Lara's Lyric

42 Comments

Turning to the crowd that had thronged to watch his last innings, Brian Lara, trying in vain to hold back the emotion asked:

” Did I entertain you?”

A roar of affirmation confirmed the obvious.

As cricket has become increasingly commercialized over the years, the overwhelming focus of those who play it has become “to win”, putting in shade the original intent of the game: that being to entertain. Craft has become slave to science as modern cricket has come to be dominated by “per centage”cricketers whose success is based on performing the basics correctly match after match, with minimal failure.

Brian Lara however was different.

One of the last artists of cricket, his game was characterized by an exaggerated backlift, ballerina-like footwork and an overwhelming reliance on flourishes and extravagance. While others used their bat like a club, Lara used his like a paintbrush. With a penchant for epic canvasses, his 250s, 300s, 400s and 500 will, like the Sistine Chapel, invoke wonder in generations to come not just for their sheer enormity but also for their unsurpassed beauty.

Artists work best under adversity. So did Lara. He came into the side when the great West Indies team of the 80s was in slow decline. By the mid 90s, West Indies were scraping the bottom. Often without support in the batting line-up, fighting against overwhelming odds, some of his finest moments came in single-handedly guiding his team to victory against far stronger opposition.

And what greater example of courage under fire can be than that 153 against Australia (ranked the No 2 greatest Test innings of all time by Wisden)? Coming off a 5-0 drubbing against South Africa with the West Indies team in total crisis and set 308 to win and with half the side gone with 105 on the board with a very long tail to follow, Lara single-handedly shepherded the tail to an amazing victory, thus scripting one of the game’s greatest comebacks.

His battle with McGrath in that match was the stuff of legends: the master sledger of our times pinged Lara on the helmet and then threw out such gentle words of affection that Lara had to be almost physically restrained from responding by his partner, Jimmy Adams. And then as all fell around him, Lara counter-attacked, launching into spectacular drives and pulls, meeting Australian salvo with salvo —defending, attacking, protecting his partners. It was cricket at its dramatic best.

But like most great artists, he was temperamental and moody, his career punctuated by spells of under-performance, caused less by the opposition and more by his own attitude. Not that Lara’s achievements are not staggering, but one wonders how greater his legacy would have been had he been more diplomatic, less brusque and more calculating.

Today however is not the day to talk about such trifles. Today is not the day for regrets and what-could-have-beens. Today is for celebrating the achievements of this giant of the modern game, for closing our eyes and remembering : the aerial pirouette sending the ball crashing to the mid-wicket fence, the crouching tiger-like shimmy down the pitch to the spinners, the savage square cut through the packed off-side.

And today is for rejoicing in our good fortune of having been part of a generation that witnessed, first hand, things that will one day become folklore.

Farewell Brian Charles Lara. And thank you.

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42 thoughts on “Lara's Lyric

  1. Yes, We will miss the artistry of Lara, his dominance of bowlers(spinners and pacers alike)…

    And, we will also miss the endless discussions as to who is better ‘Lara or Sachin’ 🙂

    Cheers,
    HP

  2. GOD BLESS HIM.

    GOD bless the person who’s written this article.

    I was running high fever .. 101 odd degress .. but i stayed up that night to watch make those 153 runs against the aussies. and by the time the innings ended , the fever was all gone. And am sure it was all coz of Lara’s batting and not the medication.

  3. Saw how he struggled to fight back tears? It was a very, very emotinal moment for all who love the game. He was all embarassment when Atherton asked if he had forgiven Marlon Samuels. “No, no, that’s not a problem, it happens…You move on.” An All-time great just left the game. We won’t see his like again.

    Plz do visit my blog to see a piece on Lara.
    cheers
    Som

  4. Lara was the best batsman i have seen (i am not too old, but not too young). for as you said he was an artist and was pure class. Never brute force

  5. Pity that Lara’s swan song came at a time when I am so much full of disdain!!!

    Cricket has become repulsive! Thank you BCCI( and the good boy)!!

    Adieu, Great!!

  6. our greats like sachin and sourav should perhaps take a cue from Lara and move on. at this point, Lara was in much better form than Sachin, who was talking of playing in the 2011 cup, although he failed miserably in this one.

  7. GB, I think commercialization of cricket is the biggest problem. It is killing both entertainment art. We had true artitsts like Amarnath, Kapil, Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna, etc. where cricket was not this much big commercially. Yeah, as u said, now it is another 9-5 job and not an expression of art anymore. The only solution is cricketers should be paid a decent amount, not these crores of rupees. Give them a relatively higher salary than the average indian and guaranteed pension. NOthing more than that. Kick all these MNCs out. Let us get back to 80s and 70s model. Otherwise, cricket will die down and become another hockey.

  8. Nice tribute. I do not think anyone else on a cricket ground will ever give me as much joy and entertainment as Lara did regardless of whether he was playing a cameo or an epic. What a sad year 2007 is turning out to be and it’s not even May. Lara, Warne, Mcgrath, Inzi, Kumble, Harmison and above everything else Woolmer’s murder. Quite possibly we have seen the last of Sachin and Sourav in one-dayers as well.

  9. Tendulkar’s days are numbered, so who is going to take up the mantle of batting phenom now? The one who’s going to be remembered for the ages?
    I’d back Ponting for that.

  10. The commercial aspect & entertainment aspect of cricket don’t contradict each other. For a game to be commercially successful, it has to entertain the crowds!

    Coming to this –
    “..the overwhelming focus of those who play it has become “to win”, putting in shade the original intent of the game: that being to entertain”

    What are you trying to say??
    Dot balls are more entertaining than sixes & wickets??

    If you are indeed talking about original intent of cricket or any sport – it is for recreation!

