One of world cricket’s greatest players is returning to New Zealand to wield his bat for perhaps one last time on these shores.
West Indies legend Brian Lara has been secured to play for Team Rugby in the annual Black Clash event, at Tauranga’s Bay Oval in January.
“I’ll be fit and ready — don’t worry about that,” the 54-year-old told Newstalk ZB’s D’Arcy Waldegrave. “I am very, very competitive, have always been very competitive and I am not going to be coming short of practice when I get to New Zealand.”
Among many records in a glittering career, Lara holds the highest score in any test-match innings — 400 not out, against England in Antigua in 2004. He finished his test career in 2006 with a batting average just shy of 53. In 131 tests, he scored 34 centuries and 48 half-centuries. He also holds the record for the highest first-class score, 501 not out, for Warwickshire.
Lara has played in New Zealand before and knows a lot of former Black Caps, but playing for Team Rugby means he’ll be lining up with members of another sporting code. Kieran Read will captain Lara and Team Rugby; Dan Vettori will lead Team Cricket.
“I love New Zealand and I have been a fan of the All Blacks and New Zealand’s rugby prowess for many years,” Lara said.
“To be a part of this T20 Black Clash, which I heard a lot about from my mate Stephen Fleming, is a great honour. It’s not every day you get the opportunity to take the field alongside so many great All Blacks. I truly look forward to this experience.”
Lara told Waldegrave that New Zealand held a “special place” in his heart.
“I played a lot of wonderful cricket there and, to get back there at any point in time ... it’s always a special occasion. New Zealand is a place that you can easily get me back to.”
He says the event will be wonderful, not just for the two sporting codes and the crowd, but for New Zealand tourism generally.
“All sportsmen or former sports personalities like to get back out there at some point in time and show what they’ve still got. So for me, it’s a wonderful opportunity and a great idea.”
While cricket still has him seeing the world with the likes of television commentary, he lives in Trinidad and Tobago where life is stress-free. “I don’t give myself too much stressful stuff to do. I’m pretty much enjoying my day-to-day activities. Golf tomorrow ... why not?”
While Lara’s career was focused on test and one-day cricket, he is a huge fan of the T20 format.
“The time that T20 came in, I think cricket was sort of losing its spunk and I felt that it came in at the exact time.
“Obviously, as someone who spent the majority of my career playing test cricket and 50-overs cricket, I immediately realised how important this was. I’m totally for it and I think it’s been a great addition.”
The launch of T20 has also helped cricketers become more aggressive in other formats and Lara thinks his test record score of 400 might be under threat.
“Now you’ve got a young man like Harry Brook from England playing all forms of the game, expressing himself the way he does in the test arena. You never know. I think actually, it’s creating more possibilities that it can happen.”
Asked by Waldegrave for any advice for youngsters, Lara said the most important thing was to “dream big”.
“One thing that I did as a young man was dream big and believe in myself [in] whatever form of the game that you want to play and whatever style you choose to play.
“I think it’s important that you have that belief, you’re committed and dream big, never believe that something is too small.
“I feel also enjoying the game as a youngster is important and playing different sports to understand and get the discipline in other sports is also very much recommended.”
The Black Clash is returning for its sixth edition. Team Cricket holds a 3-2 lead over the years of the event after notching an eight-run win earlier this year.
Event director Carlena Limmer said: “If there was one player in world cricket we would choose to bring in for this match it would be Brian Lara. Anyone who saw him bat knows why. He is one of greatest of all time — and possibly still the greatest living cricketer on the planet.”
- The Hot Springs Spa Black Clash in association with Wolfbrook, January 20 at Tauranga’s Bay Oval. Register here (blackclash.co.nz) for access to the pre-sale for tickets at first-release prices.