IT'S almost as difficult to catch Brian Lara in as it is to get him out. I stalked him for a one-on-one interview for seven frustrating days last year. Afterwards, I was as weary as any bowler who has tried to prise Lara from the crease. Lara's agent provided the telephone number in the Warwickshire cricket office and the exact time when the Trinidadian would be at the other end ready to strike a few bon mots my way. But Lara proved as elusive as the Pimpernel when the sun goes in. 'Sorry, Brian's preparing to bat'; 'Sorry, Brian's batting'; 'Sorry, Brian's still batting' and 'Brian's out but he's gone to the nets, sorry' went the litany of excuses from a Warwickshire staffer. With his agent declining to furnish Lara's home number - 'He does not want to be bothered while he's relaxing' - the only solution was to fax over a list of questions in the hope that they would elicit some response. Sure enough, Lara found time to scribble some answers and they gave a few clues to his personality. Self-effacing is probably the best way to describe the cricketer who holds the world record for the highest Test innings (375) and the highest first class score (501 not out). 'I am just honoured to be up there with the likes of [Don] Bradman and [Gary] Sobers,' was typical of Lara's comments. 'I will not consider myself to be an established batsman until I have scored runs consistently at Test level on different wickets all around the world.' Twenty months down the track and Lara has changed his tune somewhat. 'My life is being ruined by cricket,' he is reported to have said before telling Warwickshire he would not be playing for them next season and the West Indies that no way would he be going on the (current) tour of Australia. So, what the hell went wrong? What made the 26-year-old Lara throw a wobbly and threaten to retire rather than chase his dream of 'scoring runs at Test level on different wickets'? Well, Lara did not relish being public property - how many other sports journalists received his telephone number at Warwickshire? - and the strain began to tell in his dealings with his West Indian colleagues. Lara is a pretty upright fellow and he was outraged by the swearing and general fooling about of some of his peers during the tour of England this year. He complained to the management and his keen sense of justice was knocked for six when he was fined 10 per cent of his tour fee for 'misconduct'. Presumably, the West Indies Cricket Board don't like snitches but it was not all that clever to punish their star batsman when all he had done was criticise the actions of others. The Board have come to their senses and won't take any action against Lara for pulling out of the trip Down Under. But the big question in cricket circles is whether the left-hander will front for the Windies in next year's World Cup. Well, it's a safe bet that Lara has been fielding calls from go-betweens Viv Richards and Sobers as he lounges in his hammock nursing a Red Stripe. Although it will be difficult for him to swallow his pride and pad up again with several players he has little respect for, Richards will have reminded Lara that it would be sinful to waste such a huge talent. And that piece of spiritual guidance will probably do the trick.