Posted by Sports Snob on November 24, 2006
This week is seeing a few wonderful batting efforts. There is Kallis’ century in the second ODI, Ponting’s in the Ashes war, Mohammad Yousuf against the West Indies and that brilliant double century by Lara against Pakistan. Each of these players is special but most so, Lara. The first time I remember watching B.C. Lara was at the 1992 Australian triseries involving India, Australia and West Indies. I didn’t think I was watching a special player.
It was after the 1996 World Cup that I started watching Lara without comparing him to Sachin at every instance and I discovered the most destructive batsman of our times. Lara is a genius and it is hard to explain how it operates. He could be McGrath’s bunny a million times; he could infuriate you with his golf trips and cancelled tours. But on his day he makes runs in a fashion that totally demoralizes the opposition. There have been more consistent men, more elegant batsmen, guys with more power and precision. But few men strike as much fear in the hearts of opposition players. He starts off shakily but once set, he bats with so much power- full blooded cover drives, hooks, pulls and the softest of leg glances. He loves big centuries and the rate at which he scores makes his innings’ match winning ones. The number of over 150 scores stands testament to this.
West Indies started the 1998/99 Frank Worrell trophy disastrously, being skittled out for 51 in the second innings of the Port of Spain test. McGrath and Gillespie were tormenting the Carribeans before Lara decided he had had enough of being beaten by mere men. In typical Lara fashion, he came out and collared the bowling. Out came the powerful square drive, played behind point, the stinging cover and the straight drive and the horizontal bat shots. A single man, battling one of the greatest teams in history. It was a sight to watch and Lara came out of the battle, proving his critics wrong and showing the world what test cricket was all about: grit and class. He ended up with scores of 213, 8, 153 not out and 100. (The 153 not out was in fact voted the second greatest test innings ever played behind the Don’s 270 against England)
The other series that is etched in memory, is the tour in Sri Lanka. What a mouth watering prospect, Murali versus Lara. An off-spinner against a southpaw, a dubious genius against a flawed one. Lara was coming off a long lay-off and he came straight out into the series and made over 500 runs at an average of 100. After finally mastering the sub-continent, he has nothing more to prove as a batsman: runs around the world, no bowler unscathed, centuries you lost count of.
Contribution to Caribbean cricket
Watching Lara over the years, I have come to believe, if he had statistics in his mind, he would have every record (except the average) under his belt. But genius is mercurial. He has thrown his tantrums, had his lean patches but Caribbean cricket owes a lot to this man. He has been the pillar, which has ensured that the structure has not collapsed. He has saved many a series. He has matured and become a leader who understands the limitations of his men and grooms the talent he has. Would he have made more runs in an Australian team? Would he have a higher average and more test records? Who knows? But this much is certain, cricket in the West Indies needed him the last decade and he has battled on, a lone warrior: A man who knows that his colleagues might not be able to deliver, a man who knows his best efforts are probably doomed, a Marlon Brando in a school anniversary play and for this, I respect this genius even more.
There is not much time left in this career. With a few exciting players under him and a rapidly improving team, it would be fitting to see him end his career in the Carribean, holding aloft the World Cup trophy.