Majestic Lara seeks home win

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007, 22:29 [IST]
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West Indies' hopes of becoming the first full host nation to win the cricket World Cup depend a large extent on the form of their captain and leading batsman Brian Lara. At 37 years of age, this is likely to be Lara's last chance to win the competition and end a mixed career as captain.

There are no questions, however, over his legacy as a batsman. Lara holds the record for the highest Test score, the highest first-class tally and he has scored more Test runs than any player in history.

He has achieved all that during an era when he has carried the responsibility of captaining a great cricketing nation during years of decline.

When Lara made his debut for the West Indies in a one-day international against Pakistan in Karachi in Nov. 1990, Desmond Haynes opened the batting and Malcolm Marshall led the pace attack.

The years when their battery of quick bowlers and flamboyant stroke makers made West Indies such feared opponents were coming to an end but in Lara they had found a genuine successor to Viv Richards, a batsman who could transform a game by taking total command at the crease.

Lara's exciting and attacking approach to batting first grabbed global attention when he made his maiden Test century against Australia in 1993. Not content with making three figures he went on to score 277.

In 1994 he rewrote the record books. First he broke Gary Sobers's long-standing world record Test score of 365 when he slammed England for 375 at St John's, Antigua. He followed that up when, playing in English county cricket, he set a world record for a first class total with his 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham at Edgbaston.

Everything seemed to come so easily and so naturally for the Trinidad-born left-hander but captaincy presented a tougher challenge.

He took the reins of the side in 1998 and things started well when he led the team to a 3-1 home Test series victory over England. Trouble soon followed.

Lara was sacked as captain when a players' revolt over pay delayed the start to tour of South Africa and although he was reinstated after four days of talks, the incident was the opening to years of difficulties on and off the field for Caribbean cricket.

In 2000, Lara stood down as captain and took a four-month break from the game and when he returned it took time for him to rediscover his form and fitness.

He was reappointed captain in 2003, the same year that Australian Matthew Hayden broke his Test record but it did not take long for Lara to regain that crown and his reputation.

Once again it was at St John's and once again it was England who were the victims as Lara's fluent stroke play battered their attack on his way to a majestic 400 not out.

As he reaches the final stages of a career littered with individual success, Lara now has the perfect stage to gain glory as a captain.


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