Breaking the barrier
by Keith Smith, www.trinidadexpress.com
Ever since Brian Lara stroked the single that broke the 400 runs Test barrier I have been searching for ways to put the feat into some kind of human perspective.
To be sure, it matches Roger Bannister's running of the sub-four-minute mile and probably surpasses it, given that to make that 400, Lara had to negotiate 582 deliveries: 267 dot balls, 139 singles, 24 twos, four threes, 43 boundaries, one five and four sixes.
That's one measure. Now here's another-when he stroked what was, perhaps, the most anticipated single in the whole 187-year history of cricket he became the only man EVER to have scored a century, 200, 300, 400 and 500 runs in first-class cricket and you'll note in passing that even here I am underplaying the enduring achievement in not detailing how many centuries, double centuries and triple centuries, the starkness of the initial statistic mind-boggling in itself.
Think I am done? Well, think again, because when he crashed the boundary that took him past Matthew Hayden's 380, Lara had broken the world record for the second time, ten years after he did it for the first, lightning striking twice on the same place of the Antigua Cricket Ground, the 24-year-old lad, however, now a 34-year-old man, carrying the cares of his personal world. Top of the Lara list of cares must have been the situation in which his side was even as he went into bat, not only three Tests down, but humiliated in the process, so what manner of mind must be this man's?
Finally finished? Well, no, because to take back the crown that many, even before Monday, would have sworn belonged to him, Lara had to bat for almost 13 hours against a pace attack which had permitted him only 100 measly runs from six innings in the series. He himself dismissed the batting track as "flat", but wouldn't a lesser man not been given to at least some modicum of self-doubt? Not that Trinidadian. Instead, in the words of the late Michael Manley and quoted by that erudite Trinidadian Ian Bishop (and how that boy I used to see banging down balls in the Savannah grew up to be that is yet another story) the batting resurrection that we saw was "greatness as a response to failure".
And, yet, I am still not done because apart from one or two vacuous friends of mine spending their life, as far as I can see, drinking rum and spitting in the wind, I do not know of a single body who believed that Brian was going to break the record again. Well, except the boy, himself, who I am now hearing hinted before the series that Hayden's record was hanging by a seam-in fact, he, himself, said that before the series he had said he wanted to be the first man to make 400 runs in a Test. So that's another measure-the level of belief in one's ability that some, in the lessedness of their own being, might well call arrogance.
But I am measuring still and, my cup all but brimming over, I find myself casting about for comparisons. And I think of the greats who have repeated-boxers like Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali who came back to take back their crown, tennis players like Steve Sampras winning Slam after Slam, master golfers like Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, motor car racers like Senna and Schumacher, and I sense, even as I try to see beyond the blindness of bias, that what we just saw here was something finer, something higher given the inherent difficulty of doing what this man did-the physical and mental stamina required, the possibility of being derailed by a single ball, the eye wavering even for a blink of a second and doing it not once but twice and doing it not as an inspired grafter or a lucky belter would but with a certain sense of style peculiar to the born entertainer-seven runs to go and prosaic me settling in my mind for seven carefully controlled singles turned around the corner and this man gambles his international citation as cricket's Colossus on a six searing through the skies apparently as nonchalantly as a school-boy betting a peppermint on the throw of a dice in some silly Snakes and Ladders game.
And, yet, even with all this, it was in the taxi on the way home, the evening shadows lengthening, that I arrived at my (so far!) final measure, the driver, unasked, telling me that he, like Lara, not having slept the night before, would be sleeping peacefully that 400 night because, look how he had kept supporting a beaten West Indies, like a battered wife always going back to her husband because, whatever the prospect of licks, that was where home was, and now this blessed night it was as if, though not quite, all the licks had been made worthwhile, the man finding in the skipper's latest feat fulsome justification for his determination if West Indies cricket burnt down to go down dancing in the ashes. And I don't know that in what Brian did and in how he did it and in what it meant and may well turn out to mean what the Easter joy we saw unfold both on and off the field wasn't just, in all its myriad fullness, the greatest sporting spectacle ever.
Lara never worried about world record
By VINODE MAMCHAN, www.newsday.co.tt
West Indies master batsman Brian Lara took world batting to new heights yesterday when he scored an amazing 400 not out against England at the Antigua Recreation Ground in the Fourth and final Test of the 2004 Cable and Wireless Test series. His monumental feat took the West Indies to a massive 751/5 declared just after lunch on the third morning. Yesterday, local cricket officials heaped praises on him and hailed him as the greatest batsman the world has ever seen.
Lara broke Sir Gary Sobers world record score of 365 not out in 1994 against England when he took his tally to 375. Six months ago, Australian Matthew Hayden broke his record and took the mark to 380. Lara reclaimed the record with his magnificent 400 not out yesterday. Manager of the Trinidad and Tobago cricket team, Omar Khan, remembers the night Hayden broke Lara's record. "We were in Jamaica for the Red Stripe Bowl series and someone called Brian early in the morning and told him that Hayden was approaching his record. He then followed the match on the internet and as soon as Hayden got the record, Lara telephoned me. He said he wanted to get Hayden's number to call him and personally congratulate him on achieving the feat. He said records were meant to be broken and he was not too perturbed about it.
"We got the number from the Australian Cricket Board and Lara was able to speak to Hayden minutes after he broke the record." "Lara never really set out to take back the record, all he was concentrating on was getting West Indies cricket back on track. I would like to personally congratulate him and I think now the man has shown that he is the greatest thing to ever hold a bat." First vice-president of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board of Control (TTCBC) Dudnath Ramkessoon said that without doubt Lara is the greatest batsman in the world. "Lara has announced to the world that he is the greatest batsman and a genius at play. He played a magnificent innings that showed his character and I think we are very lucky to be alive to witness Lara's batting. This man is truly unbelievable and he is exactly what West Indies cricket needs at the moment. This innings will silenced his critics and now he can go on with the business of leading the West Indies team."
TTCBC administrative manager Rambhai Patel said "Lara has made Trinidad and Tobago proud with this performance and has re-affirmed his position as the best batsman in the world. This boy is really great and I think there are really no more words to describe this man." Patrick Rampersad, an executive member of the TTCBC, was elated and said: "Cricket in the Caribbean has received a shot in the arm with Lara's performance. I think that this will lift his struggling team and get them back on the road to recovery. Lara has shown that he can carry this team and his detractors must be a silly lot now." Lara has reclaimed his Test batting record to go along with his first class performance of 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994.
LARA MAKES HISTORIC 400
Brian Lara became the first player in history to score 400 in a Test match today after reclaiming his world record for an individual Test innings against England at the Recreation Ground.
The West Indies captain overhauled Matthew Hayden's previous world record of 380, recorded against Zimbabwe at Perth last October, and set a new landmark by becoming the first player to reach 400 in a Test before declaring with his side on an imposing 751 for five - a record total against England.
Lara becomes the first player in history to hold the record for an individual Test score having broken it 10 years ago at the same ground also against England when he scored 375 and he also shared a record West Indian partnership of 281 with Ridley Jacobs. Full Article
Lara reclaims world Test best haul
ST JOHN'S, Antigua (Reuters) -- West Indies captain Brian Lara set a world record for the highest individual test score on Monday, passing Matthew Hayden's 380 on the third day of the fourth and final test against England.
Almost exactly 10 years after he hit a then-world mark of 375 against England on the same ground, Lara took his score from 313 overnight to 380 with a straight six off spinner Gareth Batty before sweeping him for four. Full Article
Updated: April 14, 2004
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