West Indies are known to play their cricket with a lot of flair, fearless and panache, synonymous with their Calypso culture back home in the picturesque Islands of the Caribbean. The Windies have produced some of the finest exponent with the willow and the red cherry who reached the peaks of their prowess and became legends of the sport.
Right from their all conquering days in the 70s and the 80s where the ‘Calypso Kings’ had a galaxy of star studded cricketers in Gordan Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Sir Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding to the mid 80s and early 90s where Courtney Walsh, Ian Bishop, Benjamin Brothers, Richie Richardson and Carl Hooper were among the best among the rest.
In the 90s and the early part of 2000s,West Indian boasted of arguably one of the greatest batsman to have played the sport. He was none other than the 'Prince of Trinidad', Brian Charles Lara.
Lara was once in a lifetime cricketer who enthralled fans with his splendid stroke-play. The flamboyant lefthander's exuberant grace was eye catching with every shot he played against some quality bowling attacks in conditions all over the world.
His trademark high back-lift, the late exaggerated shuffle in the crease and the uncorking of those supple wrists was indeed eye pleasing to millions to cricket fans across the world. Only a select few know that Lara had perhaps an unconventional batting grip
His classy square cut or driving the seamers through the covers often made his batting look a class apart from the rest. Lara could change gears in a blink of an eye and could decimate the best of bowling attacks with utter disdain. He was nimble footed and often charged down the wicket to loft spinners for some towering sixes. However, Lara's biggest strength was keeping an eye at the ball till the very last moment and playing the ball a touch late than his contemporaries.
His appetite to score some daddy hundreds in Test cricket was a testimony of his enormous powers of concentration. It comes as no surprise that after the legendary Sir Donald Bradman and Kumar Sangakarra; Brian Lara has the most double tons (9) in Test cricket to his name.
When Windies were still a force to reckon with, Lara become the lynch-pin of the Windies batting order for more than a decade. He was the spearhead of the Windies batting lineup which still boasted of some classy stroke-makers in Carl Hooper, Richie Richardson, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams and Sherwin Campbell to name a few.
With the turn of the new millennium, the southpaw later on became the senior partner to a talented bunch of youngsters in Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels.
The decade of the 90s saw Lara pitched against Indian 'Master Blaster' Sachin Tendulkar for being hailed as the best batsman in World cricket. While Sachin etched his name as a prolific run scorer across all conditions, Lara became the mercurial batting genius who on his day could win games single evenhandedly for his country. The rivalry between Lara against world class bowlers like Glen McGrath and Shane Warne was one of the most fascinating sights in World Cricket.
Lara broke records a plenty in the peaks of his prowess. He still holds the record for the highest Test score (400) and First Class Score (501 in County Cricket), more than a decade after his retirement.
Lara became the first West Indian to cross the herculean 10000-run mark in both Tests and ODIs and ended up as his nation's highest run getter (11,953 runs) and ton maker (34 tons) in Test cricket. An average of over 52 across 131 Tests was a testament of Lara's consistency with the willow in the longer format. Lara was equally menacing in ODIs, notching up 10405 runs at a healthy average of 40.
West Indies are no longer the formidable side they used to be 2 decades back, but cricket fans across the globe do very fondly remember the magical moments produced by Brian Lara's scintillating stroke-play which left his opponents awe struck and.
It may be fairly concluded that Lara shall go down as arguably the greatest Windies batsman of all time.