If Vivan Richards is the “King of Cricket” then the only player who should be rightfully called as the “Prince of Cricket” is Brian Lara. The short-heighted player unfortunately emerged at the scene of West Indian cricket at a time when ‘black-storm’ had lost their prime and a handful of outstanding player left in their individual capacity.  But even in that era, Lara, fond of playing big innings, posted such records that are enough to shed light on his brilliance. In the records book, Lara’s name stands out because of two great innings: 400 (not out) runs in a Test innings and 501 (not out) runs in first-class cricket.

[caption id="attachment_782" align="alignright" width="300"]Brian Lara claimed many a record in his career ranging from 1990 to 2007 (Photo: AP) Brian Lara claimed many a record in his career ranging from 1990 to 2007 (Photo: AP)[/caption]

Born in Trinidad on May 2, 1969, Lara faced some great bowlers of his time with unmistakable gumption. On the one hand there were Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, and on the other, there were Shane Warn and Glenn McGrath, but nobody could stop Lara from climbing the success ladder. Pakistan have never win a series on the Caribbean soil, but the way Lara single-handedly led West Indies to victory against Australia in 1999 by scoring 213 and 153 in two innings is a clear proof of his magnificence.

Before Lara, world would not have watched any batsman play such big and fast innings except Don Bradman. Lara was the second player of the modern times who started his career from Pakistan. Sachin Tendulkar made his debut on November 1989 in Karachi and Lara began his Test career from Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. In the fifth match of his career, Lara played a superb innings of 277 in Sydney against Australia. And then the ground became his favourite, so much that he named his daughter after the stadium. It was the start of 1993 and the end of West Indies’ mightiness in the cricket world. At a time when Australia were leading 1-0 in the five-match series, Lara’s double-century helped his side came back, and after ending the third Test in Sydney in a draw, they defeated Australia in the next Adelaide and Perth Tests, claiming the series 2-1. The Adelaide Test was the same match in which West Indies won by the lowest margin ever: the beat Australia by just one run.

Lara did not look back after that and kept on playing key role in West Indies victories by posting big innings. In 1994, Lara played a record-breaking innings of 375 against England in St John’s, Antigua. He faced 538 balls and scored 45 fours in the innings and broke the record of 365 made by his countryman Sir Garfield Sobers in 1958. It was the last Test of the series and West Indies had already won the series after having badly defeated England in the first three Tests. However, in the St John’s Test, Lara avenged the loss West Indies faced at Bridgetown fourth Test. By making the record at the age of just 24, Lara showed how great batsman he was. Moreover, it was only the 16th Test of his career.

That was the memorable time of Lara’s career and he also played 501-run unbeaten innings in first-class in those days. Playing for the Warwickshire against Durham, he broke the record of Pakistan’s Hanif Mohammad that was 499 runs.

Lara scored an overall 11,953 runs in 131 Tests at 52.88, including 34 centuries and 48 half-centuries. Another great innings in Lara career was when he regained his record of biggest Test innings. Lara first set the record against England in 1994 when he scored 375 runs. Australia’s Matthew Hayden broke the record in 2003 by scoring 380 runs against Zimbabwe at Perth. But in 2004, Lara again snatched the record at the same ground by playing historic innings against England. The 400-run unbeaten innings by Lara was not decisive as was his previous one because West Indies had lost the series, but his performance proved that at the time he was the best batsman in the world in individual capacity. Lara faced 582 deliveries during the gigantic innings and scored four sixes and 43 fours. The innings gave Lara eternal fame in the game’s history as he is the only batsman to have scored quadruple century in the longest format of the game.

This make Lara the one and only player in the cricket history who has scored century, double-century, triple-century, quadruple century and quintuple century in his career. And this is the record that is not even held by Bradman and Tendulkar, and God knows how long it will take for any batsman to equal Lara in this regard. Lara scored nine double-hundreds in his Test career and is second after Don Bradman who scored 12 double-centuries.

On the other hand, he played 299 ODIs, scoring 10,405 runs at 40.48. He scored 19 100s and 63 50s. He is one of the few batsmen who have crossed the 10,000-run mark in the one-day cricket.

However his innings that received the greatest acclaim by the critics was the one he played in 1999 against Australia at Bridgetown, leading West Indies to victory by scoring 153 unbeaten runs. Famous magazine Wisden regarded it as the second-best innings of all time. According to the magazine, Don Bradman’s 270-run innings against England in 1937 was the best-ever innings of the game’s history. In the 1999 match, Australia under the captaincy of Steve Waugh, and having bowlers like Shane Warne and McGrath, set a winning target of 308 runs for West Indies, who then lost their five wickets on just 105 runs. The chances of West Indies coming back in the match were almost absent. But Lara did what was almost unexpected. He added 133 runs in the sixth wicket with Jimmy Adams. But as soon as Adams was dismissed, West Indies lost two more wickets. Now Lara found a partner in Curtly Ambrose and made a partnership of 54 runs in the ninth wicket, where the latter’s share was of only 12 runs. When the West Indians were only six runs short of achieving the target, Ambrose was sent packing. Now a win was only a matter of one ball for Australia and they seemed poised to avenge the 1994 Adelaide loss. But Lara ended the innings before Australia, playing a beautiful cover drive against Jason Gillespie. You can imagine the reaction from the spectators. The stadium burst into applause. With the help of one six and 19 fours Lara scored 153 off 256 and remained not out. The innings helped West Indies win the series 2-1 and Steve Waugh regarded it as the best match of his career.

Before the historic Bridgetown’s innings, Lara played a pivotal role in West Indies win at Kingston, Jamaica, scoring brilliant 213 runs.

However, even the presence of a player like Lara could not solve the team’s disciplinary issues. That’s why he could not become as good leader as he was a batsman. Although he tried to restore the team’s might by portraying himself as an example, but to no avail. Apart from team, even the board seemed not to cooperate with him. Because of this reason, there are only a few matches in Lara’s career that are considered memorable for West Indies. Especially after 196, when Richie Richardson announced his retirement, the team took a declining path.

West Indies also did not live up to expectations in 2007 World Cup at home and with the end of the tournament, the ‘shining moon’ disappeared from the sky for ever.
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