HomeCricketRecounting the Brian Lara enigma as 'The Prince' turns...

Recounting the Brian Lara enigma as ‘The Prince’ turns 49

- Advertisement -

What made Brian Lara special wasn’t only the eye-pleasing and hugely arresting batting style. It was a pure feel for the game. It was an instinct for domination and above all- the desire to change the narrative of the competition. No sooner than he arrived in the contest did he begin clipping his opponents. Lara’s arrivals were hugely anticipated and his presence in the middle was hugely feared.

Taming Australia

In the pre-1992 era, there were talks about a young bloke from Trinidad who had held onto his own against an attack featuring Ambrose and Marshall back in the Caribbean. But when Brian toured Australia, bowlers’ worst nightmares were realized.  In the context of all Brian Lara records- whether one speaks of the unbeaten 153 or the milestone 375 or the quadruple hundred of 400* or even the sport’s only quintuple hundred, that 501 for Warwickshire against Durham- if there’s a hugely undermined Lara knock then it was the 277 in Australia. You have to recollect, which other batsmen to this day, began his Test career in such lavish manner?
In times where cricketers exhibit a fondness for luxury engaging in expansive four-by-fours or buying off Luxury Yachts, Lara reveled in the pleasantness of naming his daughter Sydney: the venue he chose for Australia’s destruction. Warne failed to control him. Waugh tried all possible hunches. Merv Hughes fired expletives. McDermott tried enraging him. But all to no avail.

It’s quite possible had Lara not had gotten run out, he would’ve gone on to achieve a triple hundred.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Although inside an year of his Australian sojourn, when he lifted Chris Lewis toward mid on for a flickish four, in the classic ballerina-style movement, whipping a half-volley on the legs, Lara catapulted to the world’s attention. The signs were ominous and the grunt flowing from St. John’s, Antigua- loud and clear: there was someone who’d emerged to shake Tendulkar’s throne, challenging him for the tag of the best batsman in the world.
This wasn’t just a contest. Rather a run-fest that continued well onto Lara’s swansong, April 2007. And it ultimately lifted a glorious period from the onset of late 1990s to the midst of 2000s, bringing to the gentlemanly game some spirited triumphs. Together the Tendulkar and Lara contest- not a rivalry, not embittered by angst or envy but one fuelled by mutual admiration- took fans on course of a nearly endless rollercoaster run. While the triumphs belonged to Tendulkar, the heroics sided with Lara.

Brian Lara’s greatest knocks

It is hard to state which inning was more impactful- was it the series winning 1998’s 153 not out against Australia or the whitewash evading unbeaten 400, both monumental constructs from a very defiant Brian Lara. On both occasions, the West Indies- in 1998 as well as in 2004- was a side heavily outplayed.
And on both occasions, akin to a field marshal engaged in a bloodied war to save the last remaining battalion- Lara fired some scud missiles. So impactful and revelatory were the Trinidadian’s heroics in a space of 6 years as Lara struck two of cricket’ seminal hundreds- saving his dilapidated Windies from Aussies courtesy that 153 and then in reclaiming from Hayden his world record, unbeaten 400- placards held by fans in the stands read, “Our wounds have been healed”.
Interestingly prior to construction of both innings, Lara’s reputation had been at stake. Whimsical cohorts who held Lara responsible for all that was wrong in Windies demanding his blood now were at his feet as the familiar sight of West Indies’ prodigal sun kissing the pitch got plastered everywhere in world media.
Lara displayed a romanticism for playing long, mighty innings, conjured with flashing style and underlined by a magnanimity that one had seen only in the Bradman’s, the W.G. Grace’.
Even today, it is hard to think of another modern great whose personal highs came against a somber narrative, marked by a cataclysmic West Indian decline. And yet, it is hard to think of another cricketer who kept coming back at his opponents, time and again having stooped to lows. When not marred by inconsistencies, at other times, challenged by controversies.
Lara’s career presents a metamorphosis of continuous batting onslaughts smoked at his opponents’ face despite representing a weakling of a team. During the ill-fated tour of South Africa 1997-98, Lara’s splendid counter-attack on Donald was the only pride West Indies salvaged on a tour where they were whitewashed.

The Ayrton Senna of Cricket?

In a career that spanned a decade and a half, oozing a very Ayrton Senna like spark for freakish achievements, he never succumbed to pressure and relished coming back in the face of overwhelming odds. At times, you felt could any of Lara’s peaks have commanded any attention had they not had sparkled light against a tunnel of darkness?
Misery was often Lara’s company and at a time where much of the grizzly whippings of the bat carried the fragrance of rarity, it was continuously ignored that how much had Lara suffered as a man. Even before his 400 was birthed- English again being at the receiving end- he’d lost his mother, Pearl. While his father, a loving man, Bunty had already died earlier, Lara’s career seems eschewed of the public sentiment that often sides with Tendulkar- a brilliant Kenya hundred (at the back of having lost his father) carrying so much of public sympathy.
Lara was in a sense both- a charismatic trailblazer who in the wake of his astonishing success became an embittered public figure- dubbed self-absorbed and essaying narcissistic vibe. But if you heard Michael Holding’s interview in the immediate aftermath of cricket’s highest individual score, you couldn’t ignore the simplicity,” I consider myself a humble servant of West Indies.”

