Wednesday, April 25, 2007

So long Mr. Lara....and thanks for all the phish!

As always, Zatta (aka Rahul Bhattacharya) has a written a delightful piece - this one bidding goodbye to Brian Charles Lara.

As a cricketer, he'll be among the greatest I have seen (playing) in the flesh. I cannot think of anyone else who has pulled his team out of perilous waters so many times - a thing our very own Tendulkar failed at miserably. The fact that he played in an era of Windies cricket which would well be dismissed as a nightmare, is a different question. If someone were to say 'flamboyance' and 'batsman' in the same breath, Lara would be the only one who would come to mind. That back lift and the nonchalance with which he dealt with many an attack is something that will be missed. Hayden and Gilchrist are undoubtedly two of the best southpaws in the game today, but theirs is more bludgeoning rather than finesse.

I think I first read about his exploits way back in 1988-89, when the Indians were touring the Windies. Leading the U-23 XI (featuring among others, Jimmy Adams and Junior Murray), he smashed the Indian attack (a rather makeshift one at that, featuring Sanjeev Sharma, Robin Singh, Arshad Ayub, Hirwani and Srikkanth) for 182.

Then came the 277 at Sydney, which confirmed he was destined for greater things. He came to India for the Hero Cup in 1993 with a buzz about his skills. The only match I got to watch in that series was the clash at the Brabourne Stadium between the Windies and South Africa - having missed the game at the Wankhede which featured the Lankans and Windies. As a game, it was the unforgettable game in which Jonty Rhodes took those five stunning catches, one of them getting rid of Lara. It was a disappointment for us back then, watching Lara mishook a delivery from Snell only to have Rhodes sprawled across the pitch taking the first of his catches for the day.

He returned to Indian shores in the winter of 1994, crowned the prince of cricket (by the great man Sobers himself, at the Recreation Ground in Antigua one hot afternoon in April). The Test match at the Wankhede was a disappointment in terms of Lara's scores - a scratchy 14/74 and a fourth-ball duck in the second innings. Strangely, that was his last Test series on Indian soil.

I for one will remember him for his exploits in the Test arena, rather than ODIs. That does not take away anything from the fact that he played some blazing innings which changed the courses of many a match - the 1996 World Cup QF against South Africa and the 150 odd he scored against Pakistan in one of the Sharjah finals being two innings that stand out.

The likes of Lara may not be seen again. He was an entertainer in every sense and he will be sorely missed.

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