Sunday, April 22, 2007

Farewell BCL

I first saw Brian Lara in action (on live television) back in April 1993. The Pakistani team was touring the West Indies, and in the first test at Port of Spain, he made a delightful 96. I was curious; I'd heard about his 277, and had read some of the hype and wondered what he was like. What I saw convinced me he was going to be a very good, if not great, West Indian batsman. I added the qualifier "West Indian" deliberately because there was something of that Caribbean flair in his batting that marked it - it wasn't the crashing coverdrives or the pulls over midwicket, both made with a flashing blade, but something else. Perhaps it was the effortlessness with which he did it, perhaps it was the mixture of aggression and classic defense. A year or so later, I saw his 277 on video. A West Indian fan, living in New Jersey, and like me, a reader and writer on, agreed to make a tape and send it over by post to New York. (As a bonus, he included England's 46). I eagerly arranged to view it at a friend's dorm room, called up a couple of Australian friends, and proceeded to get utterly blown away by that particular display of cricketing pyrotechnics. As he chatted with Tony Grieg in the post-match interview, I was struck by his humility, and his acknowledgment of the roles that others had played in his cricketing education. The years went by, and the stories about Lara never stopped. I, like many others, never stopped respecting him as a batsman, and didn't mind ranking him higher than Tendulkar. I did find him a strange representative of West Indian cricket. He was a poor captain, and his constant clashes with the board, with fellow players, his occasional prima donna'ish antics, all struck a false chord. On this blog last year, I complained about his comments at the end of the series with India. But to be honest, in the last year, I grew to appreciate the fact that he pretty much always spoke his mind (even if it meant revealing certain immature patterns of thought) and that by and large, he injected a dose of humanity into the cricketing interview, lifting it above the dreary, mind-numbing, cliche that we are constantly, painfully, subjected to. How I wish Tendulkar could approximate even a fraction of the emotion that Lara brought to these encounters. And how I wish Tendulkar had pulled off a '153' himself, preferably against Pakistan.

In many ways, his last appearance for West Indian cricket symbolized all that had gone wrong for him: he got run out by a man who couldn't even apologize for raining on his parade, and his team lost. And in his last press conference, as always, he spoke as frankly as he could. I'm sad to see him go; not just because we are denied a great batsman who clearly had years of test cricket left in him, but because we'll be missing someone who made it clear that cricket was played by humans, not by coached, cagey, inarticulate jocks.


Blogger Homer said...

"but because we'll be missing someone who made it clear that cricket was played by humans, not by coached, cagey, inarticulate jocks."


captures the essence of Lara in that one sentence..brilliant!



10:26 PM  

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