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Ranatunga for opening of Lara Stadium

BRIAN LARA MEDIA CONFERENCE 11th May, 2017 This morning I woke up to the usual beautiful noise of the yellow winged parrots as they head on their daily routine in search of food. As that noise subsided my mind and heart returned to that other noise that has had me perplexed, disappointed not in anyone but myself. And, of course a little embarrassed. I believe it unnecessary for me to address the furore over the construction of the Tarouba facility and the integrity of the same because I am not in any way qualified to speak on such topics. We heard from professionals and I am satisfied. the What I can say though is that I visited the venue on many occasions and made suggestions which I have seen been implemented. This can be confirmed by the Project Managers on site. After 13 years the structure has been handed back to the government of the day and I was contacted to be involved in the opening ceremony and a date for it. January was talked about, then April and May. I suggested my birthday May 2nd, which with preliminary inquiry sat well with a number of international players including Sachin Tendulkar my very good friend. May 2nd was a Tuesday and it stood for a while as the date until I was asked to consider a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. First, I contacted Sachin and he was ok with the date but could only squeeze in one day on his busy schedule. The numbers decreased with the other players for various reasons, main one being Mother’s day and plans already made. Unfortunately after further inspection of his schedule Sachin messaged me to say he couldn’t come as his schedule was too tight and he wants to come and spend more time in Trinidad and Tobago. He said “let’s work on dates that he is free and he will be there.” I felt that proceedings were well on the way and with my schedule restrictions as well that it was best to stick to the date and arrange something with Sachin and other contemporaries of mine at a later date. Again yesterday as I wiped the sleep away and with the parrots overhead I heard on a morning show the likes of Adam Gilchrist and Wasim Akram will be here. That’s not true. These are the players that are coming. Arjuna Ranatunga who is a politician back in Sri Lanka and I am hoping the President doesntrestrict his movements last minute. He was also the World Cup winning captain in 1996. Herschelle Gibbs, a former South African batsman a very stylish player as well who hit six sixes in an over during the 2007 World Cup held in the Caribbean. He also played one of the greatest one day innings against Australia scoring 175 when chasing 434 runs these were unheard numbers back then and maybe still a world record. He also made me burn my lips on my cup of tea when I heard the news that he was on 228 and the first day of the test match wasn’t even over against Pakistan. Curtly Ambrose, just the best fast bowler I have played with and we all remembered England being demolished at the Queens Park Oval bowled out for 46. Once in Australia the Final test match and the series stood 1-all and Australia went to lunch on the first day of the test match comfortably at 80 odd for 2. I was worried especially playing at the Wacca, bounce and pace and huge cracks. Curtly came out after lunch and picked up 7 wickets for one run. I remembered best, our partnership at Kensington Oval to beat Australia in that famous test in 1999. I am coming up against him in this match not something I am looking forward to. Other names Courtney Browne, Ramnaresh Sarwan, brilliant hundred against the Australians in 2003 to win a test match with a world record 4th innings chase of 418 runs. Corey Collymore, T20 world cup winning opening batsmen Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher, Bermudan sensation…… Ricardo Powell and others. I am more interested in my team because the opposition looks good. Dwayne Bravo back from injury didn’t play in the IPL and this is his first game back. A number of our local stars are included Denesh Ramdin, Rayad Emrit, Kevon Cooper, Evin Lewis, Tion Webster and veterans Mervyn Dillon and Dinanath Ramnarine. I am truly looking forward to having a bat and a close up look at teenage sensation Kirstan Kallicharran. It has been 13 years since I got the call from the Office of the Prime Minister, walked down the hill and met with our late Prime Minister Patrick Manning on the occasion of my regaining the World Record scoring 400 runs. I was adamant that I wanted nothing on a personal level but something that would leave a legacy marking the achievement. This country has given me too much already, the love and support, the tangibles and intangibles I am truly grateful for and still am. I felt that young cricketers in the Caribbean needed better facilities and a place where they could advance their skills both sporting and academically in the right environment. Today we are on our way to completing that dream, that discussion. Cricket is a platform for statesmanship. I therefore humbly suggest we as a people can lift the bar. Not only for ourselves, but for our children and the greatness they can all aspire too! This is not only a dream, this is a possibility that can inspire us to be better. I dug deep and wondered what would make this facility different to other facilities in Trinidad and Tobago? What can make this facility a truly international facility to the envy of the world? What can make this facility self-sufficient and less dependent on government funds for upkeep and operational cost. It doesn’t belong to me but it bears my name like quite a few things. But this is maybe the most significant thing or piece of real estate and I want my legacy to speak about this in a positive way. Today I can safely say no one knows who I am, no one has asked the important questions to truly understand me and what woke me up on my darkest days to fight looking for that tiny ray of light to soldier on towards it. I felt through this Stadium/Academy I could express those things in a way you may not understand and appreciate today but our children, grandchildren and their children will understand in years to come.

