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5 under-appreciated Brian Lara classics

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Brian_Lara_Cricket_West_IndiesCricket likes a good nickname. And truth be told, nicknames only make mortals find a place in the galaxy of endless entertainment. But while ‘Gods’ are immortals and therefore, unquestionable in their standing in this great game, it takes artists of flesh-and-blood to bring audiences to witness the sublime.

When artists inspire nicknames such as ‘The Prince’, bringing separated geographies closer together, through sheer awe in batting wizardry, the game finds a streak of exhilaration: of combining entertainment with art.

It also helps when the contours of this nickname are expanded to find fuller resonance and by virtue of exploits, a place amongst the firmament of the greats- The Prince of Trinidad.

On May 2, 2017, Brian Lara turns 48, throwing open once again a time for reliving his great memories. Herein lies the catch.

What would your memories of Brian Lara be? Certainly as someone who crafted Test’s highest individual score ever, only to lose it for a brief period, inarguably beyond the physical peak of his batting career and only to reclaim it!

One can’t be blamed for hailing Lara for those beautiful, emotion-spurring innings that courtesy knocks of 277 against Australia, 375 against England and, finally, his epic 400 not out versus England (both knocks against England coming at Antigua) established his name as a true legend of the game. Rather, more like an artist obsessed with creating humungous pieces of art on the cricket field.

But that said, a number of Brian Lara’s innings have to this day found themselves subdued in front of the collective might of the triumvirate of the above innings. Let’s revisit those:

116 versus South Africa in 2003 World Cup’s opening game

Back in the day when the likes of young but taciturn Gayle had found their feet in West Indies’ side, Lara was still in business, rather in the center-stage as far as carrying West Indian batting hopes were concerned.

Often finding support from Sarwan and Chanderpaul to thwart tormentors like South Africa, Lara did the bulwark of the sides’ scoring.

But in the opening game of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003, it was Lara and not Kallis or Klusener who drove spectators wild on a batting safari.

Creaming a quintessential ‘Lara’-esque hundred, the left-hander made most of being dropped by Kallis at slips, when he had hardly looked the part of a batsman in full control.

Soon, he would get going, unleashing a full expanse of his strokes on either sides of the ground, displaying with boyish swagger, the masterful disdain his high back lift brought bowlers; be at point or cover boundary. The tempo of the World Cup had been set and Lara had announced his intentions.

120 versus India,Gros Islet, 2006

Of his rather impressive stack of 34 Test centuries, only 2 came against India. That too, at a rather un-Brian Lara-like average of 34.

Even then, Lara chose the final Test playing calendar of his career to severe India with a shining century. While this inning may pan out most like a normal Brian Lara effort of showing swagger and style, it was anything but that alone.

In the 2nd Test of the India versus West Indies Test Series of 2006, Lara’s team were on the back foot, struck hard by Dravid’s men- Sehwag, 180; Kaif, 148; and the ‘Wall’ himself crafting a gritty 146.

After Windies managed no more than 215 in first inning, their second inning- was being witnessed by a slew of fans hoping against hope to witness a follow-on result into something favorable in their home team’s favour.

That was when the artist in Lara painted a brilliant milestone- a very unappreciated but fighting innings of 120, arguably his best knock in Tests ever against India.

He batted for 370 minutes and tagged with Chanderpaul to take the West Indies to a fighting draw.

202 versus South Africa, Johannesburg 2003-04

This would be a Test that would always be remembered for Brian Lara gathering another world record, piercing the pink of a Protean Bowling attack, featuring the likes of Nel, Ntini, Kallis and, spinner Peterson, with the left armer going for 28 runs came in one over. In a useful compilation of a fighting double hundred; that 202 by Lara, West Indies managed to reach 410. But it wasn’t enough for them to face an ignominious defeat of 189 runs. The next best score post Lara was Darren Ganga’s 60.

But in Lara’s dancing down the pitch and through those finely timed late cuts at the back of slower one’s bowled by Peterson, the South African was dubiously pushed to the center of headlines by Lara’s genius.

132 versus Australia, Perth, 1997

The least and also the most essential that could be said about this knock is that it was Lara at Perth, then, in the heydays of cricket’s 1990s, one of the world’s best batsman at the world’s fastest wicket.

Thankfully, for the Aussies, the inevitable collapse, coming at the back of Lara’s 132 didn’t come as quickly as the bowl left McGrath’s hands.

Even Bevan, when McGrath and Reiffel and Bichel failed to disturb the ‘Prince’s concentration, couldn’t get going.

Lara’s 132 contributed to Windies’ 384 runs. Then, playing his 39th Test, Lara was well at the peak of his abilities as was Sachin, pummeling bowlers’ in another part of the world as the contest for the world’s best batsman reached fiery crescendo, especially after this Lara knock.

100 vs Australia, Jamaica, 1998-99 Cable and Wireless Test Series

Once again in the center of a storm as he had been, so many times in his career, Brian Charles Lara’s most definitive Test century, beyond the statistical expanse of 400, 375 or 277 came on home turf; but against the best side in the world; Steven Waugh’s Australia.

But while Cricketing universe hailed Lara’s stellar unbeaten knock of 153 at Barbados as an inning essaying his finest demonstration of artistry, ever, a few days later, Lara gave a close recap of his Barbados heroics at Jamaica.

In the carnage that the likes of Warne and McGrath, Gillespie MacGill ran into, 100 runs were smoked of mere 84 balls, in a Test game. Though West Indies lost the game, with the series drawn at 2-2, Lara, despite being under tremendous pressure, coming into the Caribbean at the back of back-to-back losses against South Africa, finally loosened the noose around his own head whilst the ball flew once again into the court of his naysayers.

 

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