A “rusty” Brian Lara gifted the sprightly youngster the moment of his life. The ball sneaked past the bat and grazed the pads before disturbing the stumps. Lara was bowled!

Many bowlers have treasured such moments on the cricket field in international cricket. But this was a non-descript under-19 seamer, part of the group of youngsters attending the hour-long cricket clinic organised at the Ferozeshah Kotla by the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) in conjunction with the Trinidad Tourism here on Tuesday.

Lara, who is the Ambassador of Sport for Trinidad and Tobago, remained a cricketer to the hilt. “I enjoyed batting but I was a little rusty. I must say I saw quite a few good players today and was very impressed.”

Better pitches needed

And then he spoke of India's weakness when faced with quality fast bowling. “I wish the practice pitches could be a little more enterprising, conducive to pace.” That was the reason, he argued, why the Indian batsmen failed in the Test at Centurion recently against South Africa. “Because of the bounce,” he said.

Even as Chetan Chauhan, as part of the organisers, requested “no questions on IPL (Indian Premier League)”, Lara was forthcoming. “I was not overly disappointed,” he said on being unsold at the auction. “It (auction) is not the greatest situation any player would like himself to find in. I can understand the reservations the owners and the managers must have had but they missed the broader picture.

“I would have made a difference with my knowledge. Private ownership is a good idea like club football. It would have given me an opportunity to continue my love with India but maybe some other time.”

Comforting message

Lara, 11953 runs in 131 Tests and 10405 in 299 ODIs, had a comforting message for Sourav Ganguly, who also remained unsold at the IPL auction. “It didn't tarnish his message. He has been a great leader (of Indian cricket) and a good friend of mine.”

On Sachin Tendulkar's longevity in the game and the benchmarks set by his “dear friend”, Lara was generous in his praise. “It would be almost impossible for anyone to break his records. I feel great to referred to in the same breath but he is a genius and outstanding in all parts of the world. I didn't see Sir Don Bradman but respect his averages.”

Hailing the great run by the West Indies in the 1970s and 80s and Australia thereafter, Lara observed that the trend of invincibility was not possible to return. “Can't really tell which team is the number one in the world! Each team has its time.”

Lara rated India and South Africa as favourites to win the forthcoming World Cup. “India would counter home pressure but will be hard to beat. In the sub-continent, it is important to build a momentum.”

Batsmen to watch

He picked Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis, Michael Clarke, Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen as the batsmen to watch. He also picked Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gayle to overhaul his Test record of 400 not out. He also noted that the score of 200 was more likely to be scaled because, “T20 has changed the shape of the game.”

Looking ahead, Lara, 41, smiled, “I am still travelling, involved with the Zimbabwe team, coaching and mentoring, playing more golf, still being busy. The shine is not off the ball yet.”

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