Brian Lara, who is 316 runs from becoming Test cricket's leading run-scorer, heads into this week's opening match against Australia in an alarming batting slump. Since arriving in Australia at the start of October, Lara has failed to reach double figures in five of his six innings with scores of 0, 5 and 0 in the one-day Super Series, 5 and 36 in the Super Test and 1 in the tour match against Queensland that ended in a draw yesterday.
The run of low scores leaves him considerably underdone before he faces Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Shane Warne at the Gabba from Thursday. West Indies will be relying heavily on Lara, who is carrying a finger injury suffered in the Queensland game, to reproduce his classic form to give them enough runs to put the Australians under pressure after their recent Ashes loss.
However the Australia coach John Buchanan said the out-of-form Lara was still a "major worry". "You don't reach the status in the game that he does by missing out consistently," he said. "One would suspect if he has missed out a little bit, then there are runs around the corner."
Buchanan said West Indies had arrived in Australia with a "bit of an underdog tag". "But they have players of the calibre of Lara, and two left-handers, Lara and [the captain Shivnarine] Chanderpaul, who are great players of spin. That's always a major worry to us because they can turn a game at any moment."
Lara has scored 30 Test centuries - eight of them against Australia since 1993 - and is closing on Allan Border's all-time record of 11,174 runs in 156 Tests. He currently has 10,859 runs in 118 Tests, placing him third behind Border and Steve Waugh, who reached 10,927 in 168 matches.