Few players have in the modern era have been as entertaining to the true followers as the left-hander from the tiny island of Trinidad and Tobago. Yes, I am talking about Brian Charles Lara, the only man to have made 400 in a test innings and 501 in a first class innings. His highest score before the quadruple hundred was 375. It was a pure delight watching Lara bat whether in a test match or in limited overs. But he could never be a part of a World Cup winning team.
But there have been a few innings from the flashing blade of Lara that spelt doom for the opponents in the World Cup.
Lara was a part of the West Indies team that took to the field in the World Cup of 1992 but apart from the half-century against Pakistan there was very little from him. But by 1996, Lara was clearly the most accomplished batsman of his team. The team was not a favourite but managed to reach the semi-finals.
In the quarterfinals the West Indies took on the mighty South Africa at Karachi. Few gave the West Indies any chance considering the Proteas had it very easy against all opponents in the earlier matches. The West Indies batted first and made 264 with Chanderpaul and Lara scoring the bulk of the runs. Lara played as only he could, scoring against all the bowlers with his 111 coming off only 94 balls. The ball kept eluding the fielders and speeded away to the boundary on both sides of the wicket. Worse, Jacques Kallis a very reliable catcher, dropped Lara and the batsman took full advantage of the reprieve. Once these two batsmen departed, the innings folded for a score that was not seemingly enough. However, the South Africans have been showing us again and again as to why they are called the ‘chokers’ and they fell short of the target and were knocked out off the World Cup.
In the semi-finals, the Australians struggled to score freely against the likes of Bishop, Walsh and Ambrose. The West Indies seemed to have the match in their grip until Lara tried to manufacture a shot and was bowled by Steve Waugh. It was only then that Warne took over and hastened the demise of the West Indies. But for that fateful shot, the West Indies could have been in the final.
There was very little of note as far as Lara was concerned in the World Cup of 1999.By 2003, there was little expected from the West Indies. South Africa was the host and even as the team was just rebuilding following the aftermath of Cronjegate, the West Indies was not considered much of a challenge.
The hosts took on the West Indies in the first match of the ICC World Cup of 2003 at Newlands in Capetown. Gayle and Hinds departed early and Lara took to the crease. He received good support from the other batsmen like Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Hooper. Lara made 116 and the West Indies put up 278 runs on the board. Lara started cautiously, but as more time was spent at the wicket, the shots started to flow from his bat. Once again, the ghosts of the past caught up as South Africa fell short of 3 runs. This defeat did not knock South Africa out of the World Cup but as things transpired was one of the factors for the first round exit of the hosts.
A month ago, Lara expressed his desire to take part in the Indian Premier League much to the surprise of everyone. The team owners had other ideas and decided not to ‘buy’ Lara. Does Brian Charles Lara require the approval of the ‘chaddi’ cricket to cement his place in the hall of fame?
Wah Lara, kya mara!