Interview with Brian Lara
Using cricket to promote West Indies tourism
Former West Indian international cricket player, Brian Lara, generally regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time, talked with Johnson Johnrose of the Caribbean Tourism Organization at World Travel Market in London about why he is helping to promote travel and tourism for the West Indies.
JOHNSON JOHNROSE: Brian, I know it’s been a long couple days here at World Travel Market, keeping very, very busy promoting Trinidad and Tobago. We’ve spoken about that before, but what does it feel like to be here at World Travel Market promoting your country?
BRIAN LARA: Well, it is the biggest show that I come to, and obviously Trinidad and Tobago does need marketing in tourism. We are very much based on our oil and gas, and that’s been running our economy for some time. Diversification, I think, is important. We’ve got two islands – Trinidad and Tobago, and we’ve got beautiful people and a lot of events. And I would like to see a lot of people come to Trinidad. As someone who travels the world, either playing cricket or just on holiday, I know what it is like to be in someone else’s country, how to be received, and I believe that we, as a people, have that personality, we have that in us to welcome people to Trinidad and Tobago – great food, a great social life, Carnival is one of the best carnivals in the world, and a lot of different things happening, very multi-cultural as well, Trinidad and Tobago. So we celebrate things like Christmas, Duwali, Eid, and a lot of different people that come back and enjoy themselves. And I’d love to see that, I’d love to see a greater influx of tourists in Trinidad.
JOHNROSE: You say that like someone with so much passion, like you’ve been doing this tourism promotion thing for awhile.
LARA: No, no, no… it’s just I’ve been traveling a lot and considered a tourist in other people’s countries, and I know what it’s like, you know, going to India and experiencing it and how exotic and the aura of the place. Trinidad and its little 1.3 million people, there is so much vibe and so much to do there. I’ve taken a lot of people to Trinidad and Tobago, and they love it. I think they love interacting with the local people. You know, we have other islands that are very service oriented – that is something Trinidad and Tobago will have to try and improve on, but as a people, I will take you there tomorrow, and they will treat you like you are one of theirs, you know, you went to school with them, and that’s a very, very big asset that we have.
JOHNROSE: Are you doing that with your good friend from school days?
LARA: Not from school days, from football days… We are here along with Anya trying our best to promote our country. We know how beautiful our country is, and I’ve said it before – if I was a Jamaican or a Barbadian, and I played cricket in Trinidad, I’d want to go back to Trinidad, because I know what it’s like, and I do go to Barbados, I do appreciate Barbados, I do appreciate Jamaica, but Trinidad in itself has its uniqueness, and I love being there, I love going back home.
JOHNROSE: Permit me to ask you about something that’s always dear to your heart – West Indies cricket – the West Indies just lost today to India after quite an encourage start. Performance still quite uneven, isn’t it; is there still a way to go?
LARA: Yes, still a very long way to go. I would not have been surprised if we won this game, because I know what we are capable – sporadic, good sporadic performances – one here, one next year, but in terms of consistency, Trinidad West Indies lack that, and that is not something that you regain overnight. I think our infrastructure is terrible - administratively, we have got it wrong on many occasions. Our player-board relationship – that has gone wrong for many years, gone sour, and we need to improve these things, fix it, set a base, get the infrastructure in, and then think about five, ten years down the line. So it might be a dismal outlook, but if we keep just trying to put a plaster on every sore that we have, it’s not going to work. So I hope one day somebody’s going to take it up and really get things going.
JOHNROSE: What are the chances of doing recovering from this death match?
LARA: As I said, on any given day, I think we’ve got the best talented cricketers in the world. It’s always been the case over the years, since even before my days … Cricket has gone a long way now. Talent is only a very small part compared to 20, 30 years ago, when it was a major part – your physical fitness, your talent – that played a bigger role. Now [with] technology, there is a lot of things coming into play, and I say it all the time – we in the West Indies take very good talent and make it average, and people like Australia and England and India, take average talent, and make it very, very good, and that is where the problem lies.
JOHNROSE: What do you make of this scandal with the Pakistanis?
LARA: Unfortunate. Hopefully it can be a catalyst for total eradication of the problem, because this is a serious result for such a thing. Hopefully it is the last, as I said the catalyst to move to better things and to really clean up the game.
JOHNROSE: Nassa Hussein said he’s worried sometimes looking back that they might have played in some much level stakes…
LARA: Why are you worried about that? You play your game, you play to the best of your ability, and so be it. As long as your performance is above board, then that’s all that should matter. I’m not going to dive back into what I thought about this match or that match; it’s the fact that you play the way how you are supposed to play.