(A tribute on Brian Lara for becoming the leading run getter in Test Cricket)
Some people just can’t be written off even if they keep on failing for some time in their career and that’s because somewhere down the line you can always expect those characters to come up with something out of the world to shut their critics. And perfect examples for these kinds of characters are Sachin Tendulkar and one Trinidadian Brian Charles Lara. If Sachin is the leading run getter in One Day Cricket then the leading run getter in Tests record is with Brian Lara. The feat had just been achieved by Lara on the 26th of November, 2005 at the Adelaide Oval as the left hander took a single off Glenn McGrath to surpass another left hander Allan Border’s 11174 Test runs. Sachin the right handed maestro and Lara the left handed maestro both have scored 20000 plus runs in both formats of International Cricket.
The real thing about Great Batsmanship is the ability to dominate all bowling attacks pace or spin, swing or seam on different wicket conditions and not just dominate but make their innings count for their sides. Brian Lara is one batsman who looks very complicated in his technique, budding cricketers hardly get to understand the reasons for his shuffling across the stumps or the way he hops when he gets onto his backfoot to the quicks. When he’s struggling for runs his movements look so jerky but it’s not so when he’s in flow with those booming drives and the ferocious cuts and pull shots. All these played with sheer arrogance and it’s the sound of those thunderous strokes that puts off many bowlers.
The greatest sights in world cricket along with Sachin’s trademark on drives is Lara’s lofted shot which is to dance down the track to spinners and send the cricket ball miles and miles in the air and make the cricket ball look like a small dot that disappears out of the ground like a comet. Very few can match the confidence and arrogance of this left hander who even wears sunglasses while batting giving a damn to the best of the best bowlers. Two things in which Lara easily edges out Sachin is the amount of big scores he notches up although Sachin of late has been making his Test centuries into some real big ones but not as big as the 400* or the 375 made by Brian. Second thing to note about Lara is that he has seen his side clinch some famous wins both in Tests and ODIs all on his own single handedly. This has always been the criticizing point of Tendulkar. However in Tendulkar’s favour is the fact that he has easily been the consistent scorer amongst the two for many years because Lara has always been a flashy batsman.
Brian Lara is history’s most successful cricketer. Apart from being the leading run getter in Tests, he also holds the world record of highest individual innings in Tests with an unbeaten 400 at St.John’s against England in 2004. Lara is only the second batsman in Test cricket history to score two triple hundreds after Australia’s Don Bradman. However Lara is the only one to post 350-plus scores on two occasions. The highest individual first class score is also treasured by Lara when he had blasted 501 for Warwickshire against Durham at Birmingham in 1994. There is another record that he owns in Test Cricket and that is for scoring most runs in a single over. South Africa’s Robin Peterson, the left arm spinner was the hapless bowler who was whacked for 28 runs in one over by Lara at the Wanderers in Johannesburg in 2003/04.
Some where in the Bible it is written, ‘uneasy lies the head that wears a crown’ and if the holy gem fits anyone in West Indies cricket, it is Brian Lara. Here are some telling statistics. Brian Lara made his Test debut against Pakistan at Lahore in 1990-91. He was dubbed a batting prodigy in his early teens, serenaded as a batting genius at age 23 and hailed as the world’s best batsman at age 24. In the first twelve years of his career, Lara scored 18 Test centuries, including the magnificent 277 against Australia (his first century) and the then world record score of 375 against England at St.John’s, Antigua. With 31 Test hundreds some of them being huge, many West Indians today consider the 36-years–old Lara a disappointment. Why? Former Windies keeper Ridley Jacobs insists that Lara is a disruptive influence on the side and that the team would be better off with out him. Some have suggested that the presence of Lara tends to makes other batsmen abdicate their responsibilities. Some also feel that Lara’s is such an overwhelming presence that lesser batsmen suffer a crisis of confidence in batting alongside him.
Lara’s sin as a batsman is not that he has not produced. So much is expected of him always. The world-records holder, the batting genius, has been on his own, there has been no one consistently to share his burden and because of that his people demand a greater level of consistency from Lara. Time waits for none and with Lara at 36 years we might just be seeing the beginning of the last phase of this great entertainer’s career. Let’s hope for Cricket’s sake that the left hander produces few more magical knocks before calling it quits and just waiting for some one to come up in world cricket and play like what Lara has for the next ten years!