Will it be third time lucky?
THE fact that the West Indies cricket selectors have opted for Brian
Lara as captain for the third time goes to show the lack of captaincy
material available in the Caribbean.
What the great man is capable of producing as captain is known to
all. Knowledgeable critics have dissected his tenure at the top and come
to the conclusion that Lara hardly inspires his team because he is more
concerned about his own individual performances.
Lara's record as Test captain is that he led West Indies 40 times,
winning 10 and losing 23. He was first captain between 1996-97 and
1999-2000, resigning after a dismal series in New Zealand.
He was appointed for a second time in 2002-03, eventually being
replaced by Shiv Chanderpaul in March 2005 when he stood down because of
an ongoing contractual dispute with the board.
The statement made by West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) chairman Ken
Gordon soon after the appointment says it all: "It is logical to go back
to Lara. Of all the players available, they each had varying strengths
but there were also varying weaknesses.
He brings a lot to the table at this time which will make a material
difference. Whatever the risks, the best is to go with Lara, whose
experience and knowledge is unquestioned."
Others in the running for the top post were vice captain Ramnaresh
Sarwan, Chris Gayle and Darren Ganga.
Lara's return to the top was predicted after Chanderpaul resigned one
year into the post. His third stint as captain is seen as a critical
aspect of preparing the young West Indies team for the World Cup
tournament in the Caribbean, which is now less than a year away.
Lara's experience and maturity will be vital elements for a team in
need of nurturing, especially after the uninterrupted string of defeats
they have just suffered.
For a team that has been torn apart by internal divisions
particularly over the contract disputes, which has thankfully ended, the
importance of a leader who has the respect of all was particularly
The first time Lara took over the captaincy he was unsuccessful
because there were so many other senior players in the team whom he
could not have overall control of. In his second tenure Lara said that
he had a young side under him and was quite happy to lead them.
The pinnacle of his captaincy was winning the 2004 ICC Champions
trophy beating favourites and hosts England in the final by two wickets.
But when things seemed to be settling down the player contract dispute
took place and Lara lost the captaincy to Chanderpaul.
While admitting that it was a great honour to lead his country once
again, Lara is quoted in press reports saying: "The fact that a lot of
former players called me was humbling. This was followed up by phone
calls from present team-mates who thought I should assume the mantle of
leadership at this juncture. I called past and present players for an
objective view on the matter. They unequivocally thought the same as the
others who were trying to influence me."
Today Lara stands supreme among the batsmen in world cricket. He is
the only cricketer in the history of the game (not even the great Don
Bradman held this record) to hold the unique record for the highest Test
(400 not out) and first-class score (501 not out) and the most runs in
Tests (11,294) simultaneously.
Bradman held the record for the highest first-class score and for the
highest Test score at one time, but surprisingly not for the Test
aggregate. Garry Sobers held the Test aggregate record as well as the
highest Test score, but not the first-class record.
Lara represents perhaps the last bastion of great cricketers produced
by the West Indies in the history of the game.
He has been given the chance by the WICB to go out of the game in a
blaze of glory if he could lead West Indies to win the World Cup for a
record third time, a feat which has been achieved only by Australia.
What better place to accomplish it than in the Caribbean.