'At least I had the opportunity to say goodbye'
Brian Lara's final press conference was a lengthy and emotional one, where he reflected on a glittering 17-year career. He had no doubt that this was the time to leave, adding that West Indies cricket was in need of change.
On the emotions he went through
I wouldn't say I was nervous. I came to the realisation a long time ago that this was going to be my last game. I had decided since Grenada. I know we still had a chance, but the World Cup was always going to be the last for me. I had prepared myself. It is a situation where you are playing a team game. My main focus today was to get the team a victory, see if we can set the tone for the next couple of months. We are playing against England and the guys can leave with some sort of a semblance of positivity in moving forward. I still think it was a very good game. But personally I was calm. I wanted to put an innings together. I wasn't going to play any rash shot or anything. I just played each ball on its merit. But things didn't work out. Unfortunately I got run-out. These things happen. But I felt good, I felt comfortable and as the day went on, I knew that I made the right decision. I knew that it was the right time to call it a day, to let the younger players take the West Indies. Maybe we can see some change in the near future.
On his feelings for the Kensington Oval, the ground where he had constructed an epic 153 against Australia in 1999
[When] you are growing up, the West Indies were dominating cricket. But it was always a fight to win in Guyana, a fight to win in Trinidad. It sort of served the spinners well. But Barbados, Kensington Oval the tourists didn't want to go there at all. It was the Mecca of cricket for the Caribbean. I really and truly wanted to play a Test match at the Kensington Oval and not just one Test match. I wanted to do really well. This venue is special. Today it was the second time I have played in the new stadium, but Kensington Oval is definitely for me the Mecca of cricket in the Caribbean. Letting it host the World Cup final is a very, very good idea by the West Indies Cricket Board and the organisers. I have had wonderful moments here.
My 153 not out is classed as one of the best innings I have played, and I have enjoyed. I have enjoyed seeing no-one in stadium for four-five days and the West Indies got a victory against South Africa in 1992. That was also very special. I think that might have been my first match here. Even though the scene was unfortunate, I believe the spirit in the team and the fight we showed on that particular day was excellent. Kensington Oval would be one of the first places I would be traveling, just 35 minutes away from Trinidad, to see my next Test match.
|Kensington Oval is definitely for me the Mecca of cricket in the Caribbean. Letting it host the World Cup final is a very, very good idea by the West Indies Cricket Board and the organisers|
On life outside cricket
I have played for a pretty long time. I have put together something like 430 matches for the West Indies. I have enjoyed it. I know it must come to an end at some point in time, and yes I have thought about it. For my daughter to spend a lot more time with her. I have got a few business interests that has been during this genesis period and hopefully I will be able to spend more time with it and move on with life. I don't see myself regretting this decision. I have enjoyed my time and I will enjoy my life after cricket.
On what has changed
First of all, our one-day game was actually not progressing quite well. Before the World Cup, we got to the final in Malaysia and the ICC Champions Trophy. We had a little bit of a hiccup in Pakistan and India for a few one-day games. But I thought we were well set for leaving the World Cup a successful team if not winning the World Cup, but getting at least to the semi-finals or the finals. I thought it was the right time to leave the team on a high and move forward and see what we can do in the Test arena. But the results didn't turn out as expected. So, West Indies cricket is at a stage where change is necessary. 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, and as I said I have unconditional love for West Indies cricket and I am looking forward to playing a part at any point of time. I would like to have a bit of a break though, away from the game. You know, 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.
On his message to youngsters
Just to play the game with passion and commitment. I think it is important. When I started playing cricket, I had a great love for it through my dad. He saw life vicariously through myself. He had six other boys and they all played a bit of cricket. But I think they stopped at club level or village level. Maybe when I first picked up the bat, the sort of support I had from him was tremendous. It's the commitment that is needed from the youngsters, but most importantly, for anyone to get anywhere, the parents need to play a very important part. The support that I got from my parents - the late Pearl and Bunty - was tremendous, and also my sister Agnes, who took me to Harvard Coaching Clinic. I have so much to thank them for.
Yes I want to see the youngsters with passion and commitment, but I think the need the support from their parents, from school masters and wherever they can get it from to play the game and to get anywhere at all.
On whether he has come full circle with respect to his captaincy
I am not going to dwell too much on that. That's now history. 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 11 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 where, on one day we are spectacular and can score 418 runs to win a Test match in 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.
On his future plans
That is stuff that I have not really thought about. There is a book in the pipeline, but it is going to take some time. 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.
Change anything about your career?
No. I have learnt from all my experiences. It's been a passage of life where I have enjoyed, and now I am going into a new chapter. Whatever has happened, negative or positive, it is going to have an impact on my decision making in the future. I wouldn't change anything at all. There are things that I am sorry for, and there are things that I have rejoiced over. But that's life. My life has been played out in public, so be it. But it's been a great learning experience and I am still full of life, I still want to do a lot of different things. I am going to go back and see how I handle different situations, try to move on and see if I can do things differently in the future.
On the things he's sorry for
There are many things I am sorry for. There is no need to express any now, but you try your best and sometimes your best is not good enough. I think the 10-12 years I have spent in the decline of West Indies cricket have been really, really tough.
I have gone to each and every single tour, very optimistic of our chances of changing things. But things did not happen. The West Indies people need a strong West Indies team. Unfortunately we have not been able to produce that for quite some time. But at some point in time, we are going to see West Indies right back on top, and I will be standing 70 or 80 yards away, applauding that team. It's been a tough ride and it's been a tough career. Unfortunately, not a lot of successes, but these things happen. I just got to move on.
