Mumbai: Brian Lara has seen and been part of some famous bowling lineups in his day and the West Indies legend reckoned that the current Indian bowling lineup reminded him of the best Caribbean attacks.
Jason Holder and Co recently lost 2-0 in the ICC Test Championship series against India at home. While Lara was disappointed with the result, he was all praise for the Indian Test team, the current world No 1.
“You are going to give India credit for the state in which their cricket is-at a very high point. The India outfit’s batting, bowling and fielding was exceptional. I thought their fast bowlers were sometimes unplayable,” Lara said at an event announcing the launch of the Road Safety World Series, a cricket league featuring retired legends of the game from five countries.
The 50-year-old reserved special praise for the Indian pace bowling unit, saying it reminded him of the deadly West Indian attacks of the past. This is no small thing, given Lara comes from the land of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. Lara admitted he was kind of shocked to see an Indian bowling unit so potent, and was eloquent in his approval.
“It’s unbelievable. I saw them in the West Indies. I felt that I didn’t know where it’s coming from. I must say [the Indian cricket] I was accustomed to in the past in the 1990s and the early part of the 21st century…this [team] is a little bit exceptional . This is pretty special.
“When you look at the quality..[Jasprit] Bumrah, [Mohammed] Shami, [Umesh] Yadav…all these guys, and the guys on the sidelines, like Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] are unbelievable. It reminds me a little bit of the strength that the West Indies had in the 1980s and 1990s. The reserve strength is very important in assessing a team’s ability. It means that your attack has quality,” the former Windies captain added.
Lara believed that Indian cricket is headed in a positive direction, with ‘ultimate captain’ Virat Kohli building on the foundation laid by MS Dhoni.
“In terms of his performances, he leads by example. And I mean that in all facets of the game, and off the field too. He is came off very well in the background of MS Dhoni, who laid the foundation, and did things in a different way. So, I think Indian cricket, as we all know, is headed in the right direction,” he asserted.
Another batter who was singled out by the West Indies legend was Rohit Sharma, whose recent transition to Test opener has brought instant results.
“I think that Rohit is an awesome player in all formats of the game. Obviously in the limited overs game, he’s been successful. I don’t see any reason why he should not be in Test cricket. It seems that he has the passion to play and wants to prove himself on that stage as well. To exclude a player like that (from the Test team) will be very difficult. With the talent that I see. So, hopefully, he’ll be successful. He’s a gifted batsman,” Lara said.
The 50-year-old also offered some interesting insight into what he thinks was the catalyst for the success of the current Indian team.
“I think it stems from the role models. Sachin will talk about Sunil Gavaskar being his role model. But if you look at all the players now, I feel that the team in the 90s, even though they weren’t amazingly successful, the likes of Sachin, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, and what they did and stood for... I mean it was a different sort of an Indian team coming in and moulding and trying to be successful all around the world.
“So the [present] team [is] now using those role models of the 90s, showing how good it is in various conditions around the world. The Indian team was maybe not the most respected team when they travelled [in the past]... But now, India are a force to reckon with anywhere they play. So, I believe that that stems from years of preparation, the role models that have come through,” he explained.
West Indies are not lacking in role models either. However the current team, which had beaten England in a Test series to start this year, have not has much success after including at the ODI World Cup. Lara has seen the rise and fall of many good teams in his 17 years as an international cricketer, including his own. Like anyone who has watched the West Indies team in their heyday, the batting great hopes that the Men in Maroon can revive their fortunes especially in the longer format.
“Whatever tournaments the West Indies would go in, they would never be the favourites at this point of time. However, we were never the favourites even in the two tournaments that we did win in the past. What we have is quality players in the shorter version of the game. [Shimron] Hetmyer and [Nicholas] Pooran are very good T20 players, so the talent in there. How we harness that talent is the most important part.
But as mercurial as the Caribbean unit’s performance in the shorter format is, Lara reckons there is a need for a system in place for Test cricket, starting with competitive domestic matches.
“The attrition level is something which the West Indies Cricket Board and management will have to see if they can solve. I think first if we’ve to improve, we’ve to get back to playing a good, competitive First-Class cricket in the Caribbean where the batsmen can spend time in the middle, and the bowlers can bowl long spells, and see if we can work from there,” Lara, the only batsman to score 400 runs in a Test innings, said.