February 2, 2001

Hard Work - That's what Lara needs

West Indies team manager Ricky Skerritt acknowledged yesterday what has become increasingly evident. That is: Brian Lara can no longer depend on his natural gifts alone but must develop a greater work ethic to remain one of the game's great batsmen.

Speaking in an interview on the eve of the West Indies' last and vital preliminary round match of the Carlton Series against Zimbabwe today, Skerritt said there had been moments of brilliance from the star left-hander on the Australian tour.

"But obviously he still needs to recapture the hunger of success," he added.

He identified Lara's 231 in Hobart against Australia 'A', his 182 in the Adelaide Test and, more recently, his performance of 116 not out from 106 balls in the Carlton Series One-Day International against Australia in Sydney as the moments of brilliance on the Australian tour.

"He has been back into cricket now for six or seven months, but he has to come to grips with the fact that it's not as easy for him as it used to be," the manager added, referring to Lara's self-imposed break of four months from the game early last year after he quit as captain.

"He is going to have to really put in the time and effort on a more consistent basis."

Lara, holder of the record individual scores in both Test (375) and first-class cricket (501 not out), averaged 32.10 in the recent Test series and 26.55 in the series in England last summer. His overall Test average has dropped from 60.32 in 1996 to its present 48.29

"All the bowlers have come at him very hard. Everybody has come at him," Skerritt observed.

"He has to understand that they are going to throw all the ammunition they have at him and therefore he has to prepare for it," he warned.

"I think he continues to be such a natural that he continues to use his instincts and God-given talents, which at times are just not enough."

Questioned about the tour's undesirable diversions, such as the publicity generated by Lara's travelling partner, Lynnsey Ward, and his naming in India's Central Bureau of Investigation report into match-fixing, Skerritt replied "He's sensitive to them. It bothers him. Brian is really a good person who wants to do the best he can for cricket."

"With the girlfriend thing, somebody created the story, took it and ran with it," he said.

"Brian did not break any team rules. He had permission. I knew before the tour exactly when she was coming and that she would be here until after the New Year."

The West Indies had a 2-1 lead over Zimbabwe in their head-to-head standings in the Carlton Series before today's match.

Australia have comfortably won all their matches and play Zimbabwe at the WACA on Sunday in the last match before the best-of-three finals start in Sydney on Wednesday.

If West Indies win today they will advance to the finals. If they lose, overall run-rate will be required to determine the team to play Australia.