|Event:||ICC World Cup 2006/07|
DateLine: 20th April 2007
Former greats on Friday paid glowing tributes to retiring batting genius Brian Lara, saying he leaves behind a great legacy.
But the praise was tinged with regret over his failures as captain of a declining team.
The record-setting left-hander announced he would retire from international cricket after his team's last World Cup match against England here on Saturday, bringing to an end a 17-year stay on the frontline which has had its fair share of ups and downs.
"I am bidding farwell to international cricket," said Lara on Thursday, ending speculation he was about to be replaced as captain for next month's tour of England, a trip for which he may not have even been selected as a player.
Former bowling great Wes Hall was surprised over Lara's sudden decision despite the 37-year-old having already announced he would retire from one-day cricket after the World Cup but would continue to play Tests.
"I am lost for words, it's unexpected," said Hall.
"He was a great servant to West Indies cricket. His legacy is fantastic, a great batsman, 400 in a Test, 501 in first-class cricket, I mean it's a big legacy," added Hall, also an ex-president of the West Indies Cricket Board.
Trinidadian Lara holds the world records for Test and first class scores.
He smashed an unbeaten 400 against England in the Antigua Test in 2004 and an unbeaten 501 for Warwickshire against Durham in the English county championship in 1994.
He is the highest scorer in Tests with 11,953 runs in 131 matches with 34 centuries and the fifth-highest in one-dayers with 10,387 in 298 games.
Hall's new-ball partner Charlie Griffith agreed Lara was a genius.
"He leaves behind a strong legacy and a lot of players will have to work really hard to fill his shoes," said Griffith.
Ramnaresh Sarwan, tipped to take over as new West Indies captain, praised Lara's mental strength.
"Lara is a very strong man. He has come under a lot of scrutiny but his mental strength stands out," said Sarwan, who has been Lara's deputy since 2003.
But despite acclaiming his stature, some of his most vociferous critics accused Lara of prolonging his career.
"Lara stayed on for longer than he should have, and now it's time to thank him and look forward," said former fast bowler Michael Holding.
"He had a great career, but of course, a lot of times his captaincy was questioned."
Holding's team-mate Joel Garner agreed Lara's leadership left a lot to be desired.
Lara's only meaningful piece of silverware as national skipper came with the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy.
"It is his decision (to retire) and I can't say it's wrong. A captain can only be judged by his success record and that's not good in his case. Now we have to take drastic steps to carry West Indies cricket forward," said Garner.
Former opener and a team-mate of Lara, Philo Wallace said Lara's retirement was a great loss.
"It is a big loss to world cricket and one that will be hard to overcome," said Wallace.
(Article: Copyright © 2007 AFP)