Saturday, April 21, 2007

Farewell Lara

Not Lara Croft... But Brian Lara. Cricket isn't a sport most of the world gives a rat's ass about, but where I come from, it's huge. West Indian player Brian Lara, one of the all time great batsmen in the game and one of my favourite players, is calling it a day at the age of 37. The BBC has a write up.

While statistics and records alone are testimony to how good he was - he held the record for highest individual test score, lost it, and reclaimed it again 10 years later, an unthinkable feat - they don't reflect how entertaining he was, how flamboyant and elegant. He was a fantastic player to watch. The stats also don't reflect how well he seemed to play under pressure, which is surely the ultimate test of greatness. It's a shame that he played the game in an era when the 'Windies' were a relatively poor side. His record as captain is also dire. I suspect, though, that these failings will be mere footnotes in the final analysis of his career.

There was always a sense of excitement when the man walked out to bat because there was always a chance he's do something special - the greats of any sport have that effect. You could sense that he was the prized wicket of the opposition, so vital was he to the team. I can still distinctly remember a one-day game against Australia where the Windies seemed down and out and the game seemed all but over. Lara was batting, but he was in terrible form and he only had tail end batsmen to accompany him. I switched off the TV in disgust, but fortunately came back a short while later to bear witness to the final part of an improbable comeback. Lara, seemingly through sheer strength of will, had pulled his team back from the brink. They went on to win the game. It was quite remarkable.

It's sad to see the great man go, and the Windies in particular will struggle to fill the void he leaves behind. Still, all good things must come to an end, and Lara was definitely a remnant of the old guard. I look forward to the rise of the next Brian Charles Lara, someone who'll dominate this current generation of players with the same brand of magic.

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