West Indian legends Brian Lara and Sir Viv Richards to mentor at UAE T20x

David Cooper 14/10/2018
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Heading to the UAE: Brian Lara

Former West Indian batsmen Sir Viv Richards and Brian Lara will serve as mentors for the UAE T20x – the country’s first ever international cricket league.

These two notable names join a stellar list which includes Courtney Walsh, Ricardo Powell, Phil Simmons and Vasbert Drakes, who have all signed up as coaches.

The five franchises will be eyeing these iconic personalities and will seek to pick these superstars in the draft, which is scheduled to take place in November. The star-studded coach and mentor pool, now consists of close to 180 accomplished career coaches and former cricketers from 16 nations.

For Lara, he is looking forward to pass on his extensive knowledge in the inaugural competition which will take place from December 19 to January 11.

“It is extremely heart-warming to see so many experienced coaches vying to be a part of the league, with an incredible representation from the West Indies,” said Lara.

“We have some highly respected, celebrated figures all looking to share their experience with up and coming international talent. This certainly demonstrates the attractiveness of the league as they continue to rope in some of the biggest names in the sport.”

 West-Indian T20 specialist, Andre Russell was earlier announced as an icon player of the league alongside David Miller, Eoin Morgan, Shahid Afridi, Kumar Sangakkara and global ambassador AB de Villiers.

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Brian Lara interview: Virat Kohli and Co have raised the batting bar from my era

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Flashback: Brian Lara celebrates after scoring 400 not out against England in 2004.

Virat Kohli is not only leading his era with the bat and inspiring the next generation of batsmen, he has left a genius from yesteryear in awe of his talents.

The India superstar, along with recently-retired South African great AB de Villiers, are two men Brian Lara – the man considered the most naturally gifted and attacking batter of his time – has loved watching above anyone else in the modern game.

Kohli, in particular, continues to raise the bar in all formats of cricket and is seemingly stretching the laws of physics when it comes to holding a bat in his hands – just like elegant left-hander Lara did when in full flight during his stellar career throughout the 1990s and early to mid 2000s, even though he played in a below-par West Indies side.

Remarkably, it is 14 years ago since the Trinidad-born star plundered a world-record individual Test score of 400 not out against England at St John’s in Antigua. The now 49-year-old’s feat still stands and that he is revered as one of the very best when he played at the same time as the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh and Jacques Kallis speaks volumes of his status.

The West Indian accumulated 22,358 international runs from 430 matches in Tests and one-day internationals, which places him seventh in the all-time standings. Let’s not forget Lara wasn’t playing when Twenty20 cricket became a fixture. Kohli’s current haul of 18,167 runs from just 345 international outings in total has arrived staggeringly quickly, but the India captain has had more opportunities.

Lara is typically modest when looking back at his own career and achievements, but believes today’s crop have elevated the game to a new level he hadn’t even dreamed about reaching at the crease.

“These sort of players (Kohli and De Villiers – who scored 20,014 international runs from 420 matches) that are around today, they have amazing ability and can do things with the bat that we weren’t even thinking about back in the day,” Lara told Sport360 during his appearance as guest of honour at the inauguration of the GEMS Heritage Cricket Academy, a world-class facility and technology-driven initiative at GEMS Heritage Indian School in Dubai, in partnership with ESM.

“You’ve just got to appreciate (what we’re seeing from the best players now),” he added. “They’re bringing the sponsors and people through the gates, and the level of the game has kept on rising.

“A lot of people say that the level of the game has dropped (because of too much cricket and meaningless series) but I believe it has maintained the standard and gone even higher. To see better cricketers on show is just amazing and that has been the trend,” Lara said.

India's captain Virat Kohli bats during the second day of the fourth Test cricket match between England and India at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, southwest England on August 31, 2018. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO ASSOCIATION WITH DIRECT COMPETITOR OF SPONSOR, PARTNER, OR SUPPLIER OF THE ECB (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Class act: Virat Kohli proved himself in English conditions last August and September.

He went on to say: “I actually believe there are greater opportunities now for batsmen to go past all the records that are standing because the way they are now batting. They are versatile and good enough to play all formats.

“I don’t believe that players aren’t occupying the crease for long enough, I think there is great evidence that the attacking players are scoring big. Overall, it’s going to benefit Test cricket with bigger totals, faster results and players wanting to get going early. That’s what people want to see, it’s still a spectacle, you have to entertain people that watch it.”

So, would ‘The Prince’ have traded his 17-year international career for a chance to play now, and potentially, with his status, cash in the world-over in many T20 domestic leagues?

No, not a chance.

“It’s nothing to do with the best time (of playing in), it was my time,” he says passionately. “People ask me similar questions: ‘Would you have liked to have played in the West Indies teams of the 1970s and 1980s when they were the best?’.

“My period with West Indies cricket wasn’t as successful as before but I loved my career and being part of the West Indies for all those years, the history of their cricket.

“It was the most amazing thing for me and I appreciated the period I played in, you don’t compare it to any other period. The camaraderie, the players I played with and against, is something I’ll take to my grave.”

When asked to recall his career highlights, the iconic batsman steered clear of personal milestones.

“The victory in the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy final against England at The Oval was awesome, and then when we were a young and inexperienced team chasing 418 to win in the 2003 Test match against Australia in Antigua. They are two moments that definitely stand out and I was very proud to captain those teams.”

LONDON - SEPTEMBER 25: Brian Lara and the West Indies team celebrate winning the Final of the ICC Champions Trophy between England and West Indies, on September 25, 2004 at the Oval in London. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Memorable win: Brian Lara and team-mates bask in Champions Trophy success.

Aside from rising batting totals, Lara is positive about the future of Test cricket, especially now given the advent of the new ICC World Test Championship. The competition begins in July 2019 and finishes with a scheduled final, likely to be at Lord’s in June 2021, seeing nine out of the 12 Test nations play each other during the intervening two-year cycle in what will follow a home-and-away league structure.

It is something Lara – a man who played 131 Tests and of whom only six men scored more Test runs than his haul (11,953) – is supportive of.

“It should’ve been introduced a long time ago so we don’t have these mundane Test series, but important Test series, like; England v Australia, India v Pakistan and West Indies v England. Hopefully the changes will help to give Test cricket an extra dimension and can promote the game to even bigger audiences.”

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India v West Indies Live: End is nigh for the tourists

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Action resumed on day three with India looking to pile on more runs after reaching stumps 308-4 in the second Test against West Indies in Hyderabad.

Wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant (80) and middle-order bat Ajinkya Rahane (92) were closing on tons before they were bowled out early on day three.

West Indies were just 56 runs behind before their second dig but faced an uphill battle almost immediately after Kraigg Brathwaite and Kieran Powell both fell.

Umesh Yadav continued his onslaught, including clean bowling Roston Chase and Shane Dowrich, and it looked like curtains for the Windies when Ravindra Jadeja sent captain Jason Holder back to the pavilion.

With Windies all out for 127, India required just 72 runs to hunt down their second Test victory of the series.

Catch all the live updates from the match below.

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