Cricket often becomes a sport glorified by historic achievements. But in the wake of recognizing stats and glorifying records, we tend to isolate those who created them in the first place. Masters come and go but as far as modern cricket is concerned, the world may never forget the name of Brian Charles Lara.
In Lara’s ebb remain some of cricket’s mightiest achievements and peaks so rare that they may never be tamed in the times to come!
Who can ever forget the exasperating sight of seeing a modern day master overcoming West Indies’ naysayers applying diligence, class and an inscrutable craft that only a few are known to possess? Lara was pure magic. He was a rush of the adrenaline spiked into a physicality that over-awed the opposition, quite like a thriller that was destined to do the unthinkable.
It wouldn’t be incorrect to construe that Lara was a bit of both- a messiah for his knocks that rescued his beloved West Indies from downfall, and a charismatic poet who essayed some of cricket’s most jubilant knocks in times that were adverse to their creation.
Remembering Brian Lara on the eve of his 47th birthday cannot be complete without reconciling with the fact that one of history’s most prolific run scorer reached personal milestones amidst times of torrid decline for his national side.
Sixth on a coveted all time list of highest test run scorers, and the only West Indian to score over 10,000 runs in both formats, Brian Lara, known as the “Prince” for his effervescent and stylish stroke play scored a humungous 11,953 runs for the West Indies in Tests. Even his One day record doesn’t lag too far behind his ecstatic test tally at 10405.
As the inimitable icon from Trinidad and Tobago celebrates his birthday on May 2nd, we remember a genius through a plethora of distinct facts and achievements that make him second to none in international cricket.
1) A multiple record breaking star
Records are usually meant to be broken and it seems that Brian Charles Lara understood this brightly. He first broke Sir Gary Sobers’ record of highest individual test score of 365 by going 10 better in 1994 against the touring English side to the Caribbean.
Lara’s 375 in 1994 was an epic that many youngsters to this day emulate in their attempt to diversify their batting craft. This first booming success took Lara to sky rocketing heights upping his popularity in test cricket.
In 2004, Brian Lara, who briefly lost his highest individual test score to Australia’s big hitting Matt Hayden (scorer of 380 vs Zimbabwe, Oct 2003) came back out of nowhere and reclaimed the test honor by scoring a magnificent record breaking 400. His scintillating quadruple century came once again against England and on the same ground where he first conquered the world record: Antigua Recreation Ground, West Indies.
2) Ordinary record against India
While Lara easily tamed the best bowlers from Australia, England, Sri Lanka and South Africa, exhibiting class and pure skill against world class competitors such as Alan Donald, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne, his record against India wasn’t all that impressive.
If you simply glaze past Lara’s test tally against India, the you’d be surprised to discover that “The Prince” only scored just over 1000 test runs in 17 matches versus India at a paltry average of 34.
Of the 34 test hundreds that Lara stuck with aplomb, only 2 have come against Tendulkar’s India.
3) An exemplary double century maker
Test Cricket is never an easy turf on which to score runs. But, pundits and critics noticed that the more difficult the circumstances contending Brian Lara, the greater was his response.
Lara, who played 131 tests scored a dashing 9 double hundreds. Even his nastiest critics who sadly labeled him a player who ‘scored for personal glories’ cannot downsize the fact that as many as 19 times, Brian Lara crossed 150 in test match cricket.
While his elegance in one day cricket was unquestionable, Lara’s appetite for scoring mighty and big in tests was a testimony to his greatness. This is a quality that only few like Kallis and Dravid have come to match.
Only Sir Donald Bradman and the recently retired Sri Lankan great, Sangakkara was scored more double hundreds than the West Indies legend.
4) Brian Lara Stadium
Fans would do well to note that in Lara’s honor, the Trinidad and Tobago government constructed a sprawling cricket stadium. The construction work for this full capacity arena began in 2008 and is yet to host a national level encounter. Lara’s contemporaries, most noticeably Tendulkar has been honored by having a stand in Mumbai’s Wankhede being named after the ‘god of cricket’.
5) Among the most celebrated titans of World Cricket
Brian Lara, a marvel who shined in world cricket is amongst the most widely recognized cricketers of all time. His recent induction into the ICC Hall of Fame in a ceremony that took place in Sri Lanka speaks volumes of his cricketing accomplishments and the impact he’s had on the game.
Together with Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar, Lara is considered to be the third cricketing titan, completing a trinity that is hailed as iconic and timeless in representing the sport at an international stage.
