Lara shrugs off the boos- still fending off bouncers in Jamaica

The Express

Wednesday, January 28, 1998

THE Prince of Port of Spain may be just a day away from beginning his reign as West Indies captain. But Brian Lara is still fending off bouncers from his Jamaica subjects.

As he and England captain Mike Atherton got ready to face the media at the official launch of the Cable and Wireless Test series at the Pegasus Hotel here, Lara was faced with talk of a booing campaign being organised by disgruntled fans. Worse, there were accusations that he had ``snubbed'' former captain Courtney Walsh.

A report in yesterday's edition of the Observer quoted an unnamed source as saying that anti-Lara T-shirts are being printed for sale and that a group is planning a demonstration outside Sabina Park on the opening day of the game tomorrow.

And yesterday a Reuters report suggested that the 28-year-old Lara, who has replaced Jamaican hero Walsh as West Indies captain, snubbed his predecessor by not attending a Monday night function in Walsh's honour at the Melbourne Club.

Flabbergasted and visibly upset, Lara had great difficulty finding words to explain the latest controversy.

``Have you seen the papers?'' he asked the Express. And then he said that neither he nor the team had received any official invitation to the function at which Walsh and England fast bowler Dean Headley, grandson of the late West Indies great, George Headley, were made life members.

Lara explained that word about the function had been passed on by word-of-mouth and that at the time of the ceremony, the team was having what was his first official meeting with all the players on the squad. He added that Walsh requested and was granted special permission to attend the Melbourne function.

Only two other Windies players-Franklyn Rose and Shivnarine Chander-paul-eventually made it to the function along with manager Clive Lloyd.

This latest whiff of controversy surrounding Lara and the captaincy have come at a time when the new captain is preparing for perhaps the most important game of his career thus far. But little of that pressure showed when he faced the cameras.

``That has been said in the media,'' Lara began when asked about the ``booing campaign''. Then he added: ``I'm going to wait until I get out there in the middle and try as much as possible to focus on my cricket.'' Questioned about divisions that have allegedly plagued the West Indies team recently, Lara was again resolute.

``There has not been any division in the West Indies dressing room,'' he insisted. ``The media has tried to create that type of situation, I don't know for what reason. ``I have seen a drop in performance, if you want to say that (...) and I think that needs to be addressed.''

He let that sink in before continuing: ``I think the entire team has been unified behind all our leaders and I'm expecting the same.''

And the captain wisely chose that moment to make another plea for Caribbean unity. ``My experiences in Jamaica have been very good and I'm hoping the people, not only in Jamaica but around the Caribbean, recognise the state of West Indies cricket and the support necessary for the team at present .''

That plea may not go unanswered.

As they watched Lara and his team at practise at Walsh's Melbourne club ground, some fans took the broad view.

``I won't be a part of that (booing). I am in support of the captain and West Indies. We need to just move on and get on with West Indies cricket,'' one spectator said.

Some believe there will be pockets of opposition, but many feel that West Indian blood will again prove to be thicker than the current choppy waters.

``Lara is a good guy,'' said another fan, ``I don't see it as no big thing as such, with this Brian Lara saga because he is well-loved here.''

``He is one of us.''

Source: The Express (Trinidad)

Contributed by CricInfo Management, and reproduced with permission
Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 19:16