Brian Charles Lara simply took creative genius in batting to surreal regions, reminiscent of a musical composer.
In full flow when plundering runs he was as majestic as an emperor with an aura of invincibility.
No left-hander took domination to such realms and few batsmen ever were more mercurial as Lara.
Lara’s natural talent or wizardry was simply god gifted. I doubt any batsman ever in cricket was endowed with more natural ability.
Lara’s strokes unlike most great West Indian batsmen, possessed the grace of a violinist and the sweetness of the notes of a flute.
At his best no batsmen took batting aestheticism to such heights, looking literally like a manifestation of the divine.
Lara fused aggression with grace like a poet and a boxer, moulded into one.
It is difficult to find an adjective that could do justice to the ecstasy Lara displayed when reaching a landmark reminiscent of a great emperor bowing to greet his subjects.
When batting Lara could surpass the sensation of watching a great Hollywood classic or witnessing a Michelangelo work, who simply sculpted innings.
Rarely in cricket have batsmen ever blazed away in the manner Lara did, when their side looked dead and buried.
Lara bore the brunt of a weak batting side more than any batsman since Sir George Headley, single-handedly carrying the baton of his team on his shoulders.
Although very frequently championing losing causes, Lara also resurrected his team from the grave to achieve spectacular victories.
Few batsmen ever in the history of cricket ever displayed as much prowess in single-handedly turning matches 360 degrees, in the manner Lara did.
Even in the gravest of situations, Lara would not curb his stroke-making and in effect could be as explosive as even Viv Richards.
His cover drive and whip shots were simply breathtaking, in addition to his late cuts.
Lara looked like a more aggressive left-handed version of Denis Compton and a more refined or graceful left-handed form of Viv Richards.
In full flow, he reminded one of a combing operation whose intensity escalated at every stage.
I have rarely seen batsmen who could make such outrageously late adjustments as Lara, who possessed the footwork of a ballad dancer.
Lara’s bat speed with such a high backlift was reminiscent of a hare running, putting spectators in a trance.
“Lara is an eternal paradox and no contemporary batsman of his era was capable of contemptuously dismissing a bowling attack in such an elegant, cultivated and joyful manner. There is no one who brings more joy to his batting or is able to mesmerise bowlers and spectators alike.
When he launches an attack his footwork is so razor-sharp that it looks as if he is able to dissolve his body in the air and reassemble the relevant bits and pieces half a split second later, in the perfect position to launch his flourishing execution.”Henry Blofeld on Brian Charles Lara
Lara’s Test Career Highlights
Lara made his debut in test cricket in Lahore in 1990-91, being selected based on the talent he exuded playing for his native, Trinidad.
His penchant for registering mammoth scores was unmatched breaking the World Record score twice when scoring 375 at Antigua in 1994 and 400 at Antigua in 2004, both against England.
Those knocks could make a separate book itself. Late Cristopher Martin Jenkins who saw both knocks felt that Lara tugged on in the manner of a motorboat cruising, not looking like getting dismissed at any point.
What was remarkable was that although batting for such a long duration to scale the mountain peak, his batting was always attractive, without a single moment of dullness.
The maestro simply remained undeterred, like an invincible army.
At Antigua even if his side had been subjected to a 3-0 defeat in the series, he salvaged pride for his nation, which had been simply battered.
However his best batting efforts in my opinion were when scoring an unbeaten 153 at Barbados, 213 at Kingston and 277 against Sydney, all against Australia.
For sheer virtuosity, rarely has such batting ever been surpassed.
In Sydney in 1992-93 the domination of the bowling was complete on either foot and he saved a game Coming in at 37-4 at Kingston it was virtually game, set and match for the opposition before Lara executed his whirlwind double century.
His unbeaten 153 in 1999 at Barbados resembled a surgeon successfully performing an operation on a patient considered incurable.
I simply cannot forget his mastery on a broken wicket with his team chasing a target of 308 runs to win to get his team ashore after half the team was dismissed with the score at 104, and things looked completely grim.
In that edition of the Frank Worrell Trophy, he scored 546 runs at an average of over 90 with 3 centuries to resurrect his team, who were literally dead and buried after the humiliating defeat in the 1st test at Trinidad.
At Kingston and Barbados in 1999, he resurrected West Indies like a phoenix from the Ashes to reach the pinnacle of glory, on the most challenging tracks.
I recommend everyone to read Peter Roebuck’s report on Lara’s Barbados classic in 1999.
Very strangely he never scored a century in test cricket facing the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younus or Alan Donald or quite a few other great genuinely quick bowlers.
Still in ODI’s in Sharjah in 1993 he tore apart Wasim and Waqar like a tiger tearing flesh when scoring a match-winning unbeaten 153 and twice in World Cup scored match-winning centuries facing the likes of Alan Donald.
Lara also registered centuries against Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee and Makhaya Ntini.
Lara treated the great Glenn Mcgrath with contempt like none else, simply plundering runs of his bowling.
