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Brian Lara bids adieu to cricket

Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 14:34 [IST]
 
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Curtains were brought down on Windies skipper and stylish southpaw Brian Lara's 17-year, record-breaking, incredible international career when he was dismissed for 18 (run out) in the final World Cup Super Eights game against England on Saturday, the batting great's last ever international match.

The 37 year-old, who hold the record for the top Test score (400 not out) and highest first class knock (501 not out), received a massive standing ovation from a packed Kensington Oval and was given a guard of honour by England and West Indies.

He had hoped to walk into the sunset of a glittering career with the coveted Cup in his hand or at least would have loved his 300th match to be the semifinal, but for this extraordinary batsman who held the world captive for almost 17 years with his batting artistry, Lara will depart a dejected man.

"I wanted to play my 300th one-dayer but it didn't happen, so be it," said disappointed Lara, who turns 38 on May 2.

As the world mourns the loss of the best batsman of this generation, West Indies looks to the future, trying to rebuild a fading team, for which Lara has always been a misfit. Lara will not be part of the West Indies team for next month's tour of England paving the way for vice-captain Ramnaresh Sarwan to take over the reins.

"I want to be remembered as a batsman who provided entertainment to the fans and in adversity tried my best to perform," said Lara.

It's pity that we miss his signature pulls, wristy cuts, cover drives and eye catching on-drives.

Complete domination: No batsmen except Sachin Tendulkar and perhaps Ponting dominated bowlers in the modern cricket for so long and so ruthlessly. If Sachin is a pale shadow of himself, Brian Lara was still going strong even though he is five years senior.

He was unquestionably the best batsmen of the last two decade and only Sir Don Bradman was more prolific in hitting real big scores.

But Lara did what other greats including the 'Don' failed to do. In 1994 he broke Sir Garfield Sobers' 36-year-old world Test record of 365, scoring 375 against England in St John's, Antigua. After losing his world Test record to Australia's Matthew Hayden in 2003, Lara replied six months later by reclaiming the record with 400. Again the venue was Antigua, again the victims were England.

One of 11 children, Lara made his Test debut in 1990, scoring his first century against Australia in 1993, when he scored an impressive 277 in MCG.

Seven weeks later he followed that with an astonishing innings of 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in English county cricket, the highest first class score.

A true entertainer: His high backlift and axe-like shots will remain an endearing sight the world will miss forever. He is the true entertainer of the game. Never in the history any batsmen scored more runs than him in any form of cricket and for that Brian Lara would remain the most loved and feared batsmen of last two decades.

He was also the last of the great lineage the West Indies produced since the days of three Ws. But he was also a flawed leader, a confused, whimsical and vindictive captain whose decisions raises more questions than answers.

Saturday's Super Eight match against England will be the last time we watch Brian Lara in an international match but sadly, West Indian cricket is unlikely to miss him, specially after his uninspiring leadership in the World Cup.

His batting, a hostage to his moods, has touched extraordinary highs and inexplicable lows. But that's the essence of Lara and the peaks have been so rewarding that it's been easy to overlook the troughs.

During an inventive but largely fruitless spell as captain of a fading team, Lara reiterated his genius by single-handedly defying the 1998-99 Australian tourists with a sequence of 213, 8, 153 not out and 100.

Hard work takes its toll: For a while, excess weight and hamstring problems hampered his once-lightning footwork, and the torrent of runs became an occasional spurt. But after Garry Sobers suggested a tweak to his flourishing backlift, Lara returned to his destructive ways in Sri Lanka in 2001-02, with 221 and 130 in one Test and 688 runs - a record 42 per cent of the entire West Indies' output in the series, and reclaimed the captaincy the following year.

However, the second stint as captain was not a happy memory, leading a side where he was easily the best player and where discipline was a constant worry. He led them to defeat for a second time in South Africa, and then lost to England in the Caribbean too.

But then, just when all hope seemed to have deserted West Indies cricket, Lara responded to the prospect of a home series whitewash with an astonishing unbeaten 400 in the final Test against England in Antigua.

In doing so, he became the first man to reclaim the world Test batting record, a feat that ensured he would stand alongside Shane Warne as the most charismatic cricketer of the modern era.

It is hardly a secret that Lara was foisted as captain by Ken Gordon, the president of the West Indies Cricket Board and a fellow Trinidadian, after the infamous row between the board and the players over sponsorship in 2005.

A majority of the then selection committee didn't want him and none of the members of the present one want him either.

The world will miss him but sadly West Indies might not as it could be the way forward for them but cricket will remember him as another legend gone with the wind.

Cricketing fraternity bids adieu to Lara: The legends and cricketers of this generation heaped praise alike on the gentle giant who tormented bowlers for almost two decades.

The most emotional one came from the man who will succeed him - Ramnaresh Sarwan.

Ramnaresh Sarwan: He is great leader and for more than one and half decades he has been standing tall for West Indies cricket despite its gradual fall. I shall always cherish all those years playing by his side.

Other past and present greats also paid homage to the cricekter who is widely acknowledged as the numero uno of his generation.

Michael Holding: Brain Lara has had a brilliant career but now that he has retired it's time for West Indies cricket to move forward. The mantle passes to Ramnaresh Sarwan and he should try and get some positive results for the team.

Michael Vaughan: With the exit of Brian Lara, the world will miss the last of the classical cricketers as power have taken over class.

He might have tormented us every time we face him, but yet he was the super batsman.

Clive Lloyd: If you leave aside his flawed leadership, he is a great batsman. As a coach and manager I have seen him closely and it is a delight to watch him. A truly fantastic player.

Gary Sobers: I cannot accept that he is going knowing fully well that everything has to end today. I have always seen him as the heir to my cricket. He is a legend for the West Indies cricket.

Michael Atherton: I have never seen a more complete batsman than him in my life. His lightning footwork and amazing power to play long innings have been a nightmare for all the opposition and we have suffered in his hand many a times. I enjoy Brian Lara's batting more from the commentary box than being his opponent running to the boundaries to get back the ball every time.

ThatsCricket (with inputs from Agencies)

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Story first published:  Sunday, April 22, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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