Brian Lara is airborne

Air Brian: Lara gets on top of the ball, Adelaide 2000

© Getty Images


Fly Lara fly

The method behind the genius, the early-morning vision behind the epics

Rahul Bhattacharya |

Lara is a beautiful name. Rhythmic, small and epic. It is a classic film theme, an animated heroine, and in cricket it is a poem that sings like a song. Like in Jean "Binta" Breeze's "Song for Lara":

if de bowler fine a reason
ah will answer wid a rhyme
any kine a riddim
in mi own time

The answers in any kind of riddim, the innings orchestral. They beat about the body, stay in the system. Like steel band resonation, like the Renegades doing "Pan in a Rage", or "Four Lara Four" for that matter, batting that vibrates long after it is over, slowing perhaps but never coming to a stop.

That is one way (though only one) of thinking about the results of the Cricket Monthly exercise. It's a list tingling with the Lara sensation. Consider his rough contemporaries who have no entries in the 50: Sanga, Jayawardene, Inzamam, Chanderpaul, Hayden, Kirsten, Ponting, Kallis, Tendulkar. Lara? Four. For the 50 years in consideration, nobody has as many, batsman, bowler or allrounder. Four Lara Four! All four in the top 30, three in the top 20, one of those in the top five: 153 not out in Barbados.

Over their history West Indies rarely lost a Test in Barbados, and Barbados really is no place to lose a Test. There, in a taxi or in a bar they shred your pretensions

This is an article about remembering Lara and what I remembered is something that he remembered when I interviewed him in 2002 and which I had been curious about ever since.

I also remember one of my good school friends, Nicholas Gomez, giving me a book on Michael Jordan. He had an entire page on how he went about visualising what's going to happen in a game. I tried that sort of method for a while, I've seen that the success rate is very, very good. Before my 153 not out against Australia in Barbados, I remember calling my friend Gomez, the same guy who gave me the book. Six o'clock in the morning, the last morning of the Test match and we went about planning this innings against the best team in the world. And it was amazing to see how it just came to fruition.

So I got in touch with Nicholas Gomez in Trinidad and asked him to remember it. Before Barbados was Jamaica and before Jamaica is where we begin.

When Nicholas Gomez received the call at home on March 12, 1999, the following things had already happened. Lara had almost not taken West Indies to South Africa over a pay fight ; Lara had overseen a 5-0 defeat there. Lara was placed on "probation" against Australia and West Indies responded by falling for 51 before his home crowd in Port-of-Spain, their lowest total at the time. And now he was in Jamaica, where public opinion was doubly ranged against him, because he was seen to have hustled their man Courtney Walsh out of the captaincy.

Gomez's phone rang and it was Brian Lara. "He calls me and he says, 'I'm really, really down. I don't know if I'm taking the field tomorrow.' I'm thinking, that's a serious t'ing going on! 'What!' I tell him, 'Let's talk this through.' We spend an hour on the phone. He says, 'I have to go to a team meeting now but could I call you back?' I say, 'Sure, Brian, anytime.' I jump off the phone and I say to myself, I need to think what to do. So I made a decision that I am going to go to the airport at 4.30 the next morning, I'm going to try and get a ticket, get on a flight and go to Jamaica, right."

My vision: Michael Jordan's words about visualisation rang true for Lara, maybe because he was already unwittingly doing it himself

My vision: Michael Jordan's words about visualisation rang true for Lara, maybe because he was already unwittingly doing it himself © Getty Images

Gomez was then in his mid-30s, nine years into a career with Ernst & Young Trinidad & Tobago, where he had just become partner. He knew Lara from the days of Fatima College, which is, in fact, a secondary school. Back when "Brian was a very, very small, minute, little individual" with "arms as slim as - you cannot imagine how small". When Gomez was 17 and Fatima cricket captain and Lara was 13 and had already broken into the first team. Gomez remembers a match from that time. The top order had gone for nothing but at the bottom, which was the only place he got to bat, little Lara held up an end
re-mark-ably, to use Gomez's emphasis. "He was so small that he couldn't drive the ball past cover." So he got all his runs with deflections and manoeuvres and in this way got himself close to a hundred. Time was running out and the school principal was watching from the stands, but Gomez found it hard to declare the innings. In the big picture, a first hundred for the prodigy would be more valuable than anything the declaration would achieve. So he didn't. Lara got the century, Fatima got their opponents to nine down, missed the outright victory.

Gomez arrived in Sabina Park to the sight of Mark Waugh bowled by a rank shooter, but the other Waugh got a hundred. Australia were all out for 256 but by stumps West Indies had sunk to 37 for 4. Not exactly a situation to erase his buddy's funk or ease his predicament.

In the evening the friends met. Dinner was at the hotel poolside, where they were joined by calypsonian De Mighty Trini. And then the two repaired upstairs to Gomez's room.

"We just lay on the bed talking, and I mean literally for hours, talking about the good old days, reminiscing on various innings, various matches, you know, how we played, the strength of the team, all sorts of things. All the fun times we had together in Fatima College, right, which was his foundation. And then he went into his early days on playing with the West Indian team, you know, how Vivian Richards was with him, you know that whole thing. He was 12th and 13th man, right, he didn't play for quite some time. And we must have spent about five hours together. I told Brian, 'Time to get some rest, boy, you need to go get some rest.' After speaking through all the fun times he got to a place of absolute comfort and relaxation."