A vintage artist

As long as Brian stayed out there, the West Indies flag fluttered. The equation simple and the math, in Lara’s hands. The Leonardo De Vinci for producing some of cricket’s most absorbing artworks also belted feisty but crafty hundreds that often hide coyly behind the hubris of his weighty three-figure marks. Reference to the context being that 116 against South Africa in South Africa. The image of a clueless Klusener and Kallis with hands on their head with Lara reaching his fifty off a one-handed flick. Even that 60 against Australia in Jaipur in 1996 Wills World Cup carried a whiff of aristocracy that you felt immediately drawn to in seeing Lara’s demonic destruction of Bangladesh in a 45-ball hundred. Where batsmen found themselves flummoxed having crossed their peaks, Lara was busy constructing new ones.
His final Test tour to Pakistan was essentially a Lara vs Pakistan- coming in hard at Kaneria, Razzaq, Mahmood and Gul- Brian dazzled in the blazing heat of Karachi and Lahore, thudding double hundreds and hundreds at free will. The crowd chanting Lara-Lara was as beautiful a sight as it was threatening for a Pakistan, worrying more about the next Lara-stroke than the heat-stroke that was in the air.

Lara’s farewell

Most batsmen attacked or sublimed audiences, Lara did both. Interesting to note, in hindsight, at a time popular culture has nearly outdone using the phrase swagger, Lara essayed it in his pomp back in the 90s. A carnivore when cornered and savage when challenged, Brian Lara was also the emotion that adjoined the other segregated islands called West Indies. Lara was a busy artist whose every shot was a body of work and every inning indication of the beginning of a new Magna Carta. Lara wrote both the constitution for an intoxicating brand of Caribbean batting and was perhaps its last protector. Funny it is then when at the back of an entertaining stay at the crease, upon his retirement he even thought of asking, “Did I entertain?” What do you think?

- Advertisement -

Do we often under-appreciate Andy Flower? What’s his legacy?

There's a hint of sadness in noting that Zimbabwe has never been a dominant power in world cricket. But nothing could be sadder than...

15 Highly Educated Cricketers Of All Time

Cricket is a game of passion and dedication. A sport in which one involves themselves in camps and practice since early childhood. Due to...

IPL 2018: The beautiful Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur

Being seated in the Sawai Mansingh stadium brings a different world, a world of difference away from the palpable excitement of watching truly India’s...

IPL 2018: Purple Cap Holders Over The Years

The Indian Premier League (IPL), like any other global T20s league,  has been a batsman's paradise. In the batsmen friendly format, bowlers have found...

What can be expected from the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

Heat in the air and heat inside the car- that's been the story of the Azerbaijan Grand prix. As F1 parks itself at Baku...

How Come UFC Fighters Have Cauliflower Ears But Boxers Don’t?

The UFC has come a long way since its early days, wherein the fights seemed like modern-day gladiators due to its brutality and inconsistent...

Top 5 Left Wingers In The World, Based On 2019-20 Season

Owing to the fact that football has evolved a lot since its inception and the tactics have changed a lot, the role of wingers...

5 spinners who can be India’s potential finger-spinners

The Indian cricket team has always been proud of its ability to produce world-class batsmen and similarly potent spinners. Though in recent times, the...

Big change for India Women’s cricket as BCCI looks to finalise bowling coach soon

We are not even at the halfway stage of the 2018 cricketing season. It clearly seems there's no stopping India's women's cricket team. The...

The astonishing decline of Mario Balotelli

There was a time when Mario Balotelli was on top of the world.  The Italian talisman had scored two goals in the Euro 2012 semi-finals,...

Amid an unstoppable flow of runs, Smriti Mandhana tipped to get prestigious Arjuna Award

When the BCCI announced that free-hitting batswoman Smriti Mandhana would be awarded the Arjuna Award, there were more smiles than doubts. For Smriti Mandhana,...

Fresh fitness blow adds to woes for Mohammed Shami

Earlier this year, India fast bowler Mohammed Shami was the leading wicket-taker in South Africa and helped the national team to win a Test...

IPL 2018: The best from the West Indies

When one of nature's treacherous attacks on mankind- earthquakes- strike, their impact is measured on Richter's scale. When West Indians strike in a tournament...

Who Is the Better Formula 1 Racer, Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton?

Despite Verstappen’s first win in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021, a new debate has sparked on which Formula 1 racer is better? Max Verstappen...

Benfica XI if they didn’t sell their star players

SL Benfica, based in the city of Lisbon, Portugal have made a name for themselves by scouting, recruiting and then selling some of the...

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -