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CARIBBEAN - cricket -Brian Lara
Lara: I'm there for youngsters
"The youngsters have the ability but, at the international level, it's going to take more than ability," Test cricket's highest scorer and oldest contemporary player said after West Indies' tour of New Zealand ended with the abandonment of the rain-ruined third and final Test yesterday.
"The mental strength is important and that is really where I feel I come in as an experienced player, someone who has played in a winning team and now plays in a team that's not doing too well," Lara explained.
"The mental side of the team needs to be a lot stronger," he added. "The mental side of every individual needs to be a lot stronger and that is where they are going to benefit."
The five players under 25 on the New Zealand tour – Dwayne Bravo, Fidel Edwards, Denesh Ramdin, Dwayne Smith and Jerome Taylor – have 63 Tests and 93 ODIs between them. All have been less than three years in the international game.
"These are the young guys we're banking on and the more experience they get at this level, the better it will be for us," Lara said.
But he pointed out that it was not an ideal scenario for them to have to virtually learn the game at the highest level.
"Ten or 15 years ago, that wasn't the situation (with the West Indies)," he said. "It's not the situation at present with the best team in the world (Australia) which has guys like Mike Hussey and (Brad) Hodge who played numerous first-class games before getting onto the international scene."
Lara noted that the "potential is there" among the young West Indians and was confident that most "belong here or will eventually belong on this stage".
He was even enthused by fast bowler Taylor's brief appearance in the series, restricted to nine overs in the first Test before he strained his left hamstring.
"Just to see him bowl a few overs in Auckland and you know the guy's got something to him," he said.
Taylor and Edwards were both picked in the Test team when Lara was captain in the 2003 home series against Sri Lanka. Taylor was 18 and in his first season of first-class cricket, Edwards 21 with a solitary first-class match to his name.
Both have been stricken by injuries. Edwards has had 23 Tests in the intervening three years, Taylor just four.
Lara endured a sequence of low scores in the first two Tests, a disappointment for the cricketing public here on what he confirmed was the last of his three tours of New Zealand.
Although he signed off with an innings of 83 in the rain-ruined final Test, following scores of 5, 0, 1 and 1, he was more concerned with the team's 2-0 loss in the series.
"Personally, things didn't work out but I've been through these series before and I've said that it doesn't matter what I score, to come out with a series win is the most important thing," he said. "To falter in both departments is not a great feeling."
He cited the damaging effect of the manner of the defeat in the first Test as leading to the resounding loss in the second.
"Auckland (first Test) was definitely a big blow," he said. "We were in the game all the way. We played good cricket. We matched then stride for stride and, in the last furlong, you would say we were two lengths clear at 140-odd without loss."
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