Having started playing cricket at the age of six, it is no surprise that the Prince of Port-of-Spain would become one of the greatest batsmen of all time.
Brain Charles Lara thrilled the world with his expansive left handed batting and scored runs with ease and grace. His batting stance was almost as good to look at as his stroke play: he would have his bat raised high in the air while he positioned his weight onto his bent front knee, while his eyes remained focused and level at all times.
The Making of a Legend
Brian Lara started his cricket career by being taught the finer details. His father had enrolled him into the Harvard Coaching Clinic where he began to work on his batting technique with weekly sessions.
However, it was not until the age of 14 where Lara took a defining step into the world of cricket. Although he was playing for Trinidad & Tobago’s junior football and table tennis teams, Lara had decided from an early age that he would play cricket so that he may follow in the footsteps of his idols, the legendary Viv Richards and the explosive Gordon Greenidge.
While at Fatima College in Port-au-Prince, Lara scored 745 runs in the schoolboy league and was called up to the Trinidad national under-16 team and, one year later, he was playing for the West Indies at under-19 level.
His step into the big time came after scoring a record breaking 498 runs at the West Indies Youth Championships in 1987. One year later and he represented the Trinidad national team and a test call up was on its way.
However, when the West Indies cricket team did call up Lara, it was at the same time as the death of his father. Lara was forced to withdraw and represented the West Indies B team instead.
First Step to Success
In 1990, aged 20, he became the youngest captain of Trinidad & Tobago but that was to be overshadowed when he got his chance to play for West Indies. He made his debut against a tough Pakistan side and although he only made 44 and 6, Lara had made his mark on the world stage and several people began to sit up and take notice.
Two years later, Lara was playing at the World Cup where he averaged an impressive 47.57 and he high scored with 88.
His coup de grace came in 1993 when he stepped up to play the seemingly unstoppable Australia in Sydney. The West Indies were losing the series 1-0 and Lara came into bat. Against all the odds, he scored 277 to mark his maiden test century and it also proved to be the turning point for his side, who went on to win the series 2-1.
Lara had grasped his chance with both hands and was making his mark on the cricketing world with thrilling shots and fast scoring innings. The next season, he began to break even more records. In the space of two months, Lara scored 375 runs against England in a Test match and 501 runs against Durham CCC in a first class match. These were the highest individual scores of all time at both domestic and international level.
During his 501 runs against Durham, Lara scored 10 sixes and 62 fours as Durham’s bowlers found no answer to his style of play. Brian Lara was unstoppable and no bowler in the world wanted to face him at this moment in time.
Lara scored 62 fours and 10 sixes against Durham as the bowlers were completely unable to deal with his excellent technique and aggressive stroke play. Brian Lara was unstoppable and no bowler in world cricket wanted to face him at this moment in time.
He was in a world of his own and only the notorious Don Bradman could match his combination of scintillating shot execution and quick scoring tempo. Brian Lara was making great strides to becoming the greatest cricketer of all time and the West Indies captaincy was round the corner.
A Team in Need
Lara was the best player of his time and yet the fame seemed to have had a negative effect on his abilities. For a few years, Lara faded into being a mediocre player in a mediocre team and the vultures were circling.
Even with Lara at the helm, the West Indies were a fading team and results were going against them. Yet, in 1998-99, Lara showed the world why they had fallen in love with him in the first place. Against the Australians, without doubt the best team in the world, Lara scored 213, 153 not out and 100 runs to defy the tourists on his own.
This looked to be a spark in a dying fire as Lara began to fade into a shadow of his former self. Weight issues and injuries hindered his footwork and had it not been for Garry Sobers, Brian Lara may never have stepped back into the legendary status.
Sobers helped Lara modify his technique and as a result, Lara scored 688 in the Test series against Sri Lanka in 2001-02. What makes this figure even more remarkable is that it was 42% of the runs that the West Indies team scored in the series. Lara was back and regained the captains armband.
More Records Smashed
Although Lara was back on the up, the team were continually slumping to defeat. Lara outshone the entire team and this was emphasised when, in the final test against England, Lara posted a record breaking score of 400 not out. This not only beat his previous best score but also beat the new record set in 2003 by Matthew Hayden (Australia).
This score meant that Lara had become the first player in test cricket history to reclaim the world Test batting record. This feat ensured that Brian Lara would forever be remembered in cricketing history as one of the greatest batsmen to grace the field.
Sour End to an Eventful Career
Unfortunately for Lara, this amazing achievement was followed by a shocking display by his fellow team-mates against Bangladesh. Lara was disgusted by the performance of his colleagues and offered to resign if they didn’t improve. Although the immediate test series against England was more than disappointing (they lost every game), the West Indies stunned the world at the ICC Champions Trophy. Lara led his team of misfits to one day glory, defeating England in the final.
With his career coming to an end, the last hurrah of Lara came in November 2005 against Australia. He glided past 11,174 career runs to beat Allan Border’s record and to become Test Cricket's most prolific run scorer.
Sadly, this was a lighted match in a dark room as Lara’s career began to edge closer to an end and in 2007, Brian Lara announced that he would retire from international cricket. He fell one short of 300 one day internationals in what can only be described as a depressing end to the career of a genius.
Although the world of cricket continually moves on, Brian Lara was a player who allows people to look back on his career with a sense of respect and gratitude. When his career ended, fans and critics all came out to cheer him for letting them witness what can only be described as cricketing brilliance.