Match-fixing and similar deals are still hogging the sports pages but last week one little chap in the Caribbean ensured that he got his share of the headlines. Brian Lara first let it be known that he would not be going to England with the West Indies; there was talk that he would probably retire from the game. Then a day later, he made himself available.
Why go through all this? Was it because of an ailing mother that Lara pulled out? Or was it something more in keeping with his character? It would appear that what drove him was not exactly a noble sentiment.
The drama played out last week was because the selectors apparently asked Lara to captain the A team against Pakistan, seeing this as the first opportunity for him to get back into the game. Irked by this, Lara refused -- how can a premier batsman like him be expected to captain the A team? -- and then sent a letter to the board telling them that his exile from the game would continue.
And he probably reckoned that this kind of threat would also put pressure on Pat Rousseau who was being challenged for the post of board chief in the West Indies board elections. Ranged against him was Trinidad's Alloy Lequay, who made Lara's pullout an election issue. Unfortunately, Rousseau, who has taken a strict line with Lara, has been re-elected. Lara was later convinced by a close friend, Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke, to make himself available.
All of which goes to show that counselling or no counselling, the man they call the prince of Trinidad is still very much the same. He has not changed an iota. He has an agenda every time he does something. The world still revolves around him. His batting is sublime but many other things about him very definitely are not.
Notice that every report about the team which has played against Zimbabwe and Pakistan - the post Lara-as-captain era - speaks about a new fighting spirit and a sense of unity. Jimmy Adams may not be the flashiest of batsmen but he has a sense of purpose and a great deal of pride in being part of the West Indies team. He has shown that he can be a good leader of men. Adams is one of those rare cricketers who is extremely well educated and one of those who does not need to play the game to maintain his lifestyle. He has a couple of attributes which many cricketers lack -- intelligence and humility.
Adams has made it clear that Lara will be made welcome. That is characteristic of his magnanimity. And I, for one, hope that Lara does his job -- scoring prolifically -- and leaves the captain's job to Adams. The West Indies have displayed a sense of purpose after Lara quit the captaincy and went into exile. They have fought hard and well; that famous win against Zimbabwe when they bowled the African nation out for 63 is recent enough to remain in the memory. Lara has chosen to return but he should try to remember that the whole is greater than the parts.
Lara would not have been out of place in the theatre -- and not as a member of the audience. He is an extremely good actor, one who knows how to make an entrance. He has a sense of the dramatic. No doubt he is a great batsman; after watching his performance in the Caribbean last year, I would put him on par with Sobers or Richards as far as talent goes. But he lacks maturity. His reactions are still petulant and childish.
The late Malcolm Marshall, one of many talented players in a team which had no lack of talent, is on record as attributing the success of that generation of West Indies teams to one thing: no player was greater than the team. And as if to emphasise this, he said: "Not even Viv," acknowledgement that Richards was head and shoulders above the rest. But even a man like Richards -- and there has been no better or more destructive batsman in the last quarter of this century -- always put the team first. That, in essence, is the difference between people like Sobers -- the best player to emerge in the third quarter of the century -- and Richards on the one hand and Lara on the other. History will judge Lara by his contribution to the team and that will not be measured in terms of statistics alone.