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Caribbean: Farewell to a cricketing legend

Brian Lara
Brian Lara in full flight – Photo by A L McKenzie

The West Indies were once the cricketing giants of the world. In the '70s and '80s they were easily the most dynamic and certainly the most feared team of its day. Fast bowlers like Michael Holding (aka Whispering Death) made opponents shudder in the crease; a barrage of batting stars (Lloyd, Kanhai, Greenidge, Richards, Haynes and Richardson) routinely piled on the runs with seemingly effortless strokes of the bat.

But from the early '90s, West Indian dominance of the game began to decline. There were fewer victories to celebrate, fewer exceptional demonstrations of the brilliance to which West Indian fans had become so accustomed – and when there were bright spots, they were usually courtesy of Brian Charles Lara. Cricinfo.com summed it up in an article by Rahul Bhattacharya, entitled The Last King of Trinidad: “Lara batted with sensual beauty and gluttonous appetite. To watch him move into position was to already understand the possibilities of this game. To study his figures was to marvel the scope of his conception. He made the most runs in an over, an innings, a career. Anything anyone did he did bigger. Can you imagine someone making five hundred runs at one shot?”

For just about a decade, sports journalists have suggested possible reasons for the Windies’ fall from grace, which has culminated in the team's poor showing (under Lara's captaincy) at the 2007 International Cricket Council World Cup being held on home turf – the Caribbean. The tournament has seen some low points, not the least of which has been Lara's announcement of his retirement from the sport – and bloggers Caribbean-wide are talking about it.

Caribbean Free Radio put Lara's retirement in perspective by quoting from a piece she had written “at the end of 2004, a few months before Brian Lara wrested his world record back from Matthew Hayden”:

“It’s difficult. . . to recall a time when Brian Lara was not the man of the moment. Since April 1994, when he scored 375 runs in the fourth Test against England in Antigua, breaking Sir Garry Sobers’s 36-year-old record for the greatest number of runs scored in a single innings in Test cricket, he’s carried the future of West Indies cricket on his shoulders. (Less than two months later he scored 501 for Warwickshire, his English county team, the highest score in a single innings in the history of first-class cricket.)

The burden has only become heavier with time. Having entered the senior team just as West Indies cricket was beginning its long descent from the heights of greatness, he spent his early days witnessing the departure of the old guard. By the time Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose (the last remaining members of the West Indies’ legendary pace bowling attack) departed, Lara found himself the sole repository of the people’s hopes of victory.”

Young Jamaican blogger Leon Robinson asked the question:

“I wonder what's going to happen to the West Indies team. Lara was the superstar of the team, drawing crowds and cheers. But now that he's announced his retirement, and given the massive failure of the Windies, will anyone watch them play now?”

In looking back on Lara's outstanding career, The Life and Times of Michmac worried about succession…

“He has achieved; there can be no question about that…This upcoming England tour has certainly been dealt a blow. You could say all that you want about him, but there are still thousands of people in this world who would pay any money to see him bat…Such was his hold over the game, the fans, the people. He has relinquished his dominance and the mantle must be passed…. but to whom?”

…while West Indies Cricket Blog

“felt a pang of sadness when the inevitable happened. We all knew this day was coming soon but there’s this uncomfortable feeling that this is a forced retirement, driven by the ugly things that continue to drive West Indies cricket deeper into the ground. He, like all the others before him, didn’t deserve the ridicule and abuse. And he most certainly didn’t deserve to go out like this.”


The Manicou Report
has never known cricket without Lara:

“It's because of Lara that the numbers 277, 375, 400 and 501 bring me immense pride. News of his retirement hit me like an unexpected death. Now that he has retired, I feel abandoned. It's almost like I was led into a great, big forest and left for dead. Of course through Lara I have gained a great respect for the game and an admiration for other players, but I was brought to this place by Lara and it's kind of hard trying to imagine staying here without the man.”

Blogger Dre, at Allyuh.com, posted a concise “Retirement Roundup” by linking to various media articles about Lara's decision, adding a personal touch by saying:

“Brian Charles Lara has ended his international career and thus brings to an end my personal viewing of West Indies cricket for a while…I now have to look for another passionate or brilliant West Indies cricketer to follow.”

And Jonathan Ali, in response to Lara's “Did I entertain?” question, simply answered:

“Yes, Brian, you did. Thank you.”

  • Sreekanth

    In response to Lara’s “Did I entertain?” question – Yes Brian, you did, like no one ever has and no one ever will. Thank you for everything.

  • Vishal

    You are the best….

  • Vishal

    You were … You are … you will always be … the BEST ENTERTAINER….

  • wayne

    i dont think lara was the best. you leave a word such as best for guys like tendulkar who plays cricket. tendulkar plays cricket but LARA IS CRICKET!

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