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Lara has enriched captain's mystique

By Colin Croft

15 March 1998

CONFUSING, stupendous, quixotic, strange, beguiling. These words, and many more, are being used to describe the captaincy displayed by the new West Indies captain, Brian Lara.

Whatever one's opinion of his tenure so far, most would agree it has been full of surprises. Some are even suggesting that Lara is trying too hard to carve out his own niche in the history of West Indies cricket as the greatest ever captain.

Lara made no secret of the fact that he wanted the captaincy of the West Indies badly. Like most successful individuals, he thought that he would be a much more effective leader of the faltering West Indies team than the two previous incumbents, Richie Richardson and Courtney Walsh. Indeed, it was strongly suggested that, at times, he did not co-operate with these past captains.

So far he has enjoyed some luck. Fortune favours the brave. England should have been 2-0 up in the series after the Tests in Trinidad.

While Carl Hooper's batting finally won the game for the West Indies in the second Test, it was in the third that many became confused with Lara's tactics. Firstly, he used his premier fast bowlers, Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, in one-over, then two-over, spells.

No-one at Port of Spain's Queen's Park Oval had heard of such a thing happening in the West Indies before.

When it looked as if the West Indies would lose the third Test, he probably did the right thing by enlisting the efforts of Walsh and Ambrose, this time in extremely long spells while the other bowlers, including two more front-liners, Kenny Benjamin and Nixon McLean, were mere spectators.

In the last Test at Guyana, many wondered why Ambrose was languishing in the outfield ``being rested'', while Mark Ramprakash and Robert Croft were trying to avoid the follow-on.

It was as if Lara was waiting for the decision - whether to enforce the follow on or not - to be taken out of his hands. Even in this current Test match in Barbados, many wondered what Ian Bishop had done wrong on the first day.

He did not bowl until half an hour into the second session, England, at lunch, having been on the brink of disaster at 55 for four. Very strange tactics from the captain, but since he won both in Guyana and in Trinidad, he could claim that the end justifies the means.

One extreme positive, which Lara has brought to the team, is the visible change of attitude in all the players. This is certainly the most relaxed anyone could ever remember the captain himself, and many others, including Ambrose, being.

Their pre-game activity is a joy to watch, their camaraderie real and enjoyable. Lara did state in his acceptance speech that his aim was to bring back glory to the West Indies team, and thus the Caribbean region, as he recognised that cricket here was not a game alone but also a way of life.

Lara has infused his own convictions immediately in team selection. If he hopes to be as strong and successful a captain as Lloyd was, he must immediately have his way, though I doubt that he will be allowed to.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 15 Mar1998 - 14:34