New Delhi:Brian Lara, the former West Indian captain who two months ago ended a three-year break from competitive cricket, has said he wants to make an entrance in the Indian Premier League. Lara played in Zimbabwe's Twenty20 competition this October, and says he wants to be match-fit to get into the IPL's 2011 season.
Lara told ESPNcricinfo that the league in Zimbabwe was not the toughest. "If I was to give myself a chance to play in the IPL, then I need to start now," he said. "I tried negotiating with Surrey in May and that fell through. I am not going to say that I am ready for the IPL. The option is around the corner, and I have put my name in the hat. But I need to play cricket regularly from now till then to get fit and capable of doing justice to the game and to my form in such a highly competitive league."
Ideally, Lara said, his role in the lucrative competition would be similar to that of Shane Warne or Stephen Fleming, whose jobs with their franchises are described as being that of captain-coaches or 'mentors'. "I see myself in that light as well. I don't want to be fighting with the youngsters for a game ... left out today, playing tomorrow. I would like to see myself as someone who can make a contribution even if I am not in the final XI. I would like to get involved in a holistic way and not just as a player."
West Indies are currently No. 8 in the ICC Test and ODI rankings, but while Lara was optimistic about the future of West Indies cricket, he rung a cautionary note."There is still an abundance of talent. I believe that we still have some of the best youngsters in the world. You look at young Kemar Roach as a fast bowler; you look at Adrian Barath making a hundred in his debut Test at the Gabba. Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo's brother ... these are very, very good players.
"What I am worried about is those three-four years from teenage life to early twenties. What happens? Do they grab hold of international cricket? They can't do that by themselves. There's got to be a supporting team behind them to make sure that they elevate themselves very quickly to that level."
Lara felt the reason for West Indies' recent struggles did not lie with the players. "I see ordinary Australians get on the scene and in three or four years they are top-class players," he said. "I see [that] in the West Indies, really special young players get out there and struggle, [and] can't find their way. Something must be wrong with our system."
The West Indies players and the administration have been at loggerheads in the recent past. The most recent controversy to dog the team was Chris Gayle's removal as captain after he, along with Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, opted out of a central contract with the West Indies Cricket Board. While Lara did not comment on the players' decision, he said that Gayle's 333 in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle was a positive sign. "I think it is very important. Obviously he lost the captaincy, but I believe the way he handled it ... getting a triple-hundred and putting the team in a position to possibly win a Test match in Sri Lanka. That's very good. It showed maturity, and that's what I like."
Allrounder Darren Sammy has been appointed captain and Lara believed that while their was no doubting Sammy's commitment, the 26-year old would need the support of all the senior members in his side to succeed in his role. "As a player, first of all, he is very committed, a guy who will give you 100%. He can have the towel in his hand, 12th man for the entire series, and you would see him very buoyant out there supporting the guys. That's what I love about him as a player.
"A leader is as good as his troops. Young Sammy will need all the support, especially from the older players; the guys who have been captains at some point in time. He will need their support because the team can be easily derailed if everyone is not in there with one common goal. So it is a good sign, but I just hope that it is not short-lived because we have had those occasions before."
While looking to the future, Lara also pointed to lessons that needed to be learned from the past, conceding that West Indian teams of the recent past lacked pride. "Yeah, there was pride lacking. It's not just something that you pick up and buy in a shop," he said. "It's something that has to be instilled into you. You just don't pick up family values, unless your parents teach you and let you know exactly what they expect. And I believe that some of the younger players did not have that."
Outside of his participation in Zimbabwe's T20 League, Lara's only association with Twenty20 cricket came in the form of a one-year stint with the now defunct Indian Cricket League. "Well, when the ICL first came to me, it was not a rebel league. It had the likes of Tony Greig and Kapil Dev [associated with it]. That was a league that was trying to bring the game forward," said Lara, who turned out for Mumbai Champs for one season.
"I put my name in ink, which was obviously a mistake at the end of it. But I have no regrets. That's gone. I played one season and I asked them to excuse me, because obviously after having such a long career, you don't want to be playing ICL cricket and considered a rebel and banned from all levels of cricket."