West Indies all set to bid adieu to their Prince

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Bridgetown, Barbados, Apr 18: As the Prince of West Indies -- Brain Charles Lara, walks out to the middle to play the last two one day matches in an illustrious career spanning over 16 years, the cricketing world and the West Indies in particular are all set to bid adieu to their favourite son.

His departure from the one day arena will leave a vacuum that will be hard to fill for even the most talented of the present lot.

''It's sad to see him go,'' said South African skipper Graeme Smith.

''He's been an unbelievable performer for the West Indies,'' said England captain Mark Vaughan whose side has been knocked out of the tournament last night.

Ramnaresh Sarwan, who is most likely to take over the reigns from Lara said, ''The biggest farewell for him will be wins in both the games, although we do not have any chance in the World Cup''.

Born on May 2, 1969 at Trinidad, Lara, in his third stint as West Indian captain has been criticised for the team's lackluster performances in the World Cup and he admitted the campaign has been a major personal disappointment for him and the Caribbean fans.

''It's a situation where you are playing your last few one-dayers and you hope you can end up in a World Cup final or a semi-final,'' he said.

''I know the disappointment of the cricket fans. I am sad that we have disappointed the Caribbean and our supporters around the world.'', Lara said.

''We feel it a lot. When we go to practice and (see) the people waving on the side of the road, we understand what cricket means to them,''he added.

When Lara takes guard for the last time against England at the Kensington Oval on April 21, he will be just 13 days short of turning 38 and he is philosophical about it. ''I have played my cricket innings. My day in the sun is over.

''It's tough playing one-day internationals out there, '' said an emotional Lara, who plundered 10,354 runs, studded with 19 centuries in 297 ODI matches.

Comparasions between him and Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar have surfaced from time to time as to who is the greatest batsman in the present era. Both the jewels failed in this World Cup and the jury is still undecided on who is greater of the two. The only man in the history to score a Test quadruple century -- a 400 not out against England in 1994, however, still wants to continue playing Test matches and is looking forward to the tour of England next month, although it remains to be seen if the selection committee picks him.

It is Lara's fifth World Cup but the West Indies have only once reached the semis during his career when they were beaten by Australia in Mohali in 1996.

The record-breaking batsman has always been a cult figure.

After Sir Viv Richards, he is the West Indian hero the present generation reveres most. His famous jump after scoring 375 runs against England in 1993-94 series have been immortalized in the supermarket of broad street of Bridgetown.

So its quite obvious that the team's disappointing performance in the World Cup has left many hearts broken but even the fanatic fans of West Indies would sympathise with the man often touted as ''The Right man in the wrong team.'' ''He will be forgiven for his personal triumphs. He has given us world records but not the cricket which we lost in the early nineties,'' said Sarah Albroke, a vendor selling roasted chicken outside the Kensington Oval.

One of Lara's greatest supporters, Sir Garfield Sobers, insists Lara is not the reason behind the team's failures.

''There have always been criticisms about Lara. I don't know what people expect of him,'' Sobers said.

''I don't know if the people expect him to hold their (the players) hands and to take them away and make them perform. Lara, in my estimation, is still the most knowledgeable person in West Indies cricket. Lara knows his cricket,'' Sobers said.


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