But that is the over riding view I have of the immortal Brian Lara....
Automatically people will think that the copious amounts of fine Irish Whisky that I have consumed liberally throughout my Life has finally pickled my senses pointing to his exceptional record. Which indeed has merit with him averaging 52.88 with 34 centuries in his 232 Test innings including a remarkable 9 scores over 200 that is only second to the bastion of batting greatness Don Bradman. As well as the only 400 in Test Cricket and 500 in First Class Cricket. Even away from his many records the genius in his stroke play left all silenced and wide eyed in awe of its precision and sheer artistry, He could quite literally thread the eye of the tightest needle while striking the most elegant pose.
All of these facts and glowing tributes are cast in stone, but it is more about what Lara could have been rather than what he was that prompts me to view him in this regard.
A bit like a story that was not fully told.
As I state my case, I point to the long held belief in this Age that Sachin Tendulkar was the best since Bradman and in the eyes of many of the more hysterical Indian fanzine he was indeed better than the immortal Don. In the midst of this debate, the rationale and objective will indeed find context by stating that Tendulkar is indeed one of the best ever but out of place in the company of The Don as is all to be honest
The irony in this is when you line up Lara against The Don you are compelled to contemplate the validity rather than scoff at the absurdity. For where you feel assured that Tendulkar squeezed out every last drop of his immense ability and was accurately depicted in figures Lara was a bit like a gifted child that coasted and only ever rose when truly confronted with a challenge that whetted his appetite.
Anything ranging from a mere glimpse to a thorough examination of Lara's statistical record only ever makes you react in one way
This never so evident as in Sri Lankan on doctored pitches in 2001/2 to support the spin maestro Muttiah Muralidaran at the top of his game with him taken 135 wickets at an average of 19.83 in this period. Then supported by the very accomplished paceman Chaminda Vaas, who took 26 wickets at 15.42 in the series. All of this was truly irrelevant to Lara with him averaging 114.66 with three centuries making you try to recollect of a time in the games history where a player stood so tall against such overwhelming odds. Then made more remarkable by the fact that he was a virtual lone ranger for his side in a series that they lost 3 nil with all games being one sided
The performance prompted this remark from Murali
“Brian scored a double century against us at the Sinhaelese Sports Ground (in Colombo) once (in 2001-02),” he said. “I felt I’d been on top of him in the first two Tests in that series but in this game he played two amazing on drives through vacant mid-on. They were supreme shots. This day he won the battle. I tried to give him a single to get him off strike”
A man widely regarded as one of the best bowler ever conceding to Lara like he did to no other in his career points to the thought of what Lara could have been........
Oh yes, making this recollection more compelling was it was reported that Lara was afflicted with Hepatitis throughout the series !
In the sense that when the challenge was at its most intense and the odds so stacked against him he just rose like few have in the games history. You could pinpoint many innings to highlight this but his 153* against an Australian Team with one of the best bowling attacks in the games history displays this all too readily. It smacked of sincere genius, but its true appeal was its completeness in all regards. Ice cool in a pressure cooker situation that concluded with his side winning by one wicket. Throughout leaving all jaw dropped in awe with him exemplifying every aspect of batsmanship to a degree that belonged in the dream factory.
Brian Lara was at it again, but in far more dramatic circumstances. Kensington Oval had seen some classic contests over the years, yet hardly any could have matched the spectacle of the master batsman defying all that Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill could offer in piloting his team to an amazing one-wicket win and the series lead against a ruthless Australian squad.
In truth, I could continue to wax lyrically about the times when Lara's genius was front row centre in an attempt to convince my fervent belief that 15000 Test runs with an average of 65+ with 45 Test centuries would have been a clearer indication of his genius.
But on presenting this contention and basing it on the deceptive nature of the figures that measured Lara's career I have failed to include the measure of Lara the man. With a players character, demeanour and mental dexterity being every bit as crucial as their talent in measuring their career accomplishments
It is hard to question Lara over these elements for he was so exceptional despite being a virtual Lone Ranger in the darkest days of West Indian Cricket. Where the pressure on him to perform was always palpable and the shambolic nature of Cricket in the Caribbean being like a tick in his ear that he could never scratch out and frequently drove him to distraction.
So the only conclusion is choice by Lara in the career he had in the knowledge that if he wanted more he would have invariably achieved that in the knowledge that he had a Destiny that could have superceded all