Please allow me this opportunity to elaborate on what was once my vision. When I first met SIR GARRY SOBERS, I was a 14 yr old schoolboy on tour to Barbados with Fatima College. Schools from around the world would send a team to the SIR GARRY SOBERS School Boys Tournament every year during the summer holidays. Sir Gary tells this story to countless people and sometimes embarrassingly in my presence… and it went something like this, and I quote ” I think it was either Bryan or Charlie Davis who called me and said that I needed to go have a look at a youngster that will be playing in my tournament. So I went across and had a look and there was this kid who could hardly get the ball off the square but what I noticed was that he never played a bad shot. He would pick up his ones and twos and stay in the wicket for the entire day. I went across and introduced myself to him and I told him that I liked the way he played, don’t worry about not scoring boundaries they will come as you get bigger and stronger. He looked at me and said, are you Sir Sobers, are you Sir Sobers? I said yes and he said with no hesitation ‘I’m going to break your record’. From that day on I followed his career through youth cricket, regional cricket and then on to the West Indies team. I was there in Australia when he scored his first century and I was also there in Antigua when he broke my record and I couldn’t be happier because I felt he played the game the way it should be played, with flair and great entertainment for the viewing public’. On returning home I told my dad I had met the great SIR GARY SOBERS and he seemed more elated than I was on hearing the news. I could see in his now teary eyes the satisfaction he got with that news. It looked like he felt the years of sacrificing everything he had, all the resources he had for 11 children, giving this one that little extra so he could have a better chance than his older siblings had been afforded. BUNTY LARA took me everywhere there was cricket, I sat on his lap watching the village league that my older brothers were playing in. I ran off many times to play with kids my age and some older ones every time I had an opportunity to do so. At the age of six my sister Agnes saw in the daily newspaper an advertisement inviting kids age 6 to 16 to register for coaching at the Harvard Coaching Clinic on SERPINTINE ROAD in St Clair, Port of Spain. My dad took me there every Sunday morning during the cricket season for 10 years without fail, just so I could have that chance. I would return with wonderful stories about my day and my mother PEARL LARA would listen, then send me to shower, she fed me and then I was back out playing again. That was a daily routine for her and don’t forget she had another ten kids to make sure they were all alright. My dad never got to see me play for the West Indies, he died when I was on the doorstep of the team. I would never forget that day when the entire West Indies Cricket team came up to the village of Cantaro to pay respect to a man they knew nothing of other than the fact that he was the dad of their new team mate. JOEY CAREW became a father figure to me after my father’s passing and Viv Richards my captain. Clive Lloyd, the man responsible for the golden period in West Indies cricket as captain at the time, was now my manager and of course Sir Sobers remained my mentor. Those were tough times trying to adjust without my dad and trying to force my way into the West Indies team which was like trying to break into Fort Knox. That great team and their professionalism was something new to me. Their fierce attitude and desire for success was palpable and I knew I had to tread carefully as a youngster in the team. This was an unbelievable period in my life watching and learning from all those great cricketers. Sir VIVIAN RICARDS was tough but fair and his borderline arrogance was a joy to watch and be a part of whilst in the inner sanctum of this great team. He drove fear into the opposition with nothing else than his bat and his swagger. The chewing of the gum for me was suggestive, it depicted in my mind, this warrior going to battle willing to take on an entire army taking blows when and where ever they come but he knew in the back of his mind he will grind everything out of them and then he would pounce and inflict an assault with great devastation, causing the hearts of others in far off lands to shudder at what might happen to them if he was to turn his attention their way. These great players we all knew had to leave one day and whilst no one in the hierarchy of West Indies cricket paid attention the rest of the world waited. A few of us tried to hold the fort from being immediately overrun and the most admirable of them were Curtly and Courtney. CURTLY AMBROSE AND COURTNEY WALSH, two giants that had last quarter success with the West Indies team in the late 80s and early 90s. They soldiered on holding their heads and their performances high to give us some hope where there was no hope to be found. I found myself during this period of West Indies cricket in a very peculiar battle. One where panic and disarray set in, and the confidence of young players at its lowest, helped by constant reshuffling of the pack. There was no respite, I didn’t know where to look, motivation from within the camp was non-existent with everyone on edge. SACHIN TENDULKAR was the batsman I felt I had to measure up against and I used him as motivation to go out there and perform. We have an opportunity through this facility to show Caribbean unity. To express what cricket really means to us in this Atlantic Archipelago. The old adage ‘ “Cricket is the only unifying force in the Caribbean, ‘ that’s no longer true, maybe on paper, but the likes of Usain Bolt, Reggae Boys, Soca Warriors, Carnivals, soca, reggae and calypso have done more to bring love and unity and they have made us proud to be West Indians once again. Today I feel not to honor these iconic figures but to use them once more not for my benefit but for the benefit of all young cricketers worldwide. For parents who may not understand the part they have to play in their young ones life. For those who have done great things but yet are unwilling to share their experiences with others for them to learn what it takes to succeed on their chosen path. For young sportsmen to understand how to play fierce but fair and to accept all eventualities, all outcomes and be it success or failure, treat them both the same, with humility and compassion for all that participated. I urge you not to see this as a Trinidad and Tobago facility but as us Trinidad and Tobagonians leading the field in embracing what sport is all about especially cricket. Inclusive and not exclusive, a home for unity and not division. This evening I await the noise of the Orange winged parrots not sure what sort of day they had but I look up way pass them and say thank you for this moment to whom everything belongs .

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