Lara’s Batting Brilliance Defies All
(Photo: Shiek Mohamed)
By Orin Davidson
For most sports professionals, age is a crucial influence in performance.
As you grow older, your performances are supposed to decline with
every stroke, shot or delivery.
For Brian Lara though, it seems all a myth.
At 37 years of age, his batting achievements are going nowhere behind
the borderline of normalcy.
The team’s current tour of Pakistan is providing irrefutable
proof of Lara’s qualities.
His brilliant double century at Multan five days ago was the latest
of his many gems that makes him unmatched in ability to score big
So far his three innings to date in the two Tests have overshadowed
everyone else in the race for excellence in current this period
of international competition.
His 122 and 62 in the first Test stood among the ruins of a West
Indies susceptible lineup that allowed Pakistan to cart off the
opening encounter in a cake walk.
Mohamad Yousuf, the outstanding Pakistan run-machine came close
to rattling up two double centuries in the said series, but he is
five years younger than Lara and had five times the number of let-offs
from dropped catches and umpiring mistakes in his three innings.
Ricky Ponting, the Australian whose compatriot Steve Waugh feels
he is the second best Aussie batsman after the legendary Sir Donald
Bradman, is six years younger than Lara, and although he racked
up a splendid 196 in his first knock against England in the Ashes
clash, he still has many more innings left to match his performance
In common with the majority of his prodigious scoring streaks over
a 16-year international career, Lara showed that he is far from
done as the world’s most prolific scorer.
One year ago, his emphatic 226 in Australia landed him the world
Test aggregate record of which his 400 individual mark of 400 not
out has proved beyond the reach of everyone including the aforementioned
players and others. Just ask Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene.
Yet an asterisk can go against the great majority of Lara’s
epic knocks, simply because they have not yielded West Indies Test
victories as a result.
In most of the cases they were scored on slow, flat pitches which
made batting so easy, there was never enough time in five days to
Apart from his 154 against Australia in 1999 which took West Indies
home to a thrilling Test win, his other great knocks have only produced
draws or defeats.
The 277 at Sydney and 213 in Jamaica could be deemed exceptions
because they were produced in dire circumstances that helped avoid
defeats rather than of matches petering out in tame draws.
The reality is Lara knows best how to compile his runs on slow tracks.
His amazing three-Test 688-run streak in Sri Lanka five years ago
which remains a record for short series, was compiled on the slow
Similarly his two individual world records were both compiled at
the Antigua Recreation ground, which is just as docile.
Now in Pakistan, his ongoing purple patch is being amassed on the
same pitches where are taking Yousuf’s 439 tally close to
Vivian Richards’ calendar year world Test mark.
It does not mean Lara cannot produce the goods on the fast bouncy
strips in Australia or the seaming green tops of England.
The reality is that he will amass epic totals eight out of ten times
on featherbed tracks.
However, it remains an unpalatable reality for his die-hard West
Indian fans who have seen their team lose matches when Lara has
been unable to bat them to victory, given his mega-star reputation.
In the first Test of the current series, he made his contributions
an exception by shinning in both innings in a defeat.
There is one Test to go which should determine whether Lara is more
than a flat- track bully, with West Indies in a must win situation.
But he will need his players to catch better because the number
of spilled offerings so far has meant the difference between them
being 0-1 or 1-1.
THE SARWAN AXING:
Not many bombshells have been unloaded on West Indies cricket in
recent times, but when it did eventually occur, the Ramnaresh Sarwan
axing left as many followers perplexed and shocked.
So far captain Lara has stated quite clearly the player’s
omission had everything to do with form and nothing else.
But it is clear to anyone closely following West Indies fortunes,
Sarwan’s dropping is an extreme deviation from the team’s
selection policy over the years.
No player has ever been discarded from a West Indies team after
averaging 91 in a series they last contested just five months earlier.
The fact that he averaged 32 in the subsequent Test series matters
against India in May/June, nor because he did not maintain his standards
in two other competitions, is not normally grounds for the relatively
Certainly no player of Sarwan’s overall ODI rating that lists
him as the world’s number two or his status as team vice captain,
has ever been axed in like manner.
The causes are either of two reasons.
Coach Bennett King’s contract is almost over and he so desperately
needs a Test series victory to maintain his job, he will stop at
any drastic measure in true Aussie manner to realize his aim. At
the time of Sarwan’s ousting Runako Morton was sitting on
the bench with good scores behind his name from the Champions Trophy
series, thus it was an opportunity to clutch at any straw available.
If not, there is possibly another side to a not unfamiliar case
of victimization in West Indies cricket. With huge egos existing
in the team, disagreement is always knocking at every door and Sarwan
could well be on the receiving end.
Such a state of affair has been a disease in West Indies throughout
its history and it would not be eradicated now, even if foreigners
are running the show.
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