Cricket: The battle to bat with a legend: Glenn Moore on the impact Lara has made on his county colleagues

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The Independent Online
A MORE nervous man would be paranoid by now, but so far Roger Twose is undeterred by the knowledge that every time he bats, almost everyone in the ground is just waiting for his dismissal.

It is not that he bats like Geoff Boycott in a coma, it is that Warwickshire's No 3, padded up in the pavilion, is Brian Lara. 'I can understand it, but knowing Brian is next in is an extra motivation,' Twose said. 'Both me and Dominic Ostler (his regular opening partner) want to bat with him and whoever is out can't. We have a little personal battle over who will bat with Brian most. It is about even so far.'

Twose's comments reflect the feeling in the Warwickshire side. Dermot Reeve, the county captain, said: 'Players want to bat with him, to bat with a legend in the making.'

Lara has the status of a demi-god in his home country, Trinidad: he represents their London embassy at functions, has been awarded the nation's highest honour. .

In England, too, he has transcended the boundaries of sporting stardom and entered the public domain. He has posed for Madame Tussauds - only the third cricketer to do so after Viv Richards and Ian Botham. He has had a poem about him commissioned by BBC TV's On The Line, had his personal life featured in the tabloids and been made an honourary member of The Belfry.

With Lara on board, Warwickshire have attained their highest membership level of 8,200, gained unprecedented national publicity, and attracted enough fresh investment to cover his reported pounds 45,000 salary already.

Through it all he has remained quiet, pleasant and approachable. Yesterday, upon reaching his record, he took off his helmet and acknowledged the applause from each area of the ground in turn, as is his custom. Though suffering from the cold, and missing Trinidad - he is due to fly home for a short visit tomorrow - he has settled well, aided by the presence of his childhood friend, Dwight Yorke, the Aston Villa footballer. .

The attention Lara receives could cause envy in the dressing-room, but such is Lara's natural charm and ability that he has made no enemies at Edgbaston.

'He has had an immeasurable impact,' the coach, Bob Woolmer, said. 'He is just unbelievable. His presence has helped other players to score runs, he has taken the pressure off them.'

'He is a lovely guy,' Reeve said. 'He has a sense of humour, talks seriously about the game and contributes fully to team discussions.

'He is the best player I have ever seen; I have lost count of the hundreds he's made. I have never seen anybody in this sort of form. Occasionally someone will bat like this for a session or a day, but he is like it every time he goes to the wicket. He loves batting and prizes his wicket very highly.'

Frighteningly for bowlers, Lara is still working at his game. 'Weaknesses do crop up,' he has said. 'You have to keep working to correct something.'

How long can he keep it up? David Gower, speaking to the video magazine Cover Point, believes that 'as long as he is allowed to concentrate on his cricket then he will still succeed, I'm sure that is the case'.

Jonathan Barnett, his agent, said: 'We are turning down 80 per cent of the offers we receive. I doubt if any cricketer has ever had as much interest about him. We are turning down TV shows all the time from Frost to The Big Breakfast.'

In the pipeline are a book, two videos and a world tour that will include Nelson Mandela. Lara, although yet to attract a significant Afro- Caribbean audience to Edgbaston, has taken an interest in several black charities and community groups.

Lara admitted to feeling tired at the weekend, when he said: 'I am feeling the wear and tear. My legs are so tired. Cricket over here is such a hard game. You've got to concentrate all the while.'

Durham will be relieved to hear that. Just think how many he would have scored if he had not been tired.