Interestingly, while remained a tough competitor with both Aussie spin legend Warne and India’s Sachin Tendulkar, Lara is good friends with the two cricketing maestros. He opened Tendulkar’s famous posh Mumbai restaurant and has publicly quoted that “Sachin is the greatest batsman he was known”.
6) Conquering Muralitharan and scoring 53% runs in a test series.
Of the many spinners in world cricket, Anil Kumble, Shane Keith Warne and Muralitharan remained the most economical and difficult to score against.
The Sri Lankan offie who remained a top ace of off spin was the sharpest turner of the ball. In the many duels he had with Sachin, Ponting and Kallis, he remained on top.
But not against Brian Lara.
During West Indies’ one sided tour to Sri Lanka in 2001-02, Lara was mighty impressive in his dealing of both Chaminda Vaas and Muralitharan. He jumped and turned, hopped around but most noticeably, swept gracefully and ever so stylishly to conquer the Sri Lankan master on his own turf.
Lara’s magnificent 221, 130 were products of endless concentration and his pure determination of spin in circumstances that challenged and bent his entire West Indian unit.
Lara’s classy aggregate of 688 runs in the 3 test series meant that the elegant left hander scored a mammoth 53% of the score West Indies collectively compiled. It is the second highest record for most runs scored in a three or more test match series.
7) The man who first identified Ramnaresh Sarwan
Lara’s most noticeable triumphs are the many runs he compiled in the West Indies and while touring. But, he isn’t remembered for the other contributions that he rendered to the West Indies cricket. He spotted Ramnaresh Sarwan at the island paradise of West Indies and encouraged him to take up Cricket at a national level.
Brian’s mentoring of Wavell Hinds, Sarwan, Reon King and other players lead new exciting talents to represent an otherwise deteriorating West Indian team.
8) Celebrated by Wisden’s Top 100 list
In the 1998-99 Steve Waugh’s mighty Australians toured the West Indies to snatch what they usually did : the prized Frank Worrell Trophy. In a series hyped by rising talks of Brian Lara’ poor form that could have potentially led to his ouster as both captain and player, much was at stake for both Lara, the captain and batsman.
But in the third test played at Barbados, Lara’s unthinkable ingenuity led to a mastery 153 run knock which led West Indies to an unlikely and perhaps their greatest test victory in the post Viv Richard- Clive Lloyd era.
Having being reduced to 98 for 6, being asked to chase down an improbable 308, Lara’s scintillating stroke-play overwhelmed both McGrath and Warne and his rescuing of West Indies from the Aussie maze led Wisden to include his 153 as the 2nd best knock in its greatest test 100 list. Mark Waugh, watching Lara’s pulsating drives and cuts from the slips noted, “this is the finest knock I’ve ever seen”.
9) A ladies man, the frequent ramp-walker
Post retirement, Brian Lara has been quite a busy man. Often seen mentoring the next generation cricketers and budding batsmen in various coaching clinics in Asia, England and elewhere, Lara is quite the ladies man too.
He walked the ramp post 2007 for Indian designer Deepika Gehani who wanted Brian to showcase her latest “For Men” range using his signature stylish gait and rich verve of fashion.
Lara walked the ramp in Mumbai amid spectator buzz who saw a different kind of batting on another explosive turf outside Cricket’s 22 yards.
Ever the charmer, Brian, who named his daughter Sydney after his 1993 epic 277 against Australia has often been romantically linked with models and former beauty pageant contestants. His most noticeable romantic inclinations have been with Scottish model Lindsay Ward.
10) Sangakkara and Chanderpaul’s delight
In their own right they are great cricketers, masterful batsmen who have held on their own against the best bowling attacks in the world. But both left handers, Sanga and Shiv, who have scored over 100 international centuries between them reserve effusive praise for the one and only Brian Charles Lara.
Chanderpaul, with whom Lara put together 2,621 runs at an average of 46, stated that Lara was a master with the bat and someone watching whom even established players could learn a lot.
Sangakkara has even confessed to have supported West Indies in his growing up days only for the fact that Brian featured in the Caribbean side.
11) Lara the Diplomat
The winner of CARICOM(Caribbean community) Medal of Honor and an honorary citizen of Australia, Lara travels around the world on a diplomatic passport promoting the splendid Trinidad and Tobago tourism.
12) Even Obama saluted Lara
In 2009, when President Barrack Obama came to the West Indies, he was given casual batting tips by West Indies’ star batsman who told him how Cricket despite being seemingly similar to Baseball was a different sport altogether.
Lara’s prodigious talent was hailed by Obama himself who swung the bat Lara style calling the Prince” The Michael Jordan of Cricket”, an honor cherished by Brian.