Cricket fans all across the world have long been attracted with numbers, and in many cases, the players are identified with them. So, when we think of numbers like 277, 375, 153, 213, 400, and 501, we think of a particular Brian Charles Lara.
“All I want to know is if I entertained”
“The Prince,” as he was nicknamed, was not only one of the best batsman in cricket history, but he was also a terrific performer. “All I want to know is did I entertain?” he asked the crowd as he announced his retirement. The audience erupted in a thundering applause.
Since his childhood, the Trinidad-born prodigy has had his sights set on grandeur. Agnes, his sister, recalls an incident involving Lara, who was seven at the time, that was featured in James Fuller’s book “Brian Lara.” “Within a year of starting at the clinic, Brian informed me that he wanted to be the world’s finest cricketer and that the game was already his life,” she recounts.
To say he was successful is an understatement. He has a long list of accomplishments with him. Sir Gary Sobers’ greatest ever test score of 365 runs was the one record he’d wanted to surpass from the start. When Lara met Sobers for the first time, he was pleased. “Are you sir sobers? you are ?” said Lara, who was 18 at the time, when he spotted Sobers at his residence following a match in Barbados.
Much earlier, when Lara was approximately 13 years old and playing for Fatima College, he questioned his coach Bryan Davis (former West Indies opening batsman) how Garry Sobers’ record of 365 not out had held for so long. “I’ll break that,” youngster Lara said after hearing the comments about the expertise and focus required to bat for so long.
I’m sure Mr. Davis had no clue that this young kid would one day shatter a record that had held since 1958. The turning point came in 1994, at the Antigua Recreation Ground, during the fifth test match between the West Indies and England.
“I was thinking if I got to 250, I’d be relatively delighted,” Lara said of the innings, “and then slowly try to crawl over my greatest ever, 277.” When I walked back to the dressing room and had a bath and discovered I was just 14 runs shy of Viv Richards’ record, the 291, I said to myself, “You know, you’re going to take it stride by stride and go to 277, then 291, and ideally you’re going to get to the triple century.”
On the third day of the match, at 11:46 a.m. local time, Lara’s long-cherished ambition came true. Sobers’ 36-year-old record was broken when he pulled Chris Lewis for a boundary. Sir Gary was also there.
Although Australian opener Matthew Hayden set a new record by hitting 380 runs against Zimbabwe in 2003, Lara recovered it the following year. Lara went on to become the first player to hit a quadruple century in test match cricket, a record that still holds today.
These lengthy innings need a variety of factors, but one of the most crucial is having the confidence to succeed, which Lara possessed. Gladstone Small’s (Lara’s partner when he scored 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994) account about the last day of the county competition demonstrates Lara’s confidence.
“Do you believe I can break the record?” Lara had stated this during lunch. Lara, who was batting on 285 runs at the time, was gloating about his personal best of 375. The Prince astonished him by saying, “No Hanif Mohammad’s record.” “What? Lara would still be batting today if Hooper hadn’t ran him out!”
In between his lengthy innings, Lara has delivered numerous spectacular knocks that have enthralled cricket fans all over the world. In India there was an advertisement which said “Lara, kya maara!” (Wow, Lara, what a smash !) It may have been the apex of his career. However, as indicated in Fuller’s biography of the great man, one of the most poignant testimonies I’ve heard about him comes from a cricket fan.
Two people were apparently discussing Lara’s 277-point effort against Australia in Sydney, and one of them screamed, “Best innings ah ever see.” He’d have smashed Sober’s record that day if Hooper hadn’t ran him out.” “What?” the respondent asked. Lara would still be batting today if Hooper hadn’t run him out!”