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Scapegoat Lara

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by G E M Saunders 27.APR.07

According to Michael Holding on Cricinfo Talk, now that Brian Lara has retired, “we can look back and rejoice and remember the innings that he has played and we can say – thank you!” The usually intelligent and analytical Holding, also felt that the way is now clear for us to “move on and start playing some good cricket”.

Well, Lara must have been the problem; he scored too many runs, too quickly. It doesn’t seem to matter that he entertained us royally on so many occasions and was our one beacon of hope and source of pride for such a long time. It did not matter that he dominated the bowling of cricket’s superpowers and kept the West Indian flag flying while all those around him struggled just to become average cricketers.{{more}}

Once we can appreciate the difference between West Indies Cricket and the West Indies Cricket team, we should readily acknowledge that while individual and team goals did not always intersect where Lara was concerned, his contribution to West Indies Cricket was of immense value, both psychologically and financially. But now that Lara is gone, we will now play “good cricket” and the runs will “flow again like water”!!

It doesn’t’ seem to matter that the WICB is in an administrative and financial crisis and is seemingly incapable of negotiating ANYTHING successfully. It does not matter that the WICB is reportedly $50 million in debt and with no financial accountability or administrative oversight in place. It does not matter that the WICB fails to market the game in the region and invests little of its funds in youth cricket coaching.

WICB directors will continue to skirt the fact that of the 36 batsmen selected by the West Indies Cricket Board since Desmond Haynes debuted almost thirty years ago, none barring Brian Lara could muster an average of over 50. In fact no one else has even cleared 45 since. Such has been the quality of the WICB’s ‘products’.

It doesn’t matter that Lara, Richardson, Chanderpaul, and Jimmy Adams are the only new West Indian batsmen to average more than 40 in almost three decades of West Indies cricket. Additionally, since Lara’s debut sixteen years ago, of the 29 best West Indian batsmen selected to test status, only 5 others have averaged more that 35, Robert Samuels, Gayle and Sarwan, Chanderpaul and Adams.

Could Lara really be held responsible for the pathetic batting averages of those who were selected to support him? Remember Floyd Reifer (8) Leon Garrick (13), Sylvester Joseph (16), Ricardo Powell (18), Dave Joseph (20), Philo Wallace (21), Adrian Griffith, Ryan Hinds, Dwayne Smith and Stuart Williams (24) each, Roland Holder (25) and Marlon Samuels (28).

It doesn’t seem to matter that, in contrast, Sir Viv Richards had as his supporting cast, Dujon averaging 32, Logie (36), Gomes (40), Fredericks and Haynes (42), Rowe (43), Kallicharran and Richardson (44), Greenidge (45) and Lloyd and Baichan (46). Bowling comparisons need not be mentioned.

Clearly, the West Indies “cricket factory” has been producing at sub-standard levels for quite some time now and Brian Lara, as Captain, with all his brilliance, simply had the misfortune to preside over the worst period in West Indies cricket history.

To make matters worse, the WICB embarked on investing millions in high-priced coaching of highly paid professionals at the top while neglecting our youth cricketers in our nurseries and schools.

I however beg that we celebrate Brian Lara and show our appreciation in some big way. At the same time let us call for an immediate restructuring of the WICB to allow for more accountability. The World Cup has shown that Cricket is big business and requires appropriate business and management structures and personnel to administer and manage the large sums of money now being made available.

Lara, with all his natural gifts, was no angel, neither was he the best role model but his records and contribution to cricket history will always read Brian Lara – West Indies.

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