No batsman relished Mcgrath as much, judging his length and line like nobody else.
In England in 1995 Lara was the epitome of consistency scoring centuries in 3 successive games, enabling his team to draw the series.
He produced scores of 145 at Old Trafford,152 at Trent Bridge and 179 at the Oval. He did not eclipse Sir Viv Richards but still gave many glimpses of the maestro.
No left-hander and very few overseas batsmen exuded as much audacity in plundering runs in Australia as Lara.
At his best down under he virtually had no equal like his majestic 226 at Adelaide in 2005-06 or his 132 at Perth in 1996-97. Also took his team ashore to spectacular wins in ODI’s, particularly in 1996-97.
Although inconsistent at his best he displayed more prowess than anyone on the fast pitches of South Africa, scoring a double century and averaging over 66 in 2003.
His domination of the Proteas bowlers was simply majestic. Overall he averaged around 46 in South Africa, where conditions were challenging.
In 2001-02 in Sri Lanka Lara took domination of spin bowling to regions untranscended, majestically dancing down the pitch to hit Muthiah Muralitharan all over the place.
In that series, Lara aggregated 688 runs, scoring 42% of his team’s total runs. Never in test cricket had there been such a display of a one-man show.
His 221 at Colombo arguably ranks amongst the best-ever innings against spin bowling.
He retired on a grand note averaging over 89 in Pakistan in his final series, including a classic 216 at Multan.
It is a matter of deep regret that he did not score a century in India, but he has a double hundred in Pakistan to his credit and scored in a Bradmanesque manner on the turning tracks in Sri Lanka.
- In his test career, Lara scored 11953 runs at an average of 52.88 with 34 centuries in 232 innings or, say in 131 tests.
- In test wins, Lara averaged above 61, which is creditable.
- In ODI’s, Lara is amongst the very few batsmen who have scored 3 scores over 150.
- In ODI’s won, he averaged 61.28, which is praiseworthy.
- Overall in ODI’s, he scored 10,405 runs averaging 40.48 with 19 centuries.
I cannot obliterate Lara’s record-breaking 501 in 1994 for Warwickshire against Durham, which took batting virtuosity to peak unscaled.
Lara faced 427 balls during the course of his innings, which included 64 boundaries and 10 sixes. That knock created more impact on spectators than a Shakespearian play.
Analysis of Brian Lara’s Phenomenal Career
In peak periods, I rate Lara, as the most impactful batsman in the world.
It is fascinating that in Cricinfo’s Anantha Narayan’s analysis of best-ever batsmen in 2009, Lara is 2nd to only Bradman in test cricket and, after Bradman, the most unanimous batting selection in an all-time XI.
The main criteria were the overall match performances which summed up performances by taking the nature of the opposition, the nature of wickets, the situation of the game, impact on the match etc into account.
No doubt Viv Richards had a better record against genuine pace that too without a helmet but hardly faced a crisis situation like Lara, nor tackled spin bowling with Lara’s skill.
In Lara’s era, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting overshadowed Lara statistically but were much more ably supported by teammates, with Ponting playing for a world-beating team.
Still, it was Lara who had the greater flair for making the big scores or turning the game’s fortunes.
If one adjusts the strength of the side the batsman is representing, the nature of wickets and the situation, then Lara could well be the best match-winner of his era.
It is a very arduous task to clinically evaluate how Lara would have performed had he played for a champion test side like Viv Richards.
Arguably Lara is the best left-handed batsman of all time. Amongst left-handers, Gary Sobers, Kumar Sangakkara and Graeme Pollock had better batting averages but did not equal Lara’s sheer flair to deliver the knockout punch.
Significantly, Lara averages 42.19, scored 14 centuries (highest), and the second highest run aggregate in losing causes of 5316 runs.
Lara averaged 60.32 from 1990-96, scoring 7 centuries and 17 fifties while out of form between 1997-2001 averaged 39.95 with 8 centuries and 16 fifties. , and in the final phase of his career from 2001-07, averaged 60.89 scorings 19 centuries and 15 fifties.
This graph illustrates the fluctuating change of fortunes in different stages of Lara’s career, which is rare in great batsmen’s careers.
It is fascinating that Lara never peaked when Tendulkar was at his best.
He was statistically overshadowed by Ricky Ponting in the peak period, who averaged 73.24, scoring 25 centuries in just 5 years.
Nevertheless, Ponting played for a much stronger side than Lara.
I am convinced had Lara played for teams with the stature Viv Richards or Ponting played for, he would have better statistics.
Lara averaged 51 with 9 centuries against the top Australian team
Lara also had a remarkable strike rate of around 60 in test cricket, surpassing any batting great of his time.
From 2001 to 2007, Lara averaged 81.89 against spin bowling, which is simply staggering. In tests won, Lara averaged around 61, which is praiseworthy.
