by George Alleyne, Newsday TT
Brian Charles Lara, captain of the West Indies Team in the current Test series against England, in establishing four Test records on Monday at the Antigua Recreation Ground, has done more for the Caribbean psyche than any other living person.
In one fell swoop Lara has not only secured the highest number of runs in a Test match, but has become the first person to hold the record twice for the highest Test score; the first person to score a Test 400 and the captain with the highest number of runs in a Test. His four records have overtaken those previously held by such greats of the willow as Don Bradman, Garfield Sobers and Len Hutton. In turn, his 400 eclipsed the 380 of Matthew Hayden, the Australian batsman who had nudged his 1994 record of 375 aside, briefly, in an Australia-Zimbabwe Test in Perth in October of last year. Lara's has been an impactful achievement.
Lara's painstaking discipline and commitment in the ongoing Test had been yet another example to the world of the potential of Caribbean people. It was the mettle exhibited by Caribbean greats in the field of politics, medical research, Government, diplomacy, trade unionism, letters, economics, athletics, religion, law, surgery and the list appears endless. In the process he joins the many who have helped each in his own way in fashioning a needed image of Caribbean achievement - Eric Williams, Eugene Chen, George Headley, Frank Worrell, George Padmore, Norman Manley, Cheddi Jagan, Grantley Adams, Vidya Naipaul, Lennox Pawan, Derek Walcott, CLR James, Robert Bradshaw, Gerald Wight, J O'Neil "Scotty" Lewis, Arthur Lewis, Douglas Orane, Henry Pierre and Hasley Crawford.
Lara had known both cricketing highs and lows, and when he went in to bat on Saturday, the first day of the Fourth and final Test, his West Indies Test Team had already lost three Test matches against a team, some of whose members and/or supporters were speaking confidently of a whitewash. And at a time when the regional team and its skipper needed the moral support, which would have given it a psychological boost, there were even some Caribbean commentators who called for the head of Brian Charles Lara! When Lara went in to bat on Saturday, following on Daren Ganga's early departure leg before wicket for ten, the score was an unhelpful 33 for one. At close of play, interrupted during the day by rain, the score was a heartening 208 for two with Lara not out at 86 and Ramnaresh Sarwan was 41. The other batsman whose wicket had fallen, in addition to that of Ganga, had been Chris Gayle, who had gone for a morale uplifting 69. The fightback and with it the road to history had begun.
By the close of the second day, Lara, who had been dubbed Prince of Port-of-Spain several years ago, had battled his way, determined, composed, committed and disciplined, to a tantalising 313, with the score on 595 for five. He had received support along the way at the other end by Sarwan - 90, Ricardo Powell - 23, Ryan Hinds - 36, all three of them soldiers fallen in battle, and Ridley Jacobs - 47. Suddenly, those viewing the match either live, on television or listening on radio - millions of Caribbean people - understood that they were witnesses to cricket history.
Newsday had dared to hint in its Editorial of Saturday, April 10, prior to the start of play in the final Test, not only that Lara's record breaking 275 at the Antigua Recreation Ground ten years ago, might "prove a motivating factor in the game," but at the possibility of a victory as well. When Lara declared at 751 for five on Monday he had taken his score to 400 adding four records along the way and material for several pages of Caribbean history. In turn, Jacobs had contributed a significant 107 runs to this history. This Column is being written on Tuesday, the day before the end of the Test, and I look forward to a Caribbean victory. England may have won the Test series, but in a larger and more ennobling sense the Caribbean has won the war. History may pay little attention to the three-Test English victory, but it will not forget the West Indies team's, and by extension, the region's moral victory.
But not only must the West Indies team, its selectors and advisers - managers, coaches and what have you - pay increasing attention to determination, discipline and commitment but the wider Caribbean Community of Nations must be prepared to do this as well. Simply put, we have to meet globalisation with the same resolve with which at the summit we met England. A great deal of credit is due to Lara, who in giving a much needed boost to the Caribbean psyche, should no longer be regarded merely as Prince of Port-of-Spain, but as King Brian, Cricket King of the World! Arise King Brian.
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