On his family members at the game
Quite a few. Brothers, sister and Sydney I came across. I don't know who else. Maybe I will see them back at the hotel. But I didn't pay for any flights.
On team selection
I don't know anything about any selection. I know I sat with the selectors in Antigua to pick the team for England, and of course I picked myself. That's all I know at this present time. I have informed the president that I want to move on with my life. So I think I have done the right things and allowed them an opportunity to move ahead with West Indies cricket.
On whether Sarwan is the ideal man to lead the team
He has been around for quite some time. He has been vice-captain under two captains - myself and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. And of course he would have gained a lot of experience over a period of time. But let's see who the West Indies Cricket Board put in charge. I am going to be in full support of that individual, and whatever help I can give. I am only a phone call away. I don't want to persuade that decision. It is up to them. They have been watching for quite some time and they would know exactly what's the right decision to make.
On memories of his 375 and 400 against England and now retiring after playing them
That was not the plan. I think it is just a coincidence. It is a nice way to actually go out. I have been playing with quite a few great players. I saw Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge - all these guys wanted to go that little extra step. Unfortunately they were not granted the opportunity to. For me to call the shot today, at least I had the opportunity to say goodbye officially and when I wanted to. If it was England, or Australia in the finals, whoever it was didn't matter. I am really happy. I had the opportunity to say goodbye to my fans and people who have supported me over the years.
|am just happy to have played for the West Indies and to be here today and telling you all about it. I don't know what the future holds on the cricket field. You just got to wait and see|
On achieving personal goals
As I said, one of the hardest questions I have had to answer over the years is, "How do you make 400?", "What were you thinking about going to 375?" These are really difficult questions. I think that was just destiny. The man above decided on those things. The most unfortunate thing for me or the hardest thing for me 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, nothing individually really. 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.
On how the game has progressed
Australia have really grabbed hold of the game, both at the Test level and one-day game. They have gone in front and set the standards. A lot of people have tried to get to them but haven't been able to. But I think the game is in good hands. There are a lot of very good players out there. The standard of the game is still very good. I know the ICC has tried to cut back on a lot of different things, but it is still a game that people need to be entertained. I have played my part and I feel the future of cricket is good.
I think the inclusion of the Twenty20 game is also something that is special, and people are going to enjoy that. A new group of spectators are going to come out and watch that part of the game. I think it is moving in the right direction and I just want to wish it continues to do so. There are a few unfortunate things that have happened in the past, but it has happened with the other sports. Maybe because you are in cricket, you feel it a lot. But I think the game is going to carry on. It has been around for quite some time and I don't see it stopping now.
I know the first class game has suffered - the Sheffield Shield and even here in the Caribbean. In county cricket, a lot of the international players are not playing. If there is one thing I would like to see improve in cricket, it is the first-class level. I think that should be raised a level where it is very competitive and very attractive. If you look at football, international football is big. But when you talk about club football, that's on par. The coaches and managers don't want their players to play for their country because they have a big cup match or something like that.
I would like to see county cricket or Sheffield Shield, or cricket in South Africa or the West Indies come to a level very close to Test cricket that you're going to have a wider base of players, more players to look at, and maybe more fans coming out to support that level of the game. At present, that is where cricket is struggling. Our first-class level is not that great and maybe this is the end product where our Test cricket isn't very good, our one-day game isn't very good. Maybe we need to lift the standards of our one-day game.
On his plans of playing county cricket
I just need to walk out of this room and think; go home and relax for a little while. I am not writing anything off. But at this present time, I am just happy to have played for the West Indies and to be here today and telling you all about it. I don't know what the future holds on the cricket field. You just got to wait and see.
On whether it's been a frustrating journey
It has been very disappointing. It has been frustrating. That is what I played the game for - to play with a team that was successful. I just wasn't able to do that for the last 12 years or so. I had some real glimpse of hope and on many occasions. I think this team has got so much talent. The things that we have achieved sometimes, no other team has done it. It's just we can't put it together consistently. Maybe the change that is happening now might help that in the future.
On Twenty20 cricket
You are asking someone who likes Test cricket more than anything else. So to go to even the shortest version of the game now and say that it is going to dominate in a few years is hard for me to say. I hope not. What I would like to see is a turnout like this for a Test match in the Caribbean.
The Twenty20 game is around now and it is three hours, and people like that. It has brought out spectators who have actually never come to cricket before, and they love it. But I hope we don't lose any form of the game - we don't lose the 50-over game or Test cricket because of it.
On his toughest opponents and his favourite batsmen
Australia is definitely the toughest team that I've played against and after that series in 1995 they have beaten us every single time except maybe in 1999 when we drew the series but they still carried away the Frank Worrell Trophy. Sachin Tendulkar is definitely a top-class batsman but you know the fact that we retract. I think I appreciate all batsmen what they are playing to the table. I love all of them, I love to see them bat. There's [Rahul] Dravid. You want someone to bat for their life, you want Dravid to bat for your life, you want Kallis to bat for your life. Ricky Ponting is an amazing player. Sarwan is very special, There's Chris Gayle, I have seen a few innings and he has gone on to score 100 or 150.
Message for Tendulkar
Sachin is an outstanding player and he knows what he has to do. It's been a disappointing World Cup for him as well but he has a couple of years left. I am sure he might be in line for another World Cup. There is not much I can tell Sachin other than to keep enjoying it and it was a pleasure to spend time on and off the field and whenever I have had the opportunity. I will be there to see him batting because he is a special player.