Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Ganguly tops Lara’s list of the best Indian captains
There is a never-ending debate about which India captain was the most triumphant of all, but West Indies batting legend Brian Lara has attempted to put an end to all the arguments by stating that Sourav Ganguly was his favourite Indian skipper.
“Sourav is my favourite,” Lara said. “His leadership against Australia in Australia was astonishing. I have great respect for him.”
Lara also praised all-rounder Kapil Dev and his good friend Sachin Tendulkar for their leadership qualities.
“In 1983 West Indies were dominating and I thought it would be cake walk for them in the final,” he said. “So I went out to play only to come and know that India won, which was a surprise and Kapil Dev as a leader had a lot of role to play.
“Then there is my friend Sachin Tendulkar, what he has done for cricket, it can’t be repeated. His contribution to Indian cricket and world cricket is immeasurable.”
Speaking about current India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Lara said: “I spoke to Dwayne Bravo about Dhoni, how he was as a leader while they played together for CSK. He told me one of his key strengths is that he is a great listener. Bravo told me how he sets goals but always looks for ideas and commitment from his players.”
The Trinidadian also took the time to reminisce about how he used a coconut branch as his first ever cricket bat.
“My first bat was shaped out of a coconut branch by my brother,” he said. “And from that day, all I wanted to do was to be a West Indian cricketer. I would play cricket by myself in the yard and the team would be (Gordon) Greenidge, (Desmond) Haynes, (Vivian) Richards, Lara. From a very early age, I saw myself as a West Indies cricketer and nothing else.”
While on a trip down memory lane, Lara also paid tribute to his father for encouraging him during hard times and supporting him by coming along to all his matches.
“I must also praise my father,” he said. “He was tremendous. My dad was there at every single match I played for school, under-14, under-16 right upto when I got into the West Indies team. Unfortunately my dad passed away the very moment I made it into the West Indies team so he actually never saw me play (international cricket). But he was definitely the major influence in my career.”
During his international career, Lara noted that his team-mates constantly served as his motivation and the batting great was also quick to dismiss rumours and speculation that he used to play for himself.
“A lot of media and people said a lot of success was individual,” he said. “How wrong could that be. My biggest motivation in life has been my team mates. Playing within the team is what motivated me.
“My performances might have led to individual praise but for me playing within the team was the best thing that ever happened to me. I believe a team is a sum of individuals and each individual is depended on each other.
“The 400 I scored was at a time when England was leading 3-0 in the series in West Indies, with one Test match to go. Drawing that Test match was more important than anything else. We got to 750. Some people said we batted too long.”
However, Lara admitted that he would throw all his records and accomplishments away to be a part of the dominant West Indies side of the 1970s and 1980s.
“I believe most records are destiny,” he added. “In terms of 375 and 400, in terms of when they were scored and the way they were scored, I believe it was because of destiny. I would give any record away for success. If I played in a successful West Indies team, say for instance in the 70s and 80s, when we won for 15 straight years, I would give away any record for that.”
Lara also revealed that he always loved to come in and bat when his team looked to be down and out.
“I love challenge,” he said. “When the score was 300 for 2, I didn’t like to bat. I liked to bat at 20 for 3. When the opposition tail is up and I am going with my back against the wall. I relished those occasions. I believe when you show true character under adverse situation, is when you become a true man.”
The former West Indian batsman also conceded that he was always nervous before going out to bat, but tried to calm those nerves by working hard in the nets.
“Like most sportsmen, I am very nervous before I go on to bat,” he said. “I think that is something shared by a lot of the top sportsmen around the world. If someone is not nervous, I am not sure what sport they are involved in. Pre-game is where I do a lot of my hard work.
“I worked as hard as possible on my game in the nets. I trained. Michael Jordon trained so hard that when he got to the game, he was on cruise control. And I felt the same way when I put myself through tougher things and got into the middle.”
Lara also stated that he used to get frustrated with himself when he got out to a bad stroke or when he was going through a rough patch.
“I am most critical of myself, when I am doing well,” he said. “When I score a hundred against Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, I know for a fact they will go and check on their computers to see how I was batting.
“They will pick up a few things where I was lucky enough not to get out, and they will come back the next day, looking to counter that. I do what they do and keep a step ahead of them. When I am not scoring many runs, I tend to be less critical because you are going to go through bad patches.”
The record-holding West Indian further noted that Courtney Walsh was one of the best skippers the West Indies ever had and added that all youngsters should try and become just like him.
“Courtney Walsh wanted the team to be successful,” Lara said. “He knew exactly what he had to do even when he was not the captain. That for me are the qualities of a true leader. Someone who is not necessarily a captain wearing the arm band but someone who knows their responsibility at all different levels.
“Courtney Walsh is someone that I will have full praise for and someone whom I consider to be a true leader. His stats don’t show that as a captain, tactically he wasn’t the best but in terms of character trait as a leader he is someone I would love to see a lot of people emulate.”