Legendary batter Brian Lara feels that West Indies cricketers cannot be faulted for preferring lucrative T20 franchise leagues around the world, like IPL, to national duty, saying playing the game these days is also about “making a living”.
One of the reasons of West Indies’ decline, especially in Test cricket, has been the advent of T20 franchise cricket, with a handful of the Caribbean stars choosing to chase lucrative deals around the world instead of representing their nation in red-ball cricket.
“For an 18-or-19-year-old to say, ‘I’m heading to the IPL’, or, ‘I don’t care about West Indies cricket’… It’s not just his fault,” Lara told Sen Sportsday.
“(About) 40 or 50 years ago, you may have been driven or motivated by playing for your country. But the sport today is about playing and making a living, so we have to make sure that that is part of the whole deal that we are selling,” said the former captain who is here as team mentor for the two-match Test series against Australia starting on Wednesday.
Lara admitted the difficulty on the part of the West Indies Cricket Board (CWI) to compete with lucrative franchise leagues around the world.
“We’ve got to face the facts. The franchise cricket that is being played around the world, it is very difficult for the West Cricket Board to compete with such lucrative opportunities that our cricketers have.”
He said it would be difficult to change the mindset of the current crop of players, and so the West Indies Cricket Board must try to instil the next generation the importance of representing their part of the world on the global stage. He said that push must be made in underage cricket and at schools.
“It’s impossible to do it with a present crop. I think we’ve got to go and get that into the schools and into the age group cricket before we bring them out on the international stage,” he said.
“I think we’ve got to, first of all, try to hold on to the young ones, the teenagers. We need to get them to understand what West Indies cricket means and how we can protect it,” he added.
The batting legend said it was crucial for West Indies cricketers to develop a sense of loyalty to the Caribbean team.
“I just think that we have not sold what West Indies cricket means to us as Caribbean people and why you should be playing for the West Indies – that’s the first thing we need to do.
“That’s what Australia has done. Australia don’t just pay their cricketers more or England pays their cricketers more … they develop that sort of loyalty to the sport in their country and that’s what we have not done,” he said.