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A Memorable Day for West Indies

A Memorable Day for West Indies

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Brian Lara’s six into the pavilion to equal Matthew Hayden’s World Record, his four through midwicket to break that record and his sweep to backward square leg off Gareth Batty for a single to produce the first quadruple test century sounded beyond the boundary and ricochetted on to the hearts and souls of West Indians everywhere. Nothing was more designed to lift the spirits of West Indian Cricket fans who had suffered the humiliation of having seen their team lose the last three tests against England and faced the real possibility of a series whitewash. {{more}}Those who criticized Lara for continuing to bat after lunch and declaring only after he had reached 400 have missed the significance of this on the psyche of Caribbean people, the 6 million residents of the English speaking countries of the Caribbean and even in Suriname and Haiti. Let us not forget, too, that international cricket is available on television and on the internet and is followed by persons everywhere. An African friend said that he had calls from Africa before the test with persons wishing to commiserate with him about the sorry state of West Indian cricket. They had been following the fortunes of the team. No doubt they would have been lifted by what transpired last Monday.

What was achieved on that day was one of the great feats not only in Test Cricket history but also in the history of all Sports. It is a test of the strength of character of Caribbean people. Lara’s mammoth innings demanded immense powers of concentration, of stamina, determination, skill, maturity, confidence in one’s ability and even bravery. In fact Tom Fordyce in an article for the BBC touched on the matter of bravery. He wrote, “If you are going to set a new world record, it takes a special kind of bravery and sense of occasion to do so by crashing a six over long on and then, next ball sweeping a four.” It is true that any record that is established can be broken, but it is difficult to think of this record being broken in the near future. It is a feat to score 375 runs when one is at the age of 24, but to score 400 at the age of 35 is something special, it is a sheer stroke of genius. And imagine this being done by a West Indian citizen of a cricketing community of just over 6 million.

I was not at the Antigua Recreation Club but treasured every minute of it I saw on television. There were memorable moments. The following stood out for me, a six off the second to last ball of the day on Sunday, when most other cricketers would have been trying to preserve their wicket and a six to equal Mathew Hayden’s record. It takes something special to do that. This is, undoubtedly, the stuff of which greatness is made. Michael Vaughn, I believe, was the one whose bowling surrendered to that six off the second to last ball of the day. He looked to the sky with an air of disbelief as the ball flew out of the ground. He, more than anyone else, has recognized the talent of the man who has reshaped Test Cricket. “He has achieved something that has never been achieved before even with the amount of pressure he had on him before the start of the Test. He will go down as one of the greats of the game and it will take some player and some performance to beat his 400.” As one of the many congratulatory messages stated, Brian Lara ‘has raised the bar of achievement.’

Lara’s quadruple test century would not have solved the problems of West Indies cricket, but by lifting the spirits of West Indians it would have provided some hope and goodwill and created the atmosphere and space for us to put measures in place to lift West Indies cricket from the doldrums. This opportunity, this space, should not be lost. True enough, Lara is an individual and a genius, but yet his is a reflection of the worth, spirit and genius of the Caribbean people. The Caribbean has already produced three Nobel Laureates. Not bad of course for a community of this size. It takes feats like that of Monday to remind Caribbean people of the strength of its human capital and of the achievements they have already chalked up. Lara’s achievement was about cricket but it was more than cricket. West Indian people, despite the team’s defeat at the hands of the English can hold their heads higher after Monday. They have shown that they can climb some of the highest pinnacles in any field of endeavour. Really they sometimes under- estimate their strength of character, will and creativity and have to be reminded ever so often when one of its sons or daughters makes them proud.

But where do we go from here? We have to continue to rebuild and in the process hope that what was achieved on the field at the Antigua Recreation Ground would stimulate a crop of young Caribbean men and give a needed boost to Caribbean cricket. We have to build a team for the World Cup of 2007, and hope that we can showcase the depth of Caribbean resources and even its will. Prime Minister Patrick Manning in this regard struck the right note; “By setting this new record you have taken the quantum leap forward in the world of cricket…it is symbolic of what we are capable of achieving when we harness our strengths and persevere with grit and determination in pursuit of excellence.” Lara has done his job but we need to move on and build on his accomplishment. There is a great deal that has to be done and quickly. The San Juan Business Association of Trinidad was also on target. To them Lara’s accomplishment ‘symbolized a desire that determination, the character and team spirit can achieve even greater things.” It is much better to build on a note of hope. We should not lose this opportunity.

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