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Lara believes West Indies finally have what it takes
Simon Evans | March 05, 2007 15:02 IST
"It is going to be very close and very competitive," Lara told reporters at the team's opening news conference on Sunday.
"It is very hard to say that there are one or two teams who will control the competition and win it. Things are very close between the Test-playing nations.
"Sure, Australia are the favourites but we have been to the finals of major competitions, we have the quality in our team and we are capable of getting to the final," he said.
West Indies won the opening two World Cups in 1975 and 1979 but have struggled in recent years, failing to replace their top class performers as they retired from the international stage.
But Lara, 37, who holds the record for the highest Test score, the highest first-class tally and has scored more Test runs than any player in history, believes the corner has been turned and better days lay ahead.
"Our cricket has been in decline for 10 years but it is there in front of us now and we have played good cricket in the last two years," he said.
Lara has been unable to translate his outstanding individual record into success for his team but, heading into what may be his last World Cup, he said there was no additional pressure.
"I don't think that 15 or 16 years of international experience is a burden -- this is a great opportunity to have a great tournament," he said, adding that success or failure was a collective matter.
"A World Cup belongs to the entire team. I don't think that a career should be judged on a World Cup," he said.
Lara described the hosting of the World Cup as a 'watershed' moment for West Indies cricket and team manager Clive Lloyd, 62, captain of the great teams of the late seventies, said success in the tournament would give the Caribbean game a much needed boost.
"It would give us a huge lift and young players would want to join a team that is called world champions ... it would give us a boost in our main aim which is getting more young people playing cricket," he said.
Lara's side have had plenty of fluctuations in form in the past two years and Lloyd said that finding consistency would be one of the key elements in achieving their aim of becoming the first host nation to win the World Cup.
"We would like to play smart cricket and consistency is very important. We can't be unpredictable. If we are consistent then we will do well," he said.
West Indies, who face Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland in their group, begin their warm-up phase against Kenya in Trelawny, Jamaica, on Monday.
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