`I'd rather be in Sri Lanka now'

PORT-OF-SPAIN: Brian Lara said he would fly to Sri Lanka at a moment's notice if the contract dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board and players' association was resolved.

West Indies' star player was left watching a second-string side meet Sri Lanka in the first of two Tests which started in Colombo on Wednesday.

Lara was among 10 leading players who refused to sign the board's tour contract because it restricted the players' rights over personal endorsements.

``I'd rather be in Sri Lanka right now playing cricket for the West Indies,'' said the 36-year-old former captain. ``But me not being there is unfortunate, but it's out of my hands and beyond my control.

``I've been playing cricket since I was five years old, and the minute I got to play for the West Indies, from that first time, I never looked back and I don't think I'm ready to do that yet.'' Lara, the third highest run-scorer in Test history with more than 10,800 runs, said he was trying to maintain his fitness in the meantime.

`Fitness is the key'

``It's harder at my age and you have to be careful,'' he said. ``I'm not in Sri Lanka, but it becomes harder if you stay back at home and not stay in shape and do the things that are necessary as if I was playing cricket. Fitness is the key to it all and I'm trying my best to stay in shape.''

Before the board cut Lara from the tour, it gave him permission to miss the one-day series to try and help him extend his 117-Test career.

``I'm hoping to add a couple of more years to my career,'' he said. ``It's hard to put a time limit on it, but as long as I remain an asset and not a liability, I will continue playing.'' — AP

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