Under-fire Lara still fighting
Guyana – Brian Lara should have been in a grotty mood on Sunday, after defeat to Sri Lanka left West Indies on the brink of elimination from their own World Cup party.
Pressure on the 37-year-old was high going into this tournament and it has grown even heavier over the last few days, with a spat over selection made public after the defeats to Australia and New Zealand.
Against Sri Lanka, in their fourth game in 10 days, West Indies looked tired and at times disinterested despite being bayed on by the largest crowd of the World Cup so far, which must say something for their captain’s motivational ability.
As they chased 304, Lara’s dismissal for two signalled the beginning of the end, his foot not down in the crease as wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara removed the stumps.
In private several of the West Indies golden generation from the 1970s and ‘80s are not impressed by his captaincy, at least and on the morning of the game Michael Holding broke cover, saying: "Lara has to step aside, not necessarily as a player, but as captain.
“Everyone knows he's a great batsman but that's not what it takes to lead a team. I can't even say he is a good captain tactically."
It is fair to say Lara wasn’t in the best frame of mind when facing the media, as is each captain’s obligation, after the match but his positivity was something of a surprise.
He dealt patiently with the questioning for almost 20 minutes and only touched on losing his cool when asked whether he saw himself captaining the side on a tour to England that is barely a month away. Some would argue he is at his best with the fight already lost and the pressure off, as when he scored that world record 400 not out three years ago in Antigua with the series against England already decided.
But, as with all top-level sportsmen, he refuses to be beaten, even when there is only the slightest remaining glimmer of salvation.
Lara’s demeanour made an interesting comparison with that of South Africa’s Shaun Pollock, who was visibly upset when in a similar position four years ago after a World Cup defeat to New Zealand.
“I’m not going to dive into 45 minutes ago and five days ago. I want to concentrate on what we have left,” said Lara.
“I am an eternal optimist. It’s been a tough tournament so far but we still have a chance.”
West Indies now have to beat each of their remaining opponents – South Africa, Bangladesh and England – and hope for losses by other teams.
New Zealand and South Africa both have games remaining against both smaller sides, Ireland and Bangladesh, making their route to the semi-finals easier.
The best route for West Indies may be for Sri Lanka to lose their remaining games, including Wednesday’s match against England, setting up a sudden-death playoff between England and West Indies in Barbados on 21 April.
On my way to that media conference, I bumped into a Guyanese journalist who told me not to pay attention to the cartoon in the Kaieteur News.
At least I’m not under as much pressure as Lara.