|Brian Lara looks on from the players’ pavilion during the Super Eight match against Bangladesh at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown on Thursday. (AFP)
Finally, the West Indies have managed a Super Eight win, but that will be of little consolation to supporters or to the departing captain. Brian Laraís decision to quit all forms of cricket will no doubt assume precedence over all other news in the next few days, but as I had said in my last article, at 37, the mind may still be willing while the body may not.
Unfortunately, whenever Brianís name comes up, people remember his problems with the board and the selectors as much as they do his cricket. In my opinion, his legacy as a batsman is too rich to tarnish with whatever problems he has encountered off the field. That he did not attain similar heights as captain may be as much his responsibility as the teams that he led. Yes, a successful captain is one whose triumphs outweigh his failures, and on that count, Brian was more often at the head of a losing than a winning team.
However, we also need to remember that for almost the whole of the past decade, Brian has been almost single-handedly responsible for a majority of the teamís successes.
Even today, he is the sideís best batsman and the vacuum he leaves behind will be extremely tough to fill. Typically, he has timed his decision to perfection, because he can now end his career on his own terms rather than allow the board to drop him from the tour of England, which it might have done.
Whatever he has achieved in his career has mostly been under a lot of pressure, and if his performances did not always inspire his team, perhaps some of the blame lies with the team as well. The sense of unity also has to come from within, as I had said a long time ago, when Brian took over from me as captain. A lot of people had expected bad blood between us, but as I maintained then, it isnít about a Brian Laraís team or a Courtney Walshís team ó what matters is the West Indies team.
Traditionally, we have had a history of blaming the captain when the team does badly. Even Sir Gary Sobers had to endure plenty of protests during the series against England in the late 1960s, and then against India in 1971.
Richie Richardson, too, received boos from the crowd at Sabina Park in 1992 after the loss to South Africa and then quit the captaincy before he was asked to. Brian has had three stints as captain, and has therefore endured more criticism than others. After all, others have been tried in the interim but was there any appreciable difference in the teamís fortune'
The truth is that we need to take a long, hard look at West Indies cricket, and need to figure out where it has gone wrong.
We can no longer pretend that the next series will make everything better, because if we had turned a corner with the series win against India last year and then reaching the Champions Trophy final, I think weíve turned a corner in reverse with our World Cup performance. We have shown ourselves in poor light, and the malaise seems to run deeper. Itís unlikely that a change of captain or coach will help.