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Lara's woes

FOUR years ago, he was in the news for scoring century after century. Brian Charles Lara is today down, so down that even the old adage that everything which goes up must come down does not account for his being laid low in this manner.

Lara was given the captaincy of Warwickshire this year in the hopes that the county would be able to gain at least a share of the glory which it did in 1994 when it won three of the four county titles up for grabs. But what has happened has been far from expectations.

Lara has got just one three-figure innings all season. Warwickshire has done nothing of note in any of the competitions and most recently was humiliated in the quarter-finals of the 60-over NatWest Trophy one-day tournament.

Warwickshire, last season's beaten finalists, staggered to 36 for seven against Leicestershire and was dismissed for just 98. Left-arm paceman Alan Mullally, called into England's 13 last week for the fourth Test against South Africa but who did not play, took five for 18 including the wicket of Lara whose miserable season continued when he was caught at the wicket for 14. Leicestershire knocked off the runs for the loss of two wickets, Lara's fellow-Trinidadian Phil Simmons rubbing it in by making the winning hit.

What ails Lara? Apart from the horrific form slump, he has not been the best of captains either. There was one case where he opened the bowling himself (and went for 30-odd runs in two overs) and another where he forfeited his team's second innings in the hope of achieving a result. Both went against Warwickshire.

It may be recalled that this is not the first time that Lara has resorted to questionable tactics. Bowling Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in one-over spells and using two others to open the bowling when Ambrose and Walsh were perfectly fit are things he did during the series against England earlier this year, his first as captain.

Some observers say Lara often indulges in tactics that would ensure he is different in his modus operandi as captain. Others are more dismissive, saying that he is merely trying to be noticed, claiming that he always tried to keep himself in the limelight even before he became captain. Humility, say these folk, is not one of Lara's traits.

The slump comes at a time when Lara's form seemed to be looking up. He had performed adequately in the series against England though he was unable to get to three figures as often as in the past. However, some of his knocks were reminiscent of the best he has played so far.

Lara is good enough to come out of his slump with some telling scores, in even more impressive manner than Greg Chappell ended his run of low scores. No matter how he does it, West Indies supporters will be hoping that he gets his act together by November if not earlier. The tour that begins that month means a lot to the West Indies.