Gordon wanted Lara to stay on for England tour
Was Brian Lara pushed out, or is he leaving cricket entirely of his own volition? That is the question still being asked as Lara prepares to bid West Indies and world cricket goodbye at Kensington Oval in the final Super Eights match of this World Cup.
For his part, West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Ken Gordon says he wanted Lara to stay on for one more tour. "If you ask me personally, I would have liked to have seen him perhaps stay on for the English tour," said Gordon. "But you have to take other people's views into account and clearly his mind was running in a different direction."
However, it is understood that the West Indies selectors - Gordon Greenidge, Andy Roberts and Clyde Butts - who reportedly met with the WICB boss last week in Grenada, were of a different view and were not considering Lara for the Test and one-day tour of England next month. Asked about this, Gordon said: "I have had no formal proposal [from the selectors] but we have been in informal discussions." He declined, however, to reveal the nature of those discussions. "I couldn't possibly think of answering that," he said. "I'm prepared to be open with you, but there are limits within which I cannot go."
Instead, Gordon who played an influential role in Lara's return to the captaincy a year ago, painted a different picture. He said that prior to the afternoon of April 19, Lara's decision to retire had not been expected.
"If you had asked me that at the beginning of the match yesterday, I would have said yes, it had come as a surprise," he said. "But by the time the seventh or eighth wicket had fallen, I got a message that he wanted to see me when the team came off and would I come to meet him.
"I sensed that something was coming. And from that point onward there was no longer the surprise element. Because I knew something would be happening for him to ask me to see him at such short notice and with such urgency."
Told of Lara's decision to retire, Gordon didn't try to change Lara's mind because he didn't think it was appropriate to do that. "Clearly Brian has been thinking for some time of his future. He didn't discuss it as though he was thinking about it. He presented me a fait accompli. So I think we must wish him well."
In an interview with the media on April 19, Lara said the decision had been arrived at after "extensive thought and consideration. I just think it's the right time." Prior to the World Cup Lara had spoken about extending his Test career to the age of 40.
Asked yesterday if he had discussed retirement with Lara prior to his announcement, West Indies coach Bennett King was noncommittal. "Some things remain private. And discussions I have with Brian remain that way."
The departure of Lara, Test cricket's leading run-scorer of all time and the holder of the world records for the highest individual Test (400 not out) and first-class scores (501 not out) leaves the West Indies team without their most prolific scorer and influential player for the tour of England. A new captain will have to rouse a group just coming off a dismal World Cup campaign.
"It is clearly a fundamental changing of the guard," Gordon conceded. "Brian Lara has carried West Indies cricket perhaps for two decades and no one can take that away from him.
"People may say lots of things about he's done this and he's done that. But let's understand, there's a price that goes with genius .All our real greats, many of them have tended to be awkward, or people for one reason or another have been critical of them because I suppose they are driven by different forces and they think differently.
"We have to take the whole picture and accept the good with the bad. But overall, I think he's so much more on the plus side. He's been tremendous for West Indies cricket and I'd really like to see us honour that."
According to the Gordon though, Lara has other ideas. "I indicated to him that I hoped we would be able to find some way to convey our appreciation for him. His view was that he would like to go very quietly."
It is hardly likely, however, that the audience at Kensington today will give Lara a quiet send-off.