The Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel once said, “The ability to do things easily is talent; the ability to do things that are impossible for talent is genius.” Perhaps few in the Cricket world come to epitomise this as better as Brian Lara.
For few can counter Brian Lara being a genius. And maybe even fewer can deny that he was extra special because of that ability to defy the odds to achieve anything. He demonstrated that many times throughout his extensive career, where he rose to an occasion, in spite of excruciating pain or pressure and sometimes, both.
As much as Brian Lara loved playing cricket against the mighty Australians, he did so often with the team down in its lowest ebb.
A situation where few contribute to winning. During the Australian summer of 2000, the ‘Prince’ was struggling for consistent form. Moroever, he was nursing a hamstring injury and with just one hundred to his name in the Test series, a lot was on the line for Brian Lara in the Carlton ODI series.
Frankly, there was a huge task for Lara to perform against Australia at his favourite Sydney Cricket ground after he had not performed well in the first three games of the series that included Zimbabwe.
But then as they say, there are those who succumb to pressure an those who produce diamonds battling it and Lara did the latter.
So it was the sort of perfect setting: there was Bill Lawry, the renowned broadcaster and former Australian Test Player, who continually emphasized that Brian had to click today for his team.
The Windies were, as per usual, up against a handy handy total and with the loss of early wickets, it was Brian Lara to the rescue.
But let’s delve into more details in order to capture the true essence of Lara’s Sydney genius:
West Indies had lost both openers with just 31 on the board as they chased a 278-run target.
That’s when Lara arrived amid criticism and patchy form to revive his team.
As soon as Brian got in touch with the pitch and conditions, he hit an impeccable cover drive to Nathan Bracken. To show that he meant business and was determined to play well for his team, he played his trademark Natraj Pull shot against the same bowler.
The classical dancer’s move where the body is somewhat airborne yet cutting a glorious pose.
At times, the Trinidadian shuffled a touch more in the crease with experts being circumspect about his style of play.
But as far as Lara was concerned, he knew exactly what he was doing.
Truth be told, being a great, he was always criticised for lean patches, especially moments where that purple patch appeared to be waning out. But for real, Lara’s genius was undisputed in that he often created something out from nothing, which made him stand out from his peers.
But more on that famous knock, as per usual, he kept on hitting some audacious shots against quality bowling, while the wickets kept falling.
But that didn’t deter him from pegging back his opponents. The asking rates kept on increasing and no one stayed with him at the other end, making the task to chase down 278, which in those days was a massive ask, even more challenging.
And yet, here was the classic made-for-wallpper situaiton: Brian Lara vs Australia.
The left-hander reached fifty off 55 deliveries with five fours, but the the trouble was the burgeoning asking rates.
It looked as though West Indies would capitulate soon when they lost their 8th wicket with just 166 on the board, but Brian kept fighting and manoeuvred the strike ver cleverly to avoid the tail-enders facing more deliveries.
With just a couple of wickets remaining, he played some great shots as he danced down the track and hit Symonds inside out.
During the commentary, former Australian test captain Ian Chappell said the other batsmen might have been stumped if they attempted those kinds of strokes, but Lara was able to accomplish something meaningful.
He reached his fourteenth ODI hundred with a six over the covers, and the entire SCG crowd stood in admiration of his brilliant performance.
Thoguhts moonwalk to that era where the grounds still had larger boundaries and the game hadn’t yet become so increasingly skewed to the batters, which is probably why an accomplishment during the Lara, Sachin, Waugh, Kallis era seemed bigger and perhaps even better.
But while until such time, one had seen vintage Lara, soon upon the three-figure-mark, one saw a different creature altogether.
After reaching the personal milestone, the West Indian went berserk, hitting his friend and rival Shane Warne for some great shots, including a slog sweep for a massive six.
Such was the quality of his innings that even Australian crowd was chanting his name.
A sudden downpour stopped the game just as the great man was poised to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
With just two wickets in their bag and 67 off 7.2 overs needed for a win, West Indies’ victory seemed difficult, but then with Lara at the crease and with a hundred to his name, things could’ve spelt out very differently. The West Indies could have won the game. That’s when desinty wrote a different end to what was a swashbuckling contest.
Under the Duckworth/Lewis method, Australia won by twenty-eight runs. The brilliant unbeaten 116 that Lara scored from 106 balls studded with 10 fours and two sixes earned him the match’s man of the match award. Even though it did not contribute to the team’s victory, Wisden ranked it as the 47th-best ODI innings of all time in 2001.
A truly great innings by a truly great player. Probably it’s only fair to say that those who witnessed the game that day at SCG would have never forgotten it.