Brian Lara’s Theme: The Undefeated Spirit for West Indies’ Glory!
Brian Lara (Twitter)
While the roaring batting form of lads like Faf du Plessis, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Devon Conway form one of the brightest and most exciting sights of the ongoing IPL, maybe what doesn’t is the sombre presence of a man decked in Sunrisers’ orange sitting all forlorn in the dugout of a team that tends to lose more games by the tick of the clock than it wins.
But then disappointment has so often accompanied the career of a man who asked the Bridgetown Barbados crowd (circa April 2007) some sixteen years ago upon the completion of his last ever ODI, if he had “Entertained?”
The trailblazing batsman, for little fault of his, had been run out after a mindless gaffe by Marlon Samuels, one of his own, which led to a shocking dismissal, which is when he’d begun his last inning with usual swagger.
And for the better part of his career sadness often fell on him like a tree raised to the ground while it was still blossoming.
Despite his single-minded genius and authoritative batting, he could never win a World Cup for the West Indies. Despite dollops of runs and against meteoric teams, irrespective of whether England, South Africa or Australia, he could never free himself from the humbling series of defeats.
Moreover, he faced the endless anguish and inescapable pain of having to witness some of his greatest highs with the bat but amid the gloomy decline of his own team buried at the backdrop.
It was never easy being Brian Charles Lara, smasher of records, holder of grace and style and a vintage postcard that belongs to some of the greatest moments of West Indian Cricket, many of which came at the back of his breathtaking genius.
Maybe it still isn’t easy being Brian Lara, coach to a struggling side, mentor to a refreshingly talented bunch of cricketers who perhaps seem to be missing the lesson.
To an endless bunch, who bore witness to his dazzling feats of gallantry with the bat, Lara sizzled like few did at a time where in the post-Haynes, Greenidge and Viv era, West Indies desperately sought a hero on whom they could depend to carry the hopes.
And it can’t be refuted.
But what’s profoundly important (albeit under appreciated) is to take note of the fact that Brian Lara continued to take up the fight for West Indies at a time where given the decline of their cricket and the mediocrity of talent coming through the ranks, anyone could’ve been heartbroken and unwilling to put up a challenge.
At a time where Australia had the Waugh brothers along with Ponting and Hayden, while India had Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman to support Sachin and where the Proteas had Kirsten, Cronje and Cullinan supporting Kallis, Lara often had his own resolve and temerity and on other occasions, Chanderpaul to fight for the cause of West Indies cricket.
Sarwan and Gayle, who were very much there had some of their best moments after the Lara era.
But Lara didn’t sulk, he instead soldiered on.
That's whether you speak of the 98-99 series against Australia, where his 153* came at a time where not just his captaincy but his very presence was in much doubt or the 400 not out when the entire series was on the line and the home team faced the ignominy of a sad whitewash.
Few batsmen have often faced the odds of a Calypsonian backlash and yet emerged stronger when nothing seemed to be going right than Brian Lara and even fewer have succeeded to become timeless legends.
But Lara was a different hunter altogether. During the entirety of his recording breaking, hope giving and nightmare alleviating career, the left hander found himself and his reputation questioned on more occasions than he would have liked and akin to a nerve wracking, nail biting thriller, often managed to seal the fate of a contest in his favour at the back of solo assaults when his West Indies’ reputation was up in tatters.
During the 1997 tour to South Africa, where his team lost each of the five Tests it played, Lara engineered a daunting assault over Allan Donald, the bowler who haunted the visitors the most. The rest of the team had just no answers.
Lara held duels with Warne, McGrath and Gillespie for the entity of his career and came up with jewels such as 213 or the 277 at Sydney, taming a trinity vastly regarded by the world on his own.
Lara versus Australia (Twitter)
Lara’s mental fortitude, something as definitive as his talent is what enabled him to bat for long periods of time, facing altogether until the end, 32839 deliveries in international cricket.
During situations that were more distraught than the others, when confronting the sheer enormity of pressure, Lara dig deep within and came out with utter sorcery, such as his 688 runs in a 3-match series down in Sri Lanka where Murali and Vaas clobbered everyone but came to hit a wall when it came to stopping the Trinidadian.
Sangakkara, a self-confessed Lara fan, who participated in the series recollects no other batsman as having such an impact on him as the West Indian who despite facing the heat of defeats, schooled a bunch of Sri Lankans at their own shores.
Prodigious run scorer, a combiner of grace and courage, Brian Lara was more than a suave stylist of the game whose peaks came amid the deafening sound of defeat that often threatened to rupture West indies’ reputation in the very game where they were once talked about as kings.
Yet, Lara’s greatest success, it ought to be said, must be attributed to his desire for going out there and going on and on and for making a comeback when it often seemed that all was over.
In many interviews, he’s attributed the will to never give up to his family, calling it a trait.
Not called destiny’s child for nothing, Lara may have opted for a career in accountancy or even marketing but glad are tens of thousands of West Indians and batting fans for Lara picked cricket and thus chose to enthral us with his genius, the likes of which shall never be seen again in the context of West Indies cricket.
No other West Indian during his time had such an impact over the team’s fortunes as Brian Lara, who turns 54 today.
During the course of his career, he scored over 20 percent of the team’s total output of runs, which goes to show just how heavily dependant were the Caribbean teams on the able shoulders of their Prince.
But beyond the dazzling stats and the captivating manner in which he went about amassing a sheer wealth of runs, there’s also a lesson in Brian Lara, which barring a Shai Hope, not many seem too willing to be learning, perhaps not even the present day Jason Holder.
And it’s that it’s never over even when it seems all is lost. And that the real glory does belong to the one who is ardently involved in saving the day for the West Indies, which was the dominant theme of Lara’s career and whatever he epitomised.
But just how many of today’s reckless albeit talented West Indian youth, committed perhaps more to T20’s than the national cause are willing to put everything on the line?