Johannesburg: Brian Lara has pledged to make up for lost time at the World Cup starting with the opening match against the hosts South Africa in Cape Town on Sunday and put behind him the last few miserable months when his place in the tournament had been put in jeopardy by a bout of hepatitis. The majestic 32-year-old left-hander will be playing in his fourth World Cup and is keen to erase the disappointment of the last tournament in England in 1999 when he captained a team, which failed to get beyond the first round.
It was also a disaster for his own form. In five innings, his highest score was 36 - a miserable return for a man who holds the world records for Test and first class scores, 375 and 501. However, only a fool would write Lara off. His One-day International record boasts 7,549 runs with an average of 42.64 as well as 15 centuries and 48 half-centuries. Lara believes he is fully-fit to resume battle after being laid low with hepatitis after the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka last year which ruled him out of the tours to India and Bangladesh.
"I'm feeling well at present and I think we have a very good chance at the World Cup," he said. "I think our performances in India and Bangladesh (where both One-day series were won) proves the youngsters are coming through and a good team performance is necessary in the World Cup. "I am medically fit and ready to go out there in the middle. We have a good team and can bring home the trophy," said Lara who has beaten off calls for him to be dropped from the team. The run-king will also go into the tournament, where the Windies will be looking to win its third World Cup after triumphs in 1975 and 1979, also with a clear slate after being cleared of any suspicion of match-fixing last year. Furthermore, he wants to remind the world that he is still a player for the big occasion.
He may have had a poor 1999 tournament, but he was instrumental in taking the West Indies to the semi-finals in 1996 despite having suffered a humiliating defeat to Kenya in the group stages. In the quarter-finals, he hit 111 off 94 balls as the West Indies defeated the heavily favoured South Africans - the same opponents it faces when then 2003 event gets underway in Cape Town on Sunday.