Pretoria - Aspiring sportsmen and women need to have big dreams and find themselves role models to achieve success, says West Indian cricket legend Brian Lara.
Lara was speaking at the official opening of the Hammanskraal Cricket Oval, outside Pretoria, where he unveiled a plaque and spent time in the nets with a group of children ranging from 8-15 years old.
"You have to dig deep into your hearts and minds and know exactly what you want," he said.
"Some people will be better than you, and you will be better than some of them, but skills end up being secondary. You need to have a dream and live that dream."
Lara said he could still remember when he was that age and stood in front of the mirror and practiced his stance.
"You need heroes and role models and must love the art of cricket if you want to play at a high level.
"You also have to learn to take the good with the bad and when you fail, use that opportunity to dig deep and analyse what you did wrong, then come back even stronger."
Born in Trinidad and the second youngest of 11 children, Lara said his father always made time to watch him play and encouraged him. His first role model was cricketer Roy Fredericks, but as he grew older he equally admired Viv Richards for his aggressive style, Gordon Greenidge for his technique and Desmond Haynes for his resilience.
"Fredericks was an opening bat and left-hander like myself, but I tried to inculcate all of them into my style. I wanted a piece of everybody in my game."
Lara holds the record for both the highest individual Test score. His 400 not out against England in 2004 came 10 years after he had first set the world record of 375 against the same team, at the same ground in Antigua.
His 501 not out for Warwickshire in 1994 remains the highest individual score in first-class cricket.
The hardest part of being successful was staying at the top of your game, he said.
"When you're at the top of the tree, you have to work harder. You have to do more than everybody else because the opposition comes at you even stronger."
Having retired in 2007, Lara, now 45, enjoys playing golf and spends a lot of his time doing charity work and raising money for his cancer treatment foundation in Trinidad.
He said he had no regrets about missing out on the era of T20 cricket and the money which can be earned in the shorter format of the game.
"I don't mind it at all. I treasure my memories - my 131 Tests were my pride and joy. Test cricket is a tough contest for any sportsman and I appreciate my era of cricket.
"But I do think T20 is great for the game and the franchise system works well. That's what soccer, basketball and other sports are all about -- if you look at Manchester United or Chelsea it is the same principle. It has taken the power away from the board room and given more power to the players."
Lara held strong views on the state of cricket in the West Indies and the lack of infrastructure and development, but felt there was hope for the future.
"It is not possible to get back to the glory days of the 70s and 80s because those were the days when natural skill was the order of the day and we had a lot of great talent.
"But I do believe we can be competitive again. Maybe not in the next five years but sometime in the future, however, the infrastructure needs to change and a lot of work needs to be done at grassroots level."