  11. A truly great cricketeer and a greater Gentleman….
    I think there is no one of his Stature in the Game today…
    Adieu Lara….

  12. Loved his 277 @ Sydney as much as his 153.

    Personally feel Lara & similarly, Warne are performing as good as they were about 7-8 years back or maybe even better….pity that they have retired.
    Their adaptability to newer challenges is inspirational.

    Samuels…that jerk needs his behind kicked

  13. “With a penchant for epic canvasses, his 250s, 300s, 400s and 500 will, like the Sistine Chappel”

    A minor nitpick – it’s Sistine Chapel. You’ve too much of Greg on your mind 🙂

  14. Great tribute to the best batsman of our times by the best blogger of India. I really felt sad when Micheal Atherton was interviewing him. I don’t want to say anything more as if I start typing about Lara, I will have to type more than 5000 words at least. More than words, its those small images in the minds that will remain- those flashing cuts and drives, that high backlift and those rasping pulls. He was my second favorite cricketer after Warne, and if there was a batsman whom I wanted to see hitting Warne, it was Lara.

    GB, my dick is so hard now and I am sure that you are about to sexplode too..as its the semis tomorrow and day after. It always is before this stage of a World Cup. I couldn’t sleep before the night of the India England semifinal in 1987. So many wonderful semifinal memories…and the saddest was when Pakistan beat Nzl in 1992 after the Kiwi’s dream run. Can Sri Lanka do it? Another Oz- SA semifinal. Another Semifinal where South Africa is playing. Uff..the memories. Can SA do it? Are they chokers?
    Mark Waugh doesnt think so. Its strange that Waugh, who has himself played in that World Cup has forgotten a bit about it. SA did not “drop” Waugh Sr. in the Edgbaston semifinal, but in the Super 6 match between the same countries. SR went on to make 120 in a successful chase. I have a feeling that this is gonna be another cracker of a game.

    GB…please review the semis and the finals on this blog.

  15. This is a dream that I may not see it happen in my life time – I want to see an indian player quit the game because he thinks that its time for youngsters or he thinks that he is losing his flair. But I seriously doubt that is going to happen. Our players just hang on and on and on… till they are kicked out by the selectors. Lara is a best – he could have been around but chose to leave and want to give the young blood a chance. Can any Indian maestro match Lara? – Sachin / Sourav?

  16. @Naren: I don’t think GB is making a value -judgment on the commercial aspect of the game. We all know commercialization is inevitable. All he did was to trace the disappearance of artistry to the onslaught of commercialization; think of it this way- when the stakes are high, obviously tolerance to failure is very low AND artistic game, by definition has a higher risk of failure. Look at tennis, you will see a similar pattern- of course the great Federer is an exception…but you look at the rest of the players, you’ll understand what I’m saying.

    @Kishor: Wishful thinking wont help, the world you’re talking about is gone., no way you can bring it back.

  17. I was at the Kensington Oval on Saturday, watching the match. After an insipid 5 matches, this last one of our ‘Super Eight’ package finally caught fire. The ground was almost full (22,452) capacity & the crowd went crazy when Lara came in. The locals were most upset with Samuels for running him out, & one of the security guys called him a ‘greedy young man’. But as WI snatched defeat from the jaws of victory a la India, I was quite hapy that they would get a different captain. Lara just doesn’t seem into the thick of things & his tactical moves are very difficult to understand or justify. Anyway, we all applauded & remembered the master, & hoped West Indies would be a stronger team now.

  18. Lara is probably one of the greatest of all time. Unfortunately he will be remembered for being part of a West Indian team that never achieved anything of note – not even a World Cup final appearance.

  19. Farewell to this greatest of artists. A complete era that gave joy to a whole generaton of cricket fans has almost come to an end. Among the greats, Wasim Waqar and Inzi, Waugh and McWarne, Pollock, and of course, Lara and SRT typified this era and only a couple of them are left playing now. In a couple of years, the cricketers I grew up watching would all have gone.

  20. elu
    brian lara was the best batting-man in the world of cricket
    he will be sorely missed
    who can take up his place?

    dhoni maybe….?

  21. While his teammates may have had justifiable cause for not being enamoured of Lara, I found the lukewarm farewell given to him on the field to be a sign of extreme pettiness on the part of the West Indian team. No matter what his faults may have been, the contribution of Brian Lara to West Indian cricket is beyond doubt even more so considering the fact that for the last 12 years, no single West Indian batsman has put his hand up and become a consistent performer. As to whether he was better than SRT, maybe another day !

  22. Brian Lara’s biggest plus over Sachin was that Lara, once in, could finish a game whereas Sachin never really could (except those two matches in Sharjah).

  23. Looking Back in nostalgia…..
    I will always remember Brian Lara’s brilliant innings during the Hero Cup. It is the undoubtedly one of my most prized memories at Eden Gardens like many other Calcuttans of my generation. You have entertained us Brian….a very good show indeed! And thank you GB for this lyrical adieu to the cricket legend.

  24. A magician at work, waving his wand disdainfully. That’s the picture of Lara embedded in my mind .

    Salute the man.

    But GB, don’t agreee with this, “As cricket has become increasingly commercialized over the years, the overwhelming focus of those who play it has become “to win”, putting in shade the original intent of the game: that being to entertain.”

    – isn’t the ulterior motive, the main objective, of every sport, to win ? Why should cricket be any different ? And where is it ever written that the original intent of cricket was just to entertain ?

    Yes, to win and to entertain, that’s the deadly combination. Why, even you mentioned of his innings against Australia, where he single handedly WON the match.

    I find a lot of similarities between Lara and Zidane. Supremely gifted artists, who ruled their era. Some tales I’ll have for my grandchildren.

  25. Pingback: Farewell and Thank You! | DesiPundit

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