New Zealand v West Indies,1st Test, Auckland March 8, 2006

Lara wants runs from Chanderpaul

Fazeer Mohammed

Brian Lara: 'We need him [Shivnarine Chanderpaul] as a captain, but we need him even more as a batsman' © Getty Images
Amid the inevitable preoccupation with what he can achieve in the three-Test series against New Zealand, Brian Lara wants Shivnarine Chanderpaul to return to his run-scoring best, for the sake of the team and his own confidence as captain.

While speaking yesterday about the pressures of captaincy and the weight of expectations on his own shoulders as the team's premier batsman, Lara drew parallels with the Indian cricket scene. "It's not like being captain of India, but we have a population of six million and a diaspora of about the same number around the world," the former captain explained in elaborating on Chanderpaul's responsibilities as leader of the regional cricket team.

"His job is as tough as any. We all sympathise with him because he is our leader. He's not getting any different results to what I did or Carl Hooper did."

Saturday's three-wicket victory over New Zealand in the final one-day international at Eden Park was only the second enjoyed by Chanderpaul in 17 ODIs as West Indies captain. The first, against Sri Lanka in Colombo last August, was actually masterminded by Sylvester Joseph, the vice-captain, with the appointed skipper off the field nursing a viral illness.

Chanderpaul's Test record at the helm is no better with only one win, against Pakistan in Barbados last May, in 13 matches heading into the first Test against New Zealand on March 9. Lara, who has had two relatively unsuccessful stints as captain despite leading the regional side to the ICC Champions' Trophy title 18 months ago, believes Chanderpaul can only assert himself as a leader by getting back among the runs.

"He's still young in the job and what I'd like to see him do is get back to his own style of batting," he contended. "One of the main ways of motivating your team is leading by example and Chanderpaul is one of the better batsmen that I have ever come across playing for the West Indies. I want to see him get back to his old self, playing the way he did and, of course, that will lift everyone. We need him as a captain, but we need him even more as a batsman."

Brian Lara scoring runs is not a winning formula

Chanderpaul has endured a miserable run of form since the Sri Lankan tour, which went ahead in the midst of an acrimonious dispute over team sponsorship that split players' loyalties to the West Indies Cricket Board and the Players' Association.

Even without the responsibilities of captaincy, Lara is still looked to-by teammates, media and fans alike-as the man to produce the big innings. As flattering as it is, the 36-year-old left-hander says progress as a team cannot be achieved with that mentality. "That is going to have to change," he stated bluntly. "You can draw a parallel to Sachin Tendulkar, where, at some point in time, he was definitely the scorer of the runs in the Indian team and during that period they were not as successful as they are now, where he is being challenged for that top spot by the likes of [Virender] Sehwag and [Rahul] Dravid.

"They seem to have a team now of six or seven batsmen who are going to go out there and perform," he continued. "It doesn't matter who takes centre stage at any point in time." The time is long past, he insists, for other players to stand up and be counted consistently. "Brian Lara scoring runs is not a winning formula," he admitted. Not for the first time, the challenge has been thrown down to the supporting cast in the West Indies batting line-up to show that they can take over the lead role from the veteran star in the upcoming series.