Of the many who are going to miss Brian Lara, Bennett King is one. The West Indies coach has seen his exploits from close and knows exactly what his absence would mean.
“He didn’t always win us games but often saved us from embarrassment. I remember we made 300 against South Africa in Trinidad (in 2005) where he made 196. He has done a good job, mostly in adverse situations.”
The man who took charge after West Indies won the Champions Trophy in 2004 and has seen more failure than success since, reckoned it reflected poorly on the rest of the team. “It’s a reflection on our depth. Despite someone being so successful, we didn’t have enough draws, forget wins. That’s a shame.”
King was speaking a day before his team’s last match in the World Cup but it never figured in the discussion. “One of the things to have motivated me to become coach of this team was the opportunity to work with Brian.”
He did not disclose whether Lara had consulted him before announcing his decision because “certain things are personal”, adding that despite all the turmoil in West Indies cricket, they were on perfect terms.
“You don’t want to create robots and he wasn’t one. As coach and captain, there have been occasions when I spoke firmly to him and he spoke back firmly. That’s how it works.”
Many of Lara’s decisions have been criticised by West Indies greats but King felt there was no option. “He was tactically different from what people expected. But with the side we had, he had to try different things. He was prepared to take risks and I encouraged him. His mental fortitude is among the best that I have seen.”
King was not taken aback by Lara’s retirement. “I always knew it was around the corner but didn’t know where that corner was. For the public this is a massive loss. He is a genius who could hit the same ball to any area of the ground.”