Electronic Telegraph Wednesday 29 November 1995
Lara`s refusal to tour Australia highlights rift
Charles Randall on dispute between West Indies and their top batsman
BRIAN LARA`S refusal to go to Australia with the West Indies this week for two months of mostly limited-overs cricket has exposed a rift with the authorities in the Caribbean.
His enthusiasm for cricket, the sport that has made him a wealthy man at the age of 26, remains buoyant, but his relationship with the West Indies Board has deteriorated markedly this year.
Last week`s heavy fine resulting from the England tour and the prospect of a long round of one-day games in Australia appear to have been the last straw.
The main problem is not money - he turned his back on a threeyear contract at Warwickshire believed to be worth some #500,000 before endorsements - but his decision to shrink his playing commitments has started to conflict with Board policy.
The impoverished authorities, who regard foreign tours as an important source of income, refused their main draw-card`s written request to miss the Australian trip and they made exhaustive efforts through Peter Short, their president, and Wes Hall, the manager, to persuade him to change his mind last weekend.
Though the three-nation World Series Cup, which also includes Sri Lanka, has no cricketing significance, the Board see this tour, containing a possible 16 one-day matches and two first-class games, as useful practice for the World Cup. The tournament is due to end on Jan 22, and the West Indies open their World Cup programme in India on Feb 16.
Lara is known to be angry about the fine, 10 per cent of his England tour fees, imposed by the Board for indiscipline, along with Kenny Benjamin, Curtly Ambrose and Carl Hooper.
He was reported as saying: "I am finding it very difficult to come to terms with the fact that The Management picked on me as one of the guys who tried to create disharmony in the camp."
give Brian as much help as we can`
Lara has told friends that his two brief tour absences were dealt with during the tour by The Management, who led him to understand the matter was closed.
At one stage in England, an exhausted Lara wanted to leave the tour, but he was persuaded to stay when Short himself flew over to talk to him. Lara has claimed assurances were given that no commitments would be forced on him before the World Cup.
Lara will have to pay the fine, otherwise he would be immediately suspended by the Board. His participation in the World Cup has been left open to question.
Roland Holder has taken Lara`s place in Australia but, judging from the West Indies` performances in England last summer, their batting looks very vulnerable without their gifted left-hander. In reality, his omission from the World Cup would be unthinkable.
Short said: "What the future holds is very open. I don`t know what will happen there, I don`t know what view the Board are going to take, I don`t know what view Brian is going to take about his future and his participation immediately after the tour of Australia."
He implied that Lara did have some justification when he added: "Certainly Brian is very tired and felt a lot of pressure both on the field and off it. He is hurt, too, and disappointed with the penalty that has been handed down to him.
"I think he feels that his image as a sportsman and a person has been diminished and he is upset about that because he did tender an apology."
Hall commented: "There is no joy in this camp at the moment, only sadness. I feel we have to give Brian as much help as we can.
"We are engaged in a build-up before the World Cup and are going without the world`s best player."
Dennis Amiss, the former England batsman and now Warwickshire`s chief executive, sympathised with Lara
The Board have already given short shrift to Desmond Haynes for challenging their authority by missing this year`s India tour because of commitments in South Africa and by refusing to guarantee his appearance in the domestic Red Stripe championship.
England players, through the ages, have opted to miss major tours for various reasons, but the West Indies, by English standards, operate a feudal system. Few professional players outside the Caribbean would tolerate the international programme imposed by the Board.
Lara, his agents have insisted, is open to offers for a return to county cricket in 1997, though the contract must be for a minimum of two years, in accordance with Test and County Cricket Board regulations.
His amicable severance from Warwickshire became necessary when he insisted on resting next summer. The county are expecting Allan Donald to play the 1997 season, leaving the following year open for Lara, should he be in a position to return.
During 1994, his golden year of batting records, Lara joined Warwickshire on a relatively modest contract, but endorsements negotiated through his agents lifted his earnings to around #1 million.
He proved he could put sparks into county cricket as a major media attraction and he should have little difficulty in returning to England, even if the dispute with the Board eventually spoils his international career.
Dennis Amiss, the former England batsman and now Warwickshire`s chief executive, sympathised with Lara. He said yesterday: "We were delighted with his attitude when he was with us. There was media attention from all over the world, and I thought he handled it very well.
"Test cricket is very draining, mentally and physically - and there is much more of it since my day. I think he probably needs a break."
Joey Carew, the former West Indies batsman and a friend of Lara`s in Trinidad, said: "Brian is very tired emotionally and physically. A lot of people venture to say that he`s a spoilt brat, but that`s not the case at all."
Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et/)