S. Ram Mahesh

Bridgetown: The cricket world grew poorer on Saturday. That Brian Lara won't be seen again is too painful to contemplate.

But, it might not be so Lara didn't rule out playing First Class cricket; and he made several oblique references to the circumstances of his departure. Though rescinding the decision is unlikely, there is more to it than meets the eye.

But, Lara is an artist even if a lesser canvas won't bring out his brush strokes the way Test cricket did, it will do for adoring fans. "I just need to walk out of this room and think, go home and relax for a little while," said Lara. I'm not writing anything off but at this present time I am just happy to have played for West Indies."

Disappointing exit

What was behind the decision to retire having announced he might continue with Test cricket? "After reaching the final in Malaysia and the Champions Trophy, I thought that we were well set for leaving the World Cup a successful team, if not winning the World Cup at least making it to the semifinals or the final," said Lara.

"I thought that would then be the right time to leave the team on a high and move forward and see what we can do in the Test arena. The results didn't turn out as expected though and West Indies cricket is at a stage where change is necessary.

"We will most likely have a young captain, someone under the age of 30 and he will need to mould his team along with the support group that he needs. I just thought there is no need for me to be out there physically, there is nothing much I can do to help at present."

But, here it turned nebulous. Lara said he had decided to retire in Grenada. But, he had earlier picked himself for the tour of England. "I know I sat with the selectors in Antigua to pick the team for England and of course I picked myself and that's all that I know," said Lara.

"I have informed the president that I want to move on with my life, I think I have done the right thing and allowed them an opportunity to move ahead with West Indies cricket."

Curiously, he also said, "I was hoping to go to play but unfortunately that's not happening", and added he would be in England during the Tests because "May-June is a lovely time to be there." Lara said he was happy he chose his time to leave.

"Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge wanted to go on for that extra bit but they weren't allowed to. I've had the opportunity to say goodbye to my friends and fans."

Retirement, said Lara, would give him the time to do the things he's always wanted to, but never could. To emphasise the point, he brought his daughter Sydney to the media conference.

"Having put together 430 games, 22,000 runs as someone said, I don't think I'll be regretting it. I have more time to spend with Sydney, I can drop her off at school and do all the things I've wanted to do. I've enjoyed cricket, and I'm sure I'll enjoy life after cricket.

"I have an open-door policy with my players, they have my mobile number, and they can call me any time for anything. I'll never be lost to West Indies cricket.

Important role

"It's a pity I couldn't do the business on the field. I'll have an important part to play off it." Lara said his only regret was not to have been part of a great, winning side.

"Some times your best is not good enough. The most frustrating part was the time I spent with the team in decline. Having had a taste of the success from 1989 to about 1995, the next 12 years were disappointing.

I couldn't achieve the one thing I set out to do which was to be part of a successful team. Every tour, I'd go hoping it would be a turnaround. I'm hoping this change will do it."

Lara made several references to the "man above" who planned his destiny. Did he think the man above had given him a fair deal with the run out in the final innings? "I've had a fair deal," said Lara, smiling. "Definitely, to be here today telling you about it, I've had a fair deal."

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