Brian Lara
source: creative made by Rajat Nagpal


There’s no cricket like Test cricket. Not an outdated saying; something that’ll hold true for as long as the great game bats on. And perhaps there’s no better way to judge the true impact of a batsman than by measuring his runs that come in a winning cause. Exactly sixteen years back, a time where there was no such thing as T20 cricket or PowerPlays, where Cricket hadn’t quite become the buck-spinning hoopla that drives TRPs today, Brian Lara starred for the West Indies by scoring a magnificent century that came in a winning cause against Pakistan.

For a team you wouldn’t really count as an adjective of consistency, a victory in a Test would, by today’s standards, be something as priceless as reaching the finals of the World Test Championship.

In an era where there was no Ambrose or Walsh anymore with Bishop retiring long ago, the runs compiled by Brian Lara or Shivnarine Chanderpaul, fundamentally speaking, were worth the price of gold for the declining West Indies of the 2000s didn’t have the pace battery to excel at the highest level.

But for as long as there was Brian Lara- entertainer to most, but humble servant of West Indian cricket by self declaration- all wasn’t lost.

And in giving a brilliant illustration of what it meant by taking the attack to the opposition, Brian Lara fired a magnificent 130 on this very date, back in 2005, against a Pakistan that challenged the Trinidadian’s authority by unleashing a quartet comprising Shahid Afridi, Danish Kaneria, Abdul Razzaq, and debutant Shabbir Ahmed.

Just that Lara danced down the wicket, explored the off side with usual pomp, pulled away to the square leg in supreme fashion with his team’s back to the wall.

The West Indies team of those days where there was no Hope or Kraigg Brathwaite to give the side a respectable start were frequent defaulters where openers left the crease far too early for anyone’s delight.

At on the very first day of the First Test at Sir Sobers-land, there was early trouble for the hosts.

As the Prince of Trinidad walked in with the sun beating down mercilessly on a dry and bouncy Barbadian wicket, the scorecard looked vapid like a dilapidated structure; West Indies struggling at 29 for 2.

But Brian Lara was set at one end. In giving early indication of what he intended to do, the left hander jumped off the blackfoot to carve a shorter one by Shabbir Ahmed to the point boundary.

The four was met by a resounding applause by a crowd that had come to experience more of that and less of cheap wickets.

The right-armer then immediately changed his tactic, attacking Lara from around the wicket. He offered a slower one, read brilliantly by Lara’s vulture-like gaze, the left-hander gently guiding the ball to the cover boundary.

Inzamam then brought on Razzaq to the attack but Lara was firmly settled in his role, that of a wrecker-in-chief whose vicious tools to counterattack his opponent weren’t always the exuberant burst of power but strokes punctuated by glittering timing.

A slightly shorter one pitched around off was guided to backward point, Lara now dealing only in boundaries.

But was further misery on the cards?

Devon Smith, in departing for 19, the highest by the top three, ensured exactly that.

Though, thankfully, captain Chanderpaul walked in with Lara, who’d got his eye in, at the other end and thus began a stand worth 169-precious runs where the lion’s share belonged to the man with the golden bat.

For 31 consecutive overs, Inzimam tried everything- Afridi with his googlies, Razzaq with his disciplined medium pace, and Kaneria with attempts to outfox the southpaw- but nothing worked.

The Lara magic was the epitome of beauty at sun-kissed Barbados.

With the score reading 64 for 3 and Razzaq persisting with his ‘around-the-off’ line, Lara cracked a cover drive. It was stand and deliver.

Even the ever-patriotic Ramiz Raja exclaimed, “what a shot!” And there were plenty more to come.

Of the 68 runs the team scored, Lara accounted for 25 and off just 22.

Arguably speaking, the shot of the morning session came with the team at 89 for 3. Razzaq, in bowling a shorter one just around off found Lara cracking the red ball whilst fully airborne toward the third man region.

The result? The Prince in his pomp, what else? The very next delivery saw Brian Lara executing a square cut with clinical precision, a shot so marvellously timed that it would bring a smile to everyone- whether a Tendulkar or De Villiers.

What was even better was hearing Tony Cozier oozing the joyous guttural rumble from deep inside each time Lara slayed the Pakistani attack.

“Lara puts it through the covers,” exclaimed the late Cozier as the Prince struck Shabbir in glorious fashion, the team now cruising along at 109-3.

In an age where we only hear loud grunts and over-the-top celebrations, perhaps there was a sense of pleasing reassurance each time Tony Cozier expressed in absolute delight, “beautifully put away by Lara,” words that hold the power to inspire a Hope, Lewis, Pooran and even Pollard to excel for the team that was hammered mercilessly a decade ago.

Here was Brian Charles Lara, unstoppable in his attack of a Pakistan that soon unleashed Danish Kaneria, the off-spinner insisting on tackling the left-hander’s vicious challenge.

But the result put the visitors in peril danger.

With the score at 136-3, the team having once lost a third of its batsmen without having even reached fifty, Kaneria tossed a fuller one to Lara, who’d carve an off drive about as beautiful as driving around in a brand new Cadillac Escala.

Smooth as silk.

And Cozier would romance the stroke echoing in pure awe- “Mag-ni-fi-cent!”

West Indies, now at 140, saw Lara striking 65 of those runs.

But he was just beginning to get better as the very next fully-pitched one around middle was dismantled straight back over Kaneria’s head as Brian Lara smoked the first of his four sixes.

There was a sense of urgency in this particular knock, as exemplified by the fact that 78 of his runs came off just 66 deliveries. This wasn’t even ODI cricket; just a Brian Lara matinee show that would sway audiences anywhere.

Minutes later, he’d bring up the 150 for his team by pulling away a rather short one toward fine leg.

But giving a full view of his 360-degree range, long before the term became famous to describe an unforgettable Protea, Lara even trounced Kaneria over cover for a monster six, the kinds that would draw a smirk from Pollard.

The score now at 167 for 3 saw Shiv Chanderpaul as Lara’s deputy for the carnage belonged to the king who wasn’t done yet.

With Lara on 94, the very next delivery was dispatched over widish mid-off. Lara had struck 102 with the team on 173.

Frankly, it wasn’t even seeming a contest, given the one-sided hammering that Pakistan were being subjected to.

But truth be told, Lara’s 29th Test hundred, which came in a contest where Chanderpaul owned the stage with a brilliant unbeaten 153 (second inning), wasn’t his last ton against the sub-continental force.

He’d, within a week’s time, score his own 153 before going on to destroy Pakistan single-handedly half a year later.

While many fans would, to this date, revere his commanding 216 (Multan), what most wouldn’t ever forget is that in the course of his 130, Lara raised his century courtesy back-to-back sixes.

Today when the great Gideon Haigh talks about Kohli‘s instinct for domination, perhaps the fan would recollect the man who dominated with a killer instinct, even before Virat was born in the game- and always with a desire to excel for West Indies, forever with a sense of fierce passion.


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