Apr 21, 2007

Cartoon Speak: Pain & Relief

Courtesy: The Hindu

The Hindu on Brian Charles Lara

Cricket's last emperor

The timing of Brian Lara's retirement from international cricket is a wistful reminder that not all great sportspersons can exit on a high. In his prime, the left-handed genius — Test cricket's highest run-getter with 11,953 runs at 52.88 — was a glorious attacking batsman whose swift footwork, range of strokes, and courage placed him above all contemporary cricketers. Aesthetically, Lara's batting always had the power to elevate the senses. "I've come out there and tried to entertain," Lara said, summing up his approach to the game. "You have to remember that people pay to come through the turnstiles." An exceptional sportsman who upheld the finest traditions of the game, Lara chose to `walk' every single time he knew he had been dismissed fairly. His knocks were characterised by a fierce commitment to the team's cause. While he was susceptible early on, what set him apart was his ability to capitalise brilliantly on starts. Lara's penchant for steep scores — his 34 Test centuries include nine doubles and two triples — helped secure his reputation as the greatest match-winner of his generation. Wisden ranked his unbeaten 153 at Bridgetown, 1999, which took West Indies to a one-wicket win over Australia, as the second greatest innings in Test history — after Bradman's 270 against England in Melbourne, 1937. The only man to recapture the record for highest Test score — with knocks of 375 and then 400 not out, both against England, after Matthew Hayden posted 380 against Zimbabwe in the interregnum — Lara naturally holds the current record for the highest first class score (501 not out).

The first half of the 37-year old Trinidadian's international career was rich in spoils. It was also marked by inconsistency and punctuated by spells of rebelliousness, reflecting a confusion born of sudden stardom. It was a more sober Lara who made the effort to revitalise his career in a breakthrough series against Sri Lanka in 2001-2002 — accounting for an astonishing 42 per cent of his team's output in a three-Test series. By then West Indies cricket was in a state of terminal decline, making people wonder how such transcendental individual greatness could co-exist with such collective mediocrity. Lara's stints as captain were mostly unsuccessful. While he did spur the West Indies on to a spirited win in the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy in England, his side's performance on home soil at the 2007 ICC World Cup has been mostly toothless. Given how far and fast Caribbean cricket has declined, and how quickly sports such as baseball and basketball have caught the imagination of young athletes in those islands in the sun, Lara may be the last of the giants. He will be missed by millions of cricket lovers.[The Hindu]

No comments: