Legendary West Indies batsman Brian Lara accepted that pressure affected his performance and advocates more attention should be paid towards the mental health of players.
Lara, 50, stressed that sorting out mental health issues is the need of the hour. “On occasions, I lay in my room feeling the despair. It is real, it is part of all sport and it is coming to the fore now with a lot more aggression. Players are at least standing up and saying, ‘I need to just remove myself, fight myself and come back again’. We should pay attention to it,” Lara said at the inauguration of the second edition of Habitat for Humanity India charity golf tournament at the Willingdon Sports Club, Mahalaxmi on Friday.
The world record holder of the most runs by an individual in both first-class (501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994) and Test cricket (400 not out for West Indies against England in 2004), described his illustrious career: “From 1989 to about 1995, it was an upward spiral and everything was going well. I don’t think a lot of people will appreciate it but from 1995 to 1998, it was a downward spiral. I felt the pressure of being a double world record holder played its part and the West Indies team was on a decline.”
Lara, who scored 11,953 runs 131 Tests, slammed 10,405 runs in 299 one-day internationals. He explained how intensity is becoming a burden for cricketers in the current scenario. “With first-class and all the franchise cricket going on around the world, the intensity of the game sometimes is a burden. Guys are playing for England and not playing county cricket, Guys are playing for Australia and not playing [Sheffield] Shield cricket. That just tells you how mentally draining it is. It’s something that we should stand up and pay attention to,” said Lara.
Meanwhile, the former West Indies skipper welcomed the appointment of hard-hitting batsman Kieron Pollard as captain but warned of a tough task ahead.
“It is a good decision [to appoint Pollard as captain], but it is still going to be an uphill battle. The West Indies are twice champions and a lot of opposition around the world are scared of the West Indies in the shortest format of the game. But he will have to build a team and these matches that are leading up to the World Cup, playing against India in India is always a tough proposition. He must leave from here not necessarily winning, but as a better team after this tournament,” Lara added.
Generally, cricketers enjoy playing golf. But how and why did the West Indies batting great Brian Lara start playing this sport? “We had a four-day game against [Curtly] Ambrose, I was playing for Trinidad against the Leeward Islands with Winston Benjamin, Ambrose, Kenneth Benjamin on a green track. The four-day game lasted two days, so I had two days to play golf,” Lara revealed.
“When you play a team sport all your life, to get out there and show some individualism in a sport where you play against nature, is a great release away from the pressures of a team sport. I found that it [golf] helped me a lot, just to move my attention away from the intensity of cricket,” he added.
Total number of runs scored by Brian Lara in 131 Tests
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