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May 17, 2007
Brian Lara believes West Indies will now have a chance to rebuild their ailing fortunes without being overshadowed by his presence. Lara, who will be watching the team take on England at Lord's, hopes a largely youthful squad led by Ramnaresh Sarwan will thrive away from the glare of publicity he generated.
"After 1995 we sort of went downhill," Lara said. "It doesn't matter how many runs one person puts together. We want to get partnerships and get 400 runs on the board. One person can't get 400 runs on the board if there is nobody at the other end.
"Maybe the disparity between my achievements and how the other guys were looked upon was a problem. My expectation is that the team raise a bit and rally round Ramnaresh Sarwan. You don't need a group of superstars, you need a team working together to bring you better results."
Lara said it would feel strange to be at Lord's and not be taking the field. "I saw the covers and the greenery and it was tough," he said. "Thursday will be emotional for me. But at the end of the day it's not the reason I play cricket because I want to play at Lord's. I really want to see West Indies do well. We've got to move on."
However, Lara said he hadn't given up on the idea of playing first-class cricket. "I'm still physically fit and still capable of playing so I'm not going to rule that out," he said. "I am not going to put on 10 or 15 pounds and forget about the game."
Lara said his international retirement had been hastened by West Indies' early World Cup exit. "I thought we were making a lot of strides in the one-day game, getting to the ICC [Champions Trophy] finals in 2006 after winning it in 2004 was a stepping stone," he said.
"I thought I can exit and continue to play Test cricket which honestly is the game I love the most. We went a bit backwards and physically I don't know what else I could have done to really make a difference."
Lara said the key problem was the domestic set-up in the West Indies which didn't convert youthful talent into Test match standard players. "I still believe West Indies has the best Under-15, Under-19 talent," he said. "It's just the infrastructure doesn't go hand in hand with that and international cricket. That's where the problem lies."
Should anyone at Lord's need reminding of Lara's achievements all they have to do is visit the MCC Museum behind the Pavilion where a special exhibition charting his career is being staged. Among the exhibits is the bat with which Lara scored 213 against Australia at Kingston.
Also included is the bat with which he made 375, then the record Test score, against England at Antigua in 1994. The bat has been signed by his then team-mate Curtly Ambrose: "375 not enough Brian". However, the bat with which he scored 277 against Australia in Sydney in 1993 is missing. "At age 23 I don't know what I did with that bat," Lara said. "Maybe we can have an international request to have it back."
Plays of the day from the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab in Abu Dhabi