No all-time great batsman scored at an equal average percentage of the team’s score as Lara since George Headley. Lara also scored more double centuries than any batsmen after Bradman in test matches.
Loopholes in The Prince’s Career
Off-Course, his career was not without blemishes. Lara’s career had patches of inconsistency, unlike Sachin Tendulkar and often jumped from sky-high to rock bottom. That could also be owed to the enormous responsibility he had to bear for a weak team.
What may go against Lara was that on retiring, he left West Indies cricket in a state of tatters, unlike past greats like George Headley, Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell, Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards.
Lara was also hardly successful as a skipper, being unable to knit his team in the manner of his predecessors.
It is ironic that however superlatively brilliant; he scored his 375 and unbeaten 400 in a dead rubber. Those epic innings did not turn the fortune of West Indies cricket.
West Indies were already 3-0 down when Lara scored his record-breaking 400 in 2004 and clinched the rubber before scoring his 375 to surpass the record score of Gary Sobers in 2004.
Unlike lesser batsmen of great talent like Ricky Ponting, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Inzamam Ul Haq and Virender Sehwag, his best efforts did not result in as many famous wins.
In spite of taking batting to brilliance unscaled, he was mostly unsuccessful in elevating his team’s fortunes. Only 8 of his centuries won test matches, out of the 34 he scored.
Lara was on the winning team in only 32 of the 131 tests he played; poor support from others was such a big issue in his career.
Lara did not have such a remarkable average in 2nd innings, and he also did not flourish as much overseas as at home.
Compared to his home average of 58.65, he averaged 47.8 away from home. He’s averaging under 50 in England, and Australia did not do justice to his ability.
Although he executed some of the most spectacular knocks, he was not so consistent in Australia averaging around 41, as well as in England, where he averaged around 48.
Lara’s technique was not as rock-solid as Sachin Tendulkar’s, and often he was the victim of being too flashy.
Lara was at times vulnerable to short-pitched bowling, making him jump when receiving bouncers. His high backlift could make him vulnerable to Yorkers.
Brian also failed to take his team to victory in a world cup and was unable to give a knockout punch in crucial junctures like the 1996 semi-final against Australia or the league game against Sri Lanka in the 2003 world cup.
Unlike Sachin Tendulkar, he could not always come to terms with handling fame and struggled to adjust.
Where does Brian Lara rank Amongst All-Time Greats?
I rate Lara as the best batsman ever against spin bowling which is ably illustrated by his domination of Muralitharan and one of the best-ever batsmen on bad wickets.
No batsman scored at an equal average percentage of the team’s score as Lara since George Headley. Lara also scored more double centuries than any batsmen after Bradman in test matches.
Compared to the greatest cricketers, he is generally ranked below batsmen like Bradman, Sobers, Warne, Tendulkar, Viv, Hobbs, Hammond, Hutton etc and cricketers like Malcolm Marshall, Adam Gilchrist, Imran Khan or Dennis Lillee.
In my personal view, overall, Lara could well rank amongst the top 10 cricketers of all time.
- Cristopher Martin Jenkins ranks Lara at 23rd place in his choice of the 100 best cricketers.
- Geoff Armstrong ranks him at 21st place and picked him in his 2nd all-time XI.
- David Gower places Lara at 6th place in his 50-best cricketers list, even ahead of Hobbs, Hammond, Headley, Marshall and Barnes.
To me, After Sir Garfield Sobers, Lara was, along with Wasim Akram, the best left-handed cricketer of all, even ahead of Adam Gilchrist.
Significant that when selecting all-time XIs, Lara was chosen instead of Tendulkar by players like Saeed Anwar or Inzamam Ul Haq. Glenn Mcgrath, by the skin of the teeth, prized Lara’s wicket more than Tendulkar’s, while Wasim Akram rated both of them on par.
It is very hard to compare Lara with the likes of batsmen like Jack Hobbs, Walter Hammond or George Headley as they belonged to completely different eras, but there is absolute unanimity that Bradman was the best test match batsman of all with his staggering test average of almost 100.
Still, it is notable that Bradman did not flourish on wet tracks or against bodyline in his time. For sheer creative genius, possibly even Bradman did not penetrate regions; Lara did.
Lara is arguably the strongest contender for the title of the 2nd best test batsman to Bradman if you weigh the competitivity or standard in his era.
Overall I feel it would be unfair to compare Lara with Sachin Tendulkar, who were both outstanding batting legends. Tendulkar was more durable, technically correct and consistent; Lara possessed more creative genius and could turn or win games more at his best, playing more truly brilliant knocks.
I rank Lara 2nd to only Viv Richards, combining test and ODI cricket, among the great West Indies batsman of all time.
With a gun on my head, I would choose Lara in my all-time test XI because of his ability to prolong an innings and prove his capability in a crisis more than Viv Richards or Tendulkar.
I would rank Lara with Wasim Akram, Gary Sobers, Victor Trumper and Rohan Kanhai as the greatest cricketing geniuses.