Lara bullish about chances
Brian Lara reckons ICC Champions Trophy holders West Indies would be comfortable to be tagged among the favourites for the World Cup.
Although West Indies, who defend their crown against Australia at the Brabourne Stadium on Sunday, came into this current tournament ranked eighth in the one-day standings and needing to go through qualifying, they have belied their standing.
With only four months to go until teams arrive in the Caribbean, the World Cup hosts appear to be peaking at the right time.
Their comfortable six-wicket victory over South Africa in yesterday’s second semi-final was the latest in a string of impressive results, including success over Australia in Mumbai earlier in the tournament.
“A lot of teams have said we are very unpredictable and maybe that is a fact,” said Lara.
“But the fact is then they are not going to take us easy. We have played very good cricket, we have beaten Australia on a couple of occasions recently and I don’t think anything is going to be different in the Caribbean.
“I am almost sure the likes of South Africa, India and Pakistan - whoever we play against - know what we are capable of.
“I don’t mind whatever tag they place on us, we have still to go out there and execute, we still have to play better than the other team on the day.”
The maturity with which West Indies’ younger players have assessed the different conditions here has been the most impressive aspect of their performances.
There was no better example, in fact, than the 10-run win over Ricky Ponting’s Australians in their first Group A contest.
Now, with Australia moving through the gears, Lara is anticipating an even stiffer contest in the day-night showpiece.
“We are looking forward to the challenge and will back ourselves,” said Lara.
“Australia, of course, have gained some momentum since they lost to us in the first match. I am sure they are very, very buoyed and confident of their chances on Sunday.
“I think we have to go back to the drawing board again, work on a few things and realise that we are going to play a completely different opposition to the one we played against.
“In that first game in Mumbai, Australia were playing their first match on that pitch and so we had a sort of an advantage.”
In Chris Gayle, West Indies have the form batsman of the tournament: his 437 runs in seven knocks, including three centuries.
Like his team the 27-year-old is blossoming after years of unfulfilled promise and Lara reckons he is the kind of character to crave centre stage in the final.
“We have certain requirements of the opening batsmen and they have to fulfil those requirements,” said Lara.
“Chris has done that on a few occasions in this tournament and I am almost sure that he does not want to leave the centre stage to anyone come the final. He will be eager to go out there and replicate what he did in Jaipur.
“Chris Gayle has always been a top player - with the bat, with the ball and in the field. “He is very chirpy as well, and he has a great influence on the guys, which is tremendous.
“He might seem a bit comical on occasions, but he takes his cricket very seriously. In the practice sessions, his preparation is great and he is reaping the rewards right now.