Saturday, 21 April 2007

Have I Entertained You?

*Photos from

Yes, bellowed the huge crowd who had turned up to say goodbye to a West Indian legend.

West Indies lost the match; appropriately many may say, as during his time playing for the regional team, it rarely won! Unlike so many times in the past though, he did not shine with the bat but it was not due to any fault of his. He was run out because of a poor piece of cricket by Marlon Samuels who symbolises much that is wrong with our cricket- lack of commitment and mental strength. Samuels will be forever remembered as the man who ran out Brian Lara in his last match. A number of fans have been saying that it was deliberate or that at the minimum selfish, as he called for the run and should have kept running and given up his wicket. Interestingly, according to press reports, when asked during his press conference if Samuels had apologised, Lara fumbled for words and then said “It would have to be a yes, or a no. So I will leave it.”

The whole affair of Lara retiring has a bitter taste to it. Only recently he had made clear his intentions to carry on playing for another couple of years until he was 40 and the manner in which he batted late last year on the tour of Pakistan demonstrated that his hunger for runs and his physical fitness have not waned. One wonders if he was, like many of our other cricketing greats, pushed out. He certainly hinted at it in his press conference. Lara has always been the consummate diplomat and once again he refused to bite at the bait the reporters threw out. However, he did say enough to let people make their own conclusions. Lara, like all of us, has his faults, but he cannot be blamed for the malaise that envelopes our cricket. For that, we must blame the administrators, their incompetence and obsession with power and money along with the way our society has moved towards a culture of mediocrity, materialism, indiscipline and instant gratification. Until we admit the deep-rooted structural problems facing us instead of finding convenient scapegoats, we will never be able to fix our beloved game. Until there is a drastic transformation instead of superficial changes to appease criticism, we will continue to languish at the bottom of the cricketing rankings. Plain and simple!

Brian Charles Lara did entertain. He entertained like no other batsman in his era. The statistics and the records are phenomenal but there was nothing like actually watching him bat. He also had the burden of playing in a team of mediocre players and of having to carry the batting for over a decade. Other great West Indian batsmen (besides George Headley) never had that burden and this makes his achievements even more admirable. We will never see that extravagant back lift, the exquisite cover drive, the deft late cut, the dismissive flick or pull; that seemingly supernatural ability to pierce fields; the utter destruction and total domination of bowling attacks all over the cricketing world. While he has left international cricket, his fans will hope that he goes on to play county cricket for a while still in England. The stage may not be as grand as that of the test arena, but it will still afford some the opportunity to see art in motion.

A transcript of Lara's interview can be seen here.

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