Lara commends team effort

Though Chris Gayle's fabulous hundred was the turning point for the West Indies, their captain Brian Lara insisted the win over South Africa was not about just one man

Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Brian Lara always has plenty to say. And when his team has just beaten South Africa with some ease and qualified to play the final of a tournament where they are defending champions, there were plenty of questions for the West Indian captain. He answered them all with poise.

'Gayle is excellent...he has always been a top player - with the bat, with the ball and in the field' © AFP
On the start his bowlers gave him
I think we stuck in well throughout and kept the pressure on them all the time. They had to play some big shots in the last part of the innings, which as you saw some wickets fell. I thought 258 was gettable and the guys talked before the match about actually chasing. They thought the pitch looked very good and it would stay that way for the entire 100 overs. So first of all, it was a good toss to lose. It's a situation where we have to just move on from here, with the same sort of a game plan. Everyone's trying to make a contribution.
On the resurgence in West Indian cricket
I just think that we had a tournament in Malaysia recently, and even before that we played India and won the series 4-1. Our one-day game has always been pretty good. It just [needs] a little bit of fine tuning. We did that in Malaysia. We were forced to play the qualifying round here, and that in itself gave us a little bit of competitive cricket. So I think it's the fact that we are building up momentum, and the guys are believing in themselves, believing in the plans and executing it well. It's great to see the guys go out there and stick to the plans, work hard and get the results. We just have to keep the momentum going now, analyse each game even if you have to lose. Win or lose, just go back and think about it. I think it is going to be exciting times ahead for us, in the one-dayers especially.
Australia and West Indies have won two matches each in the last four encounters between the two teams. Did Lara think there was unfinished business with the Australians?
I wouldn't say it is unfinished business. I just feel it's nice to be playing the world champions in the final. It says a lot for our effort - getting past South Africa in the semis and beating the likes of India and even Australia in the first part of the tournament. So we are looking forward to the challenge. Australia, of course, have gained some momentum since they lost to us in the first match. I am sure they are very, very buoyed and confident of their chances on Sunday. I think we have to go back to the drawing board again, work on a few things and realise that we are going to play a completely different opposition to the one we played against. In that first game in Mumbai, Australia were playing their first match on that pitch and so we had a sort of an advantage. It's not unfinished business. It's a game of cricket, we are looking forward to the challenge and we will back ourselves.

'The way Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul started...they transferred the pressure on South Africa' © AFP
On whether Lara thought West Indies would win so easily
Of course not. It's a semi-final and you are going to think that South Africa will come and throw everything at us, if not for the first 15 then for the entire 50 overs. I think it's the way Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul started, they transferred the pressure on South Africa. They came out ready to apply pressure on with the likes of Pollock, Ntini and Nel. The fact that in 15 overs or so we were almost close to our 100 put them on the back foot. They just had to play catch-up cricket after that. So it was a good effort and everybody must be commended.
On captaining a batsman like Chris Gayle
He is excellent. Chris Gayle has always been a top player - with the bat, with the ball and in the field. He is very chirpy as well, and he has a great influence on the guys, which is tremendous. He might seem a bit comical on occasions, but he takes his cricket very seriously. In the practice sessions, his preparation is great and he is reaping the rewards right now.
On what advice he gave to his batsmen
South Africa's two win in the tournament was actually bowling second. The fact that in the first 15 or 20 overs, the game is almost over for the opposition - they got five, six wickets against Sri Lanka and also Pakistan. Our first decision was to try and stay out there, see the pitch. But maybe in the first over, the guys realized that there wasn't much in the pitch, nothing like Mohali or Ahmedabad for South Africa, and we played accordingly.
On Gayle firing in the final
It's a brand new game and the fact that we have certain requirements of the opening batsmen - if it is Chanderpaul or Gayle, they have to fulfill those requirements. Chris has done that on a few occasions in this tournament and I am almost sure that he does not want to leave the centre-stage to anyone come the final. He will be eager to go out there and replicate what he did today.
On starting the World Cup as favourites if they win here
Favorites or not, we have to play the World Cup. We are the hosts and we will be in Jamaica for the first, hoping to come out of with maximum points and move on. A lot of teams have said we are very unpredictable and maybe that is a fact. But the fact is then they are not going to take us easy. We have played very good cricket, we have beaten Australia on a couple of occasions recently and I don't think anything is going to be different in the Caribbean. I am almost sure the likes of South Africa, India and Pakistan - whoever we play against - know what we are capable of. I don't mind whatever tag they place on us. We still got to go out there and execute, we still got to play better than the other team on the day.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo