'At least I had the opportunity to say goodbye' - Lara
To read the full transcript of Lara's press conference click here.
In the end, there was a tear in his eye, and he left to a warm round of applause from journalists, not all of whom had been always adoring. Brian Lara's final press conference was a mammoth affair and, among many memories, it carried enough hints about the circumstances that hastened his departure.
"At least I had the opportunity to say goodbye", he said, "I saw Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, all these guys wanted to go that little extra step. Unfortunately they were not granted the opportunity to."
Lara chose not to answer directly what changed his mind about touring England as a Test player, but he repeatedly made it clear it had been his plan to tour. "I sat with the selectors in Antigua to pick the team for England, and of course I picked myself."
What had changed then? "West Indies cricket is at a stage where change is necessary," he said, "We are most likely going to have a young captain, someone under the age of 30 years, and he will need to mould this team with the support that he needs.
"I just thought there is no need for me to be out there. Physically there is nothing much I can do to help at present. It's just a matter of allowing the team that change that is needed. Maybe this is just one of it. Maybe there is a lot more to take place. But I just see no reason for me to carry on at this present time."
Lara sometimes cut a slightly lonely figure on the field during his last match. There was a hug with Chris Gayle as the two crossed paths when Gayle was returning to the pavilion, but only Dwyane Bravo, a fellow Trinidadian whom Lara has nurtured, demonstrated his affection enthusiastically. English players welcomed Lara with a guard of honour when he came to the crease but there was no such salutations from his own team at the end of the day. On his last day at Sydney, Steve Waugh had his final parade on the shoulders of his team-mates; Lara hurried through stairs, past his team-mates, and disappeared into the Garfield Sobers Pavillion.
Earlier in the day, he had been run out when Marlon Samuels hit the ball to mid-on, charged off the blocks before retracing his steps. When asked if Samuels had said sorry to him after the game, Lara pursed his lips, fumbled for words, and said nothing. "It would have to be a yes, or a no. So I will leave it."
He wasn't rancorous, but the warmth was missing too when the subject of captaincy and board came up. "I hold West Indian cricket dear to my heart", he repeated often, and promised that he was "not lost to West Indian cricket", but it was apparent that there was a lot he was holding back. "The time for that is not now", he said every time he was asked what in his opinion was wrong with West Indian cricket.
The subject of his captaincy came up more than once but Lara wouldn't be drawn into a discussion. "What I have to do is just wish the team and the new captain all the best, and try to persuade the West Indies Cricket Board to ensure that the captain and the team have the support that is necessary from them.
"You might see eleven individuals out there and of course we are criticised all the time after we have a bad performance. But West Indies cricket goes deep and unless we lay a proper foundation, you know you are going to get that sort of performance out in the middle. On one day we are spectacular and can score 418 runs to win a Test match in the fourth innings, and the next day we can't score 60.
"About that captaincy thing, I have no reason to be worried about it anymore. I just want to move on. My support is always going to be there. I have had an open-door policy with the players. They all know my number and they can call me at any point in time, for anything at all and I will be there to support them."
His eternal regret, Lara said, was that West Indies remained an abysmal team for the last 12 years of his career. "The most unfortunate thing in cricket is not achieving what I set out to do from the very beginning: to be a part of a successful team over a long period of time. I had a little taste of it when I started in 1989, and up till 1995. The last 12 years have been very disappointing.
"That in itself is the sort of disappointment I have had. I am just very thankful to be able to break all those records. It has been a great honour to play for the West Indies, to hold a bat and to spend 17 years in international cricket. That is something I am proud of."
Lara didn't rule out the possibility of playing county cricket or getting involved with the game in some way. "Right now, I am going to take a break. Maybe a week, maybe two weeks. Then I will look at options. I not committing to anything, or ruling anything out.
"But first of all, I just want to move back a little bit, relax and wake up tomorrow, or next week or two weeks from now, knowing I can do what I want. I can pick my daughter up and take her to school and do many different things that I haven't been able to do in the past. The future is there and I will have a lot of opportunities in front of me. But there is no reason to rush into anything at this present time."
Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo and Cricinfo Magazine