Lara calls for better infrastructure in West Indies
Brian Lara has welcomed the increasing international exposure that young cricketers in the West Indies are gaining by participating in the IPL and in Australia. However, he said that the trend was a reflection of a poor infrastructure in the Caribbean for grooming young talent to play at the highest level. Lara, while proposing the establishment of a centralised cricket academy, also called for a change in personnel among those running the game in the region to bring about a revival.
"We've always had the talent in the Caribbean," Lara told reporters in Mumbai. "The exposure internationally for them is going to be very good. That's something we had in the seventies. A lot of our cricketers then, like Sir Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, they all went to England to play county cricket. So, obviously, the opportunity for our youngsters to play in the IPL, in Australia or England is very exciting and promising.
"But it means we are very weak in how we handle our own talent in the Caribbean. We have not set up any proper academy to take care of them. And that is where we are falling down in our support for our teenagers. If the Indians or the English are making that opportunity available, I think it's good."
While in London recently, Lara said the current set-up in the West Indies relied heavily on the natural ability of players, which was inadequate to compensate for the absence of a proper institutional structure. "I believe that our structure is not good," Lara said. "We do not have the academies to support the youngsters and our team is still built on natural ability and in sport nowadays natural ability is a small part of it.
"The amount of technology that is happening and how people are learning about the game much faster, I believe we need to head in that direction and there's nowhere on the horizon that I've seen where we have taken that step."
A centralised academy for the various islands playing cricket in the Caribbean, Lara said, was the way to go forward. "I think the main thing is that we need to set up academies, and not necessarily every single island having one, but I think we should have a centralised academy where all the youngsters come together under good coaches.
"Maybe past players, [it] does not matter who the coaches are as long as they are well qualified and get them working together. I believe if we do that then maybe five, 10 years down the line you can see some semblance of what we were doing in the past.
"At present I think we are just doing what we did 20-25 years ago and hoping that the kids with the talent will come through and we will beat people around the world, and that's not happening, as you see."
Lara said he was keen in getting involved in West Indies cricket, and added that the inclusion of "new heads" was necessary in sparking a turnaround in fortunes for the game in the region. "I think it's important that at some point in time I do get involved with West Indies cricket," Lara said. "I am willing and able, whenever it's necessary. Obviously, the present administration doesn't see it fit yet.
"Even if it did, I'd love to see a change. We've got a lot of the older heads who've been there for quite a long time, and things have not been working properly. We need some new heads, and some astute thinkers coming out and trying to get our cricket back together."
Among the new talents from the region, Lara singled out Adrian Barath for praise. "I think he is a special talent," he said. "To score a hundred on debut against Australia, the best team in the world, shows that he has something and hopefully he can carry and achieve bigger things in the future."
The World Twenty20 gets underway in the West Indies towards the end of April, but Lara believed, despite the home advantage, the hosts would struggle to go far on current form. "In reality, the way we've been playing ... I mean we just lost a Twenty20 against Zimbabwe," he said. "I don't think that will take us far in a World Cup against strong nations. We've got to do a lot of homework and we've got to get our game in order.
"Of course, we have the advantage of playing at home, knowing the conditions but a lot of players and countries have done so over the years. So I don't think they'll be intimidated by that fact. But I believe if we do play good cricket over that period of time, we are capable like any other country to win the World Cup and I'll be praying and hoping that we could do it."