies in every class of society.

“Lara’s a play boy. How can he lead the team?” “Lara’s more concerned about money. He is just not bothered about our cricket.” “Lara never plays domestic cricket. Every time there is a domestic competition, we hear there’s an emergency in his family. Rubbish!” These are comments from local West Indians, men who have been deeply pained by their icon. As Eddie, our local taxi driver here in Barbados declares, “Lara isn’t one of us. He is a foreigner who plays for us. I don’t see that passion in him. He plays for himself.” If you think he is a bit harsh, taste this: “Lara is a snob. And a snob can never be a leader. Also, he was never a team player. He deliberately let Carl Hooper down when he was captain. He hated players like Walsh you see.” The speaker, a former West Indian player, who spoke to me in camera.

What is worse is that the anti-Lara sentiment is once again bringing inter-island rivalry out in the open. “Lara is pushing more and more Trinidadians into the team. He is forcing talented Bajans out. Also, he doesn’t like to play under anyone else. Because Darren Ganga is captain of Trinidad, Lara refuses to play domestic cricket.”

While everyone is unanimous about Lara being a talented batsman, the unanimity is more pronounced about Lara being a bad captain and a bad influence on West Indies cricket. Stetson Wiltshire, one of the best calypsonians of the Caribbean drives home the point, “He is not a good captain. His lack of leadership skill has cost us the world cup. He should stand down as captain for we need a fresh mind to steer West Indies cricket out of this crisis.”

Whether or not Lara is needed as a batsman evokes a mixed response locally. Most agree that Lara the batsman still has much to offer to West Indies cricket. But many suspect that Lara will not be at ease with anyone else at the helm and will not give it his best. “Better he retires than harming the team”, most say.

For me personally the word Lara brings forth a collage of images in front of my eyes. I see Lara leading West Indies to victory against Australia with Courtney Walsh for company. I see him dancing down the track and smashing Danish Kaneria over the sight screen in 2005 scoring 130 in the process. And I remember Danish saying “Lara is a genius. He is much much better than Sachin.” Finally, I see Lara, as many of us do, punching his fist after getting back the batting world record from Mathew Hayden. Interestingly, I don’t see an image of Lara the captain leading the West Indies to any spectacular victory. That forces me to agree with the locals that Lara, the captain, is not what West Indies cricket needs at the moment. At the same time the cricket fan in me craves, rather demands, a nice farewell for one of the greatest of our time. May be he can dance down the track on Saturday for one final time to Monty Panesar and lift him over the Kensington Oval sightscreen. One day cricket and more importantly CWC 2007 needs him to do that. That will be some kind of a resurrection for a living legend.
POSTED BY Boria Majumdar ON Apr 19, 2007 AT 02:30 IST ,  Edited At: Apr 19, 2007 02:30 IST
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