Lara hands Mandela bat that tormented Proteas

Published: Friday, September 23, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg:West Indies master batsman Brian Lara traded jokes with Nelson Mandela on Wednesday and handed him the bat with which he plundered the South African bowling attack this year.

"This is one of the greatest days of my life," Lara told after a 30-minute meeting with Mandela in Johannesburg. "We spoke about his (Mandelas) love for cricket and what cricket does to influence the world."

Lara said the meeting brought back memories of the opening match of the 2003 cricket World Cup when Mandela watched the West Indies beat South Africa in Cape Town. "As our national anthem played before the match, I looked up and saw him. I knew I was part of a great occasion," said Lara, who went on to score 116.

"Today he smiled when he referred to my first century there," said Lara, whose innings of 400 not out against England last year is the highest individual score in Test history.

Mandela, 87, and increasingly frail, leaned on an aide as he arrived for the photo call with Lara. "Where is your bat?" a beaming Mandela asked. "You're a handsome young chap you know." Lara handed Mandela his bat with a handwritten message: "To a man who has inspired the world. I love you President Mandela."

Lara said he used the bat against South Africa when they toured the West Indies this year. He scored 196 in Trinidad and 176 in Barbados, although South Africa were unbeaten in both the Test and One-day series.

Lara was accompanied into the meeting by Trinidad and Tobago's High Commissioner Donna Carter, who came out clutching two autographed copies of Mandela's autobiography 'Long Walk to Freedom' - one of them for her prime minister.

"When Mandela came to our country last year the first person he asked for was Brian Lara," Carter said. "I knew that he had asked for me and I have looked forward to this moment," said Lara, adding that he was playing against Pakistan at the time.

"I asked for you but they told me you didn't want to see me," Mandela quipped.

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