If 1994 was the year of Brian Lara, 1995 could be the year of . . . well, probably Brian Lara.
The Trinidadian will find the surroundings comfortably familiar after his extraordinary first summer in Championship cricket. This does not augur well for England's chances of success against Test opponents who last lost here in 1969, when the home side was captained by a certain Raymond Illingworth.
Having feasted on English bowlers to the tune of more than 2,000 Championship runs - hard on the heels of the record-shattering torment to which he had subjected them in the Caribbean - Lara could hardly be better prepared for the six-Test Cornhill Insurance series, which starts at Headingley on 8 June and ends at The Oval in the last week of August. Preceded by three Texaco one-day internationals, the series represents a mouth-watering prospect in a summer which may also illustrate the extent to which Warwickshire's treble was a consequence of Lara's arrival.
In theory, given that the West Indies are rebuilding, England should be capable of maintaining at least their self-respect. Moreover, after two Tests in New Zealand and a four-game home series against Australia, the West Indies may arrive somewhat weary.
Then again, no one has beaten the West Indies in any Test series since 1980 and the record will not be surrendered without a mighty battle, as was illustrated in Chandigarh earlier this month when a determined Courtney Walsh led a substantially under-strength team - lacking Richie Richardson, Desmond Haynes, Winston Benjamin and Curtly Ambrose - to a series-saving victory over India. What is more, any temptation to be optimistic can be set against the certain knowledge that, even in the most promising circumstances, England cricket teams usually find at least one way of shooting themselves in the foot, if not several. …