Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Brian Lara is born - the Prince who played like one
May 2, 1969 - 375, 501* and 400* are numbers that have been rendered immortal in international cricket by Brian Charles Lara. All the three figures have the same underling values - panache, flair and an insatiable hunger for big runs.
As Brian Lara made his international debut in 1990, he was expected to carry forward the mantle of batting brilliance from Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. For the most part, he succeeded. But, there came a middle phase when his career graph underwent a slump.
The abandon, carefree approach and courage that took him to the greatest heights of his career, suddenly seemed to be woking against him. However, true to his legend status, as the millennium turned, Lara won over the technical demons and sprung back into the 21-year-old that first took down bowling attacks.
Lara wasn't a regular feature of the West Indian side until he scripted history with his first century at Sydney in 1993. His innings of 277 was the fourth-highest maiden century in Test cricket, and the finest that the world had seen. Many, and not least Lara himself, considered the knock as the gold standard. When in 1996, Lara became a father, he named his daughter Sydney, giving irrefutable proof of his love for that knock.
Lara was only 24 when he broke a gigantic record. In Antigua, he went past Garry Sobers’ 36-year world record score of 365 not out. Lara stuck into the English attack and plundered 375. After the knock, the youngster remarked that he had age on his side and would have a shot at breaking the record.
A decade later, he remained true to his word as he broke Matthew Hayden's record of 380 against Zimbabwe within six months of its creation. The left-hander became the first player to touch the 400 milestone as he achieved the feat.
Less than two months after his iconic 375, Lara broke the record for the highest First Class score as well as he piled up 501 for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994.
The second player since Don Bradman to score two Test triple-centuries, Lara says that he really "enjoyed" his cricket, “I can look back now and wish I started 10 years later and played in the T20s. But I also wish I was born 10 years earlier so that I could have been part of the all-conquering West Indies team of that time. I am very happy about when I started. West Indies cricket was in decline, but I believe that was my role… to try and keep the flag flying. I loved every minute of my 17-year career, all the Test matches, the ODIs and the World Cups. The only disappointment, if you ask me, was I never won a World Cup for West Indies.”
For all his individual brilliance that stood out, Lara could not marshall his troops well enough to achieve success as a team. But given the declining talent riches of the team during his time, you can't really fault him too much for that.
By the time the 2007 World Cup arrived, Lara was half the player that he was in his prime. The event being played in him home country brought the perfect opportunity for him to end on a high. But, that was marred due to a tussle with the West Indian board and poor form.
Scoring just one fifty in seven innings didn't meet expectations as Lara failed to inspire West Indies' World Cup campaign. The team lost five games while winning four and bowed out of the competition. So did Lara.
But in doing so, the Prince of Trinidad left an indelible legacy behind him. Go ask Muttiah Muralitharan, the highest wicket-taker in both Tests and ODIs, and he would tell you who did he consider the most difficult batsman to bowl to. It was not Sachin.
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