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Hail king Lara

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An era of West Indies greatness has ended. Brian Charles Lara, the man from Santa Cruz, Trinidad and Tobago, but the Caribbean authority on world cricket for the past seventeen years has retired from the international cricket scene.

He was bowlers nightmare, but spectators pride and joy since he came to prominence in 1990.{{more}}

A batting specimen that is rare, Lara has achieved more than one could have ever bargained for.

He stood as a beacon at a time when West Indies cricket overstayed its welcome in a dungeon of darkness as success an unfamiliar meaning.

Over the years, Lara has acquired sobriquets as “Prince Lara”, “King Lara”, “ Batting Ace”, “Batting Maestro”, “The World’s Premier Batsman”, “The Modern day Batting Emperor”, “Batting Sensation”, are no idle recognitions.

And the records show that. As if born to create records Lara holds the world batting record for an individual test innings 400 not out set April 12, 2004 versus England in Antigua. His 501 not out June 3, in a county match in England remains phenomenal. He also has the most test runs hit in an over 28.

He departed with 11,953 runs in Test cricket, the most to date by any batsman. His 10,402 ODI runs stands as the most by a West Indian. He left the arena with 19 ODI centuries and 63 half centuries. Lara was among six players to have scored a test century before lunch.

He has been the only person to have captained the West Indies on three separate occasions.

Lara started his career as a West Indies cricketer when he captained the regional team to the Youth World Cup in Australia in 1988. But before that he was a buzz in his home town Trinidad and Tobago as a youth cricketer, where people flocked to see at every opportunity that availed itself.

He made his Test and One Day International debuts against Pakistan two years later.

He signalled his mark and intentions on the world scene with a double century. His 277 on a turning pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground announced his entry and went on to score eight more double centuries and 34 other centuries.

Idolised in song, literature, posters, titles, structures, a promenade et al, emphasised the impact he has had on the Caribbean landscape.

He was eloquent with words as he was with his bat, at times crafty in his exposition, well mixed with diplomacy and chimed in with his explosive outbursts when things went wrong. But that just epitomised the character of a man who single handedly carried the weight of the West Indies batting for the greater part of a decade.

Yet his prominence and appeal were infectious as he provided the lone hope of West Indians on the world cricket stage.

He was the ace on the field as he was off as he was the main bargaining chip for the West Indies Cricket Board on overseas tours, at a time when the beleaguered team struggled to attract crowds.

Unrivalled in his ability as a batsman, Lara’s acumen and achievement as captain of the West Indies were never commensurate with his talent. His major achievement at the helm was winning of the ICC champions trophy in 2004.

The departure of the recent greats of West Indian cricketers has become somewhat of a scripted fairy tale with Lara the last to go to the publishers. And the authors did a good job once more.

Most of the who’s who of West Indies cricket in recent times have been the recipient of this treatment. Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Vivian Richards among others have not escaped the dragnet of ingratitude.

It was symbollic that he was run out in his last innings, having been forced out by the armchair administrators who are frequently twiddled and exposed by their inefficiencies, and poor running of the game.

Within one day of Lara’s unexpected retirement, thousands rushed to purchase tickets to be part of his last hurrah, further exemplifying his contribution to the game.

The tears, the tributes, the banners at his farewell match at the Kensington Oval in Barbados last Saturday could not compensate for the acrimony of his unceremonious send off.

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