Brian Lara Urges Top Teams to Play in the Spirit of the Game
One of the greatest legends of cricket, Brian ‘Charles’ Lara has never backed out from expressing his feelings all throughout his career.
The Marathon man of cricket has done wonders for the game and his country. The World record holder for the most runs in an innings (400*), Lara opened up about his team’s game play in the 1980’s and 1990’s while delivering the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture at Lords.
Lara, who was known for his sublime timing and placement, urged the top ranked teams to maintain the integrity of the game.
“The highest-ranked team in the world has the responsibility to ensure that the integrity of the game is upheld every single time they play… and that the spirit of cricket is with them every time they enter the field.”
Lara grew up when the West Indian team was at its best. He has seen the West Indians dominate every team in the world. The great batsman admitted in the lecture that during the 1990’s when the West Indies dominated world cricket, there were times they did not play in the right spirit. He feels despite the success in the 1980’s and 1990’s his team used tactics which resulted “playing the game in a way it should never, ever be played”.
Lara gave examples of series against New Zealand in 1980, Pakistan in 1988 and England in 1990 when West Indies played against the spirit of the game to win at any cost. He feels that his team’s actions in those series affected cricket. He said,
“I grew up at a time when West Indies dominated the world. For 15 years from 1980, the West Indies never lost a Test series. And just before that, Colin Croft decided he was going to take a piece out of Fred Goodall’s shoulder and ran into him during a Test Match. Michael Holding decided he was no longer a cricketer, he was a footballer and he kicked a stump. I’m sure the occurrences during that period had a big effect on cricket.”
He recalled the series against England in 1988 when a series of umpiring decision went against England made him feel ‘embarrassed’. Lara said,
“Everyone said England had no chance. But they won in Jamaica and, in Trinidad, even after rain, had ample time to chase down a small total, I had never seen groundsmen and officials fight for Man of the Match. They moved lethargic, slow. If there was a wet spot someone went off the field, they came back with nothing in their hands, they took their time to ensure this game was not going to start any time soon. Eventually, it started with a couple of hours to go and England still had time. We bowled, in one hour, seven overs. It was dark and Graham Gooch had to call his troops from the field and the West Indies grabbed a draw.”
“I was 12th man. I was very, very guilty. I was running out with laces, a banana, water, cough tablets, all sorts of things in that last hour. It was truly embarrassing,” Lara said, The whole series was embarrassing for Lara, he feels West Indies played they shouldn’t have played with such great players. They went on to Barbados. It was another keenly-fought Test and Rob Bailey was batting with not much time to go for a drawn Test. He flicked the ball down the leg side and Jeffrey Dujon dived and collected.”
“The first slip — I’m not going to call his name — ran towards the umpire and signalled. The umpire wasn’t taking him on, but he kept going and going, and eventually he stuck his finger up and gave Bailey out. It definitely wasn’t out. England sort of lost faith in the game. They lost that Test and the next in Antigua for the West Indies to win the series 2-1. As a West Indian, I was truly embarrassed.”
“ As a young cricketer who looked up to a lot of the individuals in the team, it was one of the saddest moments in the world. For me, I felt the West Indies being the best team in the world needed to play cricket in a different way.”
He feels West Indies cricket suffered the most because of these incidences. Lara added, “People talk about the Tests series we lost in 1995 as the time we began to spiral, I felt we started to spiral years before that when the great players were playing. And if Pakistan or England got what they deserved in 1988 and 1990, I feel the West Indies officials would have taken a different look into what to do to save West Indies cricket at a time we had senior players who could have guided the younger players to have ensured we were on the right footing. But that didn’t happen.”
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