Cool and suave, Brian Charles Lara is as charming to talk to as he was to watch on the cricket field. In town for the Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture — a joint initiative by The Bengal Club and The Telegraph, in association with The Oberoi Grand, powered by Kutchina, partnered by Peerless and presented by The Bhawanipur Education Society College — held at The Oberoi Grand on Thursday, the West Indian great spoke to t2 about his life post-retirement, his love for golf and more. Excerpts.
You love coming to India!
I am in India for another few days. I am involved in a golf event and that’s been going wonderfully well. Any opportunity I get to come back to India, I grab them because it is such a wonderful place and it has been so kind to me. I feel it’s a second home. Everywhere you go in India, there is so much kindness and love for cricketers. It actually surpasses anything... that experience... even back at home. I feel very comfortable in this environment.
I love coming to India and I come here more now than when I played. In terms of work, most of the networks are based in Mumbai, but any opportunity to travel to whichever part of India (I take it up). I have seen more places after my career... (say) a Raipur or the other different places.
You were in Calcutta last year for the Indian Premier League...
I was the head coach for Sunrisers Hyderabad and enjoyed the few days. I play golf, which I love. Is it the race track? It reminds me of the Queen's Park, Savannah in Trinidad. Massive circle and then the cricket ground on the far side. For me, it’s more the hospitality and the warmth of the people throughout wherever I go, be it at the hotel or on the streets or on the golf course or nightclub, you get people who really appreciate you and that is such an amazing and fundamental thing.
What have the last 15-16 years of your life, after retirement, been like?
You can imagine that if somebody had a 15-16-year career, which, you know, would be a long one, they’d be retiring as well. Time flies, but it’s been great. I haven’t missed being on the field, but I miss the friendship and camaraderie, the dressing room... it’s amazing. Back in the days when you had a roommate and you could talk cricket and especially if you had an experienced roommate, those were the fun times. The battle on the field was good, won and lost quite a few matches with the West Indies team, but that friendship (was really a treasured one).
Who are you in touch with?
We come from a small island. So, if I have to travel or meet anyone, I have to take a flight, but every time anyone comes to Trinidad, where I am from, they are welcome at home and if I were to go to Jamaica (there is) Courtney Walsh, or in Antigua (there is) Curtly Ambrose. So, there is that forever friendship and when you have played with the guys for 10-15 years of your life, you create that friendship and you keep it. It’s just that it’s difficult to stay in touch every day. Very similar to India where my friendship with Sachin (Tendulkar) or Sourav (Ganguly), it’s not that you are picking up the phone to call, but there is that value of friendship.
Is island life a mindset?
It’s lovely for certain things... if you want to relax it’s great to some point, but sometimes you’ve got to get down to business. We are not a tourist island... Trinidad and Tobago. We are fortunate to have oil and gas and that’s our main product. There is a lot of industrial life.
What of an island life remains with you even after travelling the world?
I think family. I think knowing where your family is and that will always stay with me. It’s a small island and everyone is 15-20 minutes away. I think that’s what I cherished the most.
Talking about family, are you a cool dad?
(Laughs) Maybe too cool. (Fatherhood), I must confess though, was tough. Playing cricket and being away all the time, having kids who are growing up, you come back home four-five months later and they are much bigger.... It’s great to have two beautiful daughters (Sydney and Tyla) in Trinidad and a son (Zende) in Australia. My girls don’t play cricket, but I hope my boy plays cricket or golf. He is very sporty, which is a good start.
You share a very special friendship with Sachin Tendulkar...
Yes, we have a special friendship. I think there is a mutual respect for each other and we now have a love for golf, which is good. You can catch us on a golf course, having fun, whenever we are in the same city.
Who would you choose as the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) from the current era?
I have never liked that question because I feel everyone should be appreciated for what they bring to the party. Batters have different characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. A guy like Rahul Dravid... if you want somebody to bat for your life, you’ll choose a Rahul Dravid or a Jacques Kallis. If you want entertainment, you would choose somebody else. I appreciate every player for what they brought to the table. I felt I grew up in a wonderful era in world cricket, maybe not the halcyon days of West Indies cricket, but at least I had the opportunity to represent the West Indies for 17 years, which is something I will always cherish.
And, Virat Kohli is something else, right?
He is unbelievable. As I said early on, his feats are not the only things that impress me. The way he carries himself and the discipline that he has, is a great legacy.