Ask any bowler who was the toughest batsmen he ever had to bowl to, and chances are the answer will either be Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara. The two legends have, for a long time, had a mutual admiration, and even now, the Trinidadian wants people to back off from criticising the declining Tendulkar.
In New Delhi for the India Today Conclave, Lara told Mail Today: “I have always been adamant and will continue to be about Sachin. He has been representing your country since the age of 16, and when at that age, he had the sense to devote his life to the service of Indian cricket, we should all realise that he will also have the sense to decide when to walk away from it. He is still one of the best batsmen in the side, and if India were to start touring overseas without Sachin, I would begin to worry about their batting performances.”
The West Indies team was in decline for a large part of Lara’s career but has recently shown some signs of recovery, including lifting the World Twenty20 last year and going on a five- Test winning streak, albeit against minnows.
Lara feels these results are encouraging for the team and fans alike, and gives credit to skipper Darren Sammy.
“I feel Sammy has done the best possible job in the circumstances. He has got the best out of the boys and given the team a sense of leadership. There was a lot of disharmony between the team, the board and the players when he took over, and his appointment as captain was surprising. But he has given his 100 per cent and the team has started to perform well under him,” Lara said.
However, the 43-year-old former left- handed batsman warns that it’s too early to start thinking of the West Indies as serious contenders in the Test and ODI formats.
“It’s not going to happen in six months. I don’t think we are good enough to compete in all formats just yet. The fabric of West Indies cricket was softened in the early to mid- 1990s due to some really bad administrative decisions and there was no structure for the players to hone their skills anymore. Each player had to turn selfish and bat or bowl for his own place in the team in order to earn a living,” he said.
However, this present team has that something which can allow it to do well in Tests and ODIs too. But there is hardly any infrastructure to assist them. Administration is still a problem.” Asked if the calibre of cricketers was going down due to flatter pitches and weaker bowling, Lara disagreed.
“Obviously it would be difficult to match the West Indies sides of the 1970s and 80s in terms of pure class. But even today, you can identify who the good players are, and there’s no reason why they can’t be as good as their predecessors".
Look at the South African and England bowling attacks and how good they are, and thus, anyone who scores runs against them is undoubtedly a great batsman,” he signed off.