India v West Indies, 4th ODI, Vadodara January 30, 2007

'We need to create a lot more matchwinners' - Lara

Shivnarine Chanderpaul exchanges notes with coach Bennett King during a training session © Getty Images

Brian Lara has been coming to India for 21 years now, ever since he first toured as a 14-year-old with the Trinidad and Tobago schoolboys. Despite not coming up with one of his epic knocks on any of those trips to a country where cricket is such an obsession, he is still loved and revered wherever he goes. He'd surely like to go out with a win, and talked the talk before what should be his final international on Indian soil.

On coming into the final game with the series still alive
To come here 2-1 is good. It would have been better had it been 2-1 in our favour but it was a good effort to claw back in Chennai. India had total control of the game in the first hour and a half, but we were able to peg them back and win quite comfortably. It's also very pertinent moving forward especially with this being our last international game before our opening match of the World Cup against Pakistan. The guys are looking forward to not just squaring the series but also to regain the psychological advantage that we had over India.

On how important this series was
This series is very important for us. My understanding was that it was on the edge and might have been called off. As players we wanted this series really badly, it's international cricket against a top ranked team in their own backyard. We had a lot to gain from this series. Though the series is not in favour of us at the moment, the exercise of getting out there and playing, giving guys a chance to present a case for selection for the World Cup. We wish we had more cricket to play.

On whether the World Cup hype has taken away the importance of this series
This series has been exciting, though India won the first two games, we gave a fight till the end and [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul batted beautifully on two occasions, I think spectators got what they wanted from this series. I don't believe there is a move away from what the result of this series counts for. The series has held its own and as I said we don't want to leave here with a 3-1 result.

On the importance of winning the last game of this series
I think I have mentioned the fact that we have came here with a very good record against India over the last eight to ten months and they have clawed their way back. Before the start of one of the games in this series I said that West Indies had won six and India four of the last 10 matches the two teams played, and that we need to work and try and create that kind of gap. This series is very important for us, in terms of winning tomorrow's game and maintaining that edge over India going into the World Cup, and it can help us if we meet India in the second round of the tournament, I mean if that takes place.

On which teams would make it to the last four of the World Cup
The way how the tournament is put together it's going to be tough to say which four teams are going to make the semifinals. But it's hard to see Australia not making the last four. I think it's the only team you can say are guaranteed to make the semifinals. It's at that stage that we hope that they'll falter. I'd love to think we have the ingredients too. We've done well in the Champions Trophy playing against all the top teams. We'd like that to carry. We are quietly confident of our abilities.

On how the lead-up to this World Cup is different or similar to the other ones Lara has been a part of
I must say I was very optimistic in all the World Cups that I have played in. Of those four we've only reached the semifinals once. But I always thought that we had the team to do pretty well but did not. Unfortunately we lost a game against Australia in Chandigarh when we were cruising along and that would have set up a meeting against Sri Lanka, the eventual winners, but that did not materialise. This particular World Cup, I think the build up has been very good. A lot of people call us unpredictable, some people don't give us a chance, but I think our form and what we have done in recent times leads me to say that we've got the game to be among the top four teams in the World Cup. At that stage it's down to a knock-out scenario and we can go on to win the entire World Cup from there. It's a feeling of great optimism and I honestly think the players are working their way at the right time to hit form in March and April to get the job done.

On what the West Indies need to work on
What we need to do is create a lot more matchwinners. We don't want to have to depend on Chris Gayle or Shivnarine Chanderpaul to do the job each time. We want the likes of Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, guys like that to come to the fore. If you look at Australia any day any of their individuals could win the man of the match. If you look at the West Indian team you might say a handful could do it. The onus is on everyone to hold the responsibility of doing well for the team.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo