2017.05.13- during the Ceremonial Opening match of the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, between the Brian Lara XI and the International XI at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Taruba.. Photo: Allan V. Crane/CA-images

How could anything ever come easy for Brian Lara? For someone who, aged 8 declared he wanted to be the finest batsman of the world and ended a journey marked by some scintillating highs, it isn’t too surprising that when the most epochal moment of Lara’s post-Cricketing life arrived, it too was marred by a debate.

And very nearly a drabness you wouldn’t wish for someone like Lara.

It was a warm, sunny day on May 12, 2017. It won’t be incorrect to suggest that almost every faction of Caribbean media was focusing on one tiny but an admirably beautiful city in Trinidad and Tobago: Tarouba. But for once, the rustic charm and sassy, eye-soothing greenery of a plush Trinidadian touristic hotspot were nearly marred by a local uprising; in the form of a civilian protest right outside the Couva Children’s Hospital. 

This implausible protest, even though staged outside a hospital for whatever reason was so profuse in nature and vehement in its tonality that it directly drew the ire of Trinidadian Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, who wasn’t too happy with the way matters proceeded on an important day, perhaps a landmark sort of event in the history of Trinidad and Tobago. So much so, that it delayed the much-awaited opening of the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, set in the confines of the checkered Brian Lara Stadium, a mighty memento honouring the contributions of West Indies’ most famous batting legend.

Apparently, it didn’t sit down well with the conscience of a mass gathering, then hovering around the hospital as manically as doing usual rounds of online rancour that there was going to be a Sachin Tendulkar Stand in a stadium marked for Brian Charles Lara.

While those who grew up on a feistily appetizing feast of the Lara vs Tendulkar debate (in the bygone era of the 1990s and mid-2000s) might find the news fascinating, die-hard devotees of the “Prince of Port of Spain” who’ve grown up observing the baton of the world’s best batsman often snubbed from Lara’s grip due to a Tendulkar special would only loathe such an idea.

Whatever it was, the curiosity to find oneself seated in the lavishly spread 15000-capacity crowd at the Brian Lara Cricket Stadium in the heart of Tarouba on May 12, waiting desperately for a gathering of eminent Windies stars- Ricardo Powell, Merv Dillon, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Courtney Browne and, Dwayne Bravo – to get going with the celebrations was akin to waiting for Lara to reach a special, say something like the maestro finding himself stuck on an edgy 199.

But typical of nearly everything momentous associated with Brian Lara, the sterling and fancy Cricket Academy and Stadium’s opening went through its own share of further rushes and hit’s and miss moments before the Prince walked down amidst a cracking of fireworks, to hold the mic up close and enthuse a packed crowd in that quintessential boyish tone.

It turned out, Tendulkar, on whose name one of the stands of the now-famous Brian Lara Cricket Academy is named hadn’t arrived on the quintessential big day.

Heartless? Heart-breaking? Reckless? You decide.

Could it be that in another part of the world, the little master was promoting his famous mugshot on a pan-India level, now firmly etched on a colossal emblem of something as fancy as a movie? Well, the soon-to-be-released “Sachin- a billion dreams” might hold the answer. But even when marked by

Well, the soon-to-be-released “Sachin- a billion dreams” might hold the answer to Tendulkar’s absence from Trinidad, where, it is believed that only on Lara’s insistence was the idea of having a mark of respect to one of Lara’s own rival was ideated. But even when marked by a near mini-mutiny in his own land, albeit by the people who’ve admired the flamboyant batsman- the “Prince” appeared calm and collected, as he blazed quite a trail in an elegant outfit when he finally addressed the Caribbean and US media at Tarouba.

But while Lara’s critics would dub the idea of a establishing a Cricketing academy named after the West Indian to be a depiction of vanity, those who desire to see a turnaround in West Indian Cricket culture would only be glad to note the distinct facilities that the Brian Lara Cricket Academy provides.

1. Total Capacity Seating for 18,000 Persons

2. 72-metre radius or 16,288 square metre playing field   encompassing 5 pitches on the playing field

3. 12 outdoor practice pitches – 9 grassed pitches and 3 concrete/artificial turf

4. LED Score Board

5. Officials and Team locker rooms

6. Gymnasium

7. Facilities and Operational equipment

8. 20 Concession Booths

9. 4 Novelties Booths

10. Two car parks located in the North and South with a   capacity to accommodate 1,595 cars and 165 maxi taxis/buses

In what clearly seems like a lavish development on one of the signature Cricketing entities in the heart of the Caribbean, the sensational augmentation and development of an academy such as Brian Lara’s seems definitely a bid to to support West Indies’ growing talent with an infrastructure that wasn’t quite around during Lara’s own time. But something, that shall hopefully lend a magnanimous help in developing the next-generation West Indian Cricketers.

Especially, at a time where Lara’s team languishes nearly at the bottom in ICC rankings, thudded and gutted although showing desperate attempts to break free from an exile of seemingly self-imposed cricketing mediocrity (managing to beat Pakistan fair and square in recent Tests, winning a solitary ODI against them, holding on to a desperate draw vs India, at Jamaica 2016)- massive infrastructure such as the one at Brian Lara Stadium, Tarouba, Trinidad and Tobago will go a long way to serve as a healing embrace to the collective void installed by a Cricket Board that bears controversy and meaningless thinking as its middle name.

Then, the joint chorus of a Lara and Tendulkar batting together- in the instance of the Lara Cricket Academy- to extend Cricket beyond traditional Caribbean boundaries shall only boost the idea of revitalising, solidifying and encouraging Cricket and its development, beyond the shores of the Caribbean.

Well played Brian!

Lara– illustration by S. Rajnikanth


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