"I spoke to him about five minutes on the phone and he'd already looked at me and processed what I can do and I shouldn't do. So I think he has a computer in his brain" Ramnaresh Sarwan

The ticket Lara had got Gomez was across the pavilion, in a stand that dropped down about eight feet on to the straight boundary. In the morning Gomez found a spot in the corner of the stand, from where Lara could see him. The two made eye contact as Lara walked in towards the pitch, and that set off an impromptu routine. As the innings gathered, Gomez watched the Sabina crowd, which had required on day one for Walsh to put his arm around Lara to kill the tension, getting behind his friend. Via Gomez. "It is clear that Brian and I are signalling, right. At the end of every over I kept my fist pumped. 'Keep going buddy.' Through the course of the day people came and stood up next to me, so much that I had the whole front lined with people. Everybody standing up as we celebrated his first hundred, then his second hundred." At each milestone about half the stadium was on the pitch.

Lara began the day on 7 and finished it on 212, an innings like manna from heaven. The nightwatchman retired hurt but West Indies did not lose a wicket all day.

That evening in the hotel room Gomez saw a bump on Lara's head. "Like there was a cork ball inside his skull." It was from a McGrath bouncer that had struck the right side of the head, near the ear. "Nobody knew that. Everyone thought he got hit on the helmet. It struck him under the helmet on his head.

"This thing was pounding, right. He lay on the bed and put ice on it and of course the phone was ringing off the hook. People were calling in all the time. He needed to get rest, he needed to get his head sorted out, because we had another day before us. Brian is thinking big, right, you know Brian is a big thinker. He's thinking, 'Tomorrow I'm going to slaughter, right.' (Laughs) 'Tomorrow I'm going to slaughter.'"

A tense Lara talks to the press before the Jamaica Test in 1999

A tense Lara talks to the press before the Jamaica Test in 1999 © Getty Images

Next morning he was out for 213, and the morning after that West Indies had won a stunning victory. Having followed every Brian Lara innings since that first hundred for Fatima, having flung a file at the wall in frustration when the radio told of the run-out that ended his first international century at 277 back in '93, having seen the world record in '94, Gomez came out of Sabina Park convinced this was the greatest Lara innings of all. Sixteen years on he maintains it. "Because of the whole context of the adversity he faced."

It so happens that Lara agrees.

Didn't make it to the Cricket Monthly panel's 50. Four entries but not the 213. The 153 not out came in the next match in Barbados, but let us return to that.

Let us pause to consider that Michael Jordan book. Gomez remembers giving it to Lara before the series, because when he read how Jordan approached his game, "what occurred to me was Brian Lara". He remembers it was a hardcover, that the cover was Jordan's head or face, that inside it was very colourful with plenty of pictures, but he can't remember the name.

But these details, and Lara's own memory of the book, are sufficient to sniff it out on the World Wide Web. The book we are looking for is called For the Love of the Game: My Story, an eccentric, psychedelic out-of-print creation, seducing with the American power to mythologise itself.

Lying in whatever hotel they are at, Lara is writing the momentous performance of his life, like Coleridge he is composing "Kubla Khan" in opiate dreams

Of visualisation Jordan writes that he has used the technique "for as long as I can remember" and "it wasn't until later in my life that I realized the technique is something most people have to learn". He gives an example. "If I was playing against a scorer like Reggie Miller, I would envision his tendencies, his favorite spots on the floor, how he liked to receive the ball. It's like I would watch this little game unfold in my mind. Then I'd make decisions based on what I saw... Once the game started, I never thought about what was about to happen. Instincts took over. But in a way, I knew I already had seen specific ways in which the game could unfold."

The page Lara remembered is a mesmerising account that takes us through the ultimate moments of a legendary game.

Everything leading up to the shot against Utah in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals was vivid. It was like I was watching everything unfold in slow motion on television. I stole the ball, looked up at the clock, and then down the court. I could see every player and I remember exactly where they were as I came up the floor. Steve Kerr was in the corner, John Stockton faked at me and was going to come to me. I was up top. Dennis was curling underneath the post on the left. Scottie was on the bottom post on the right. I could hear sounds, but it was like white noise. In that moment I couldn't distinguish one sound from another, but I was able to evaluate every opportunity on the court.

Now he guides us through a detailed, complex assessment of his options on the floor, weighing the pros and cons of going left or right, factoring in how one opponent before him responded to his play in Game 1 of the previous year's final, and another did in Game 6 of that same final, and one thing is clear to him.

Last shot: with ten seconds left on the clock, Michael Jordan nails the 20-footer to beat Utah Jazz 87-86 in 1998*

Last shot: with ten seconds left on the clock, Michael Jordan nails the 20-footer to beat Utah Jazz 87-86 in 1998* © Getty Images

I had no intention of passing the ball under any circumstances. I figured I stole the ball and it was my opportunity to win or lose the game. I would have taken that shot with five people on me. Ironically, I have problems going to my right for a stop, pull-up jumper because I have a tendency to come up short. I normally fade a little. But on this shot I didn't want to fade because all my jump shots had been short. Think about that. I had enough time to think about those issues. It's incredible, even to me. And yet, that's how it happened. I went straight up and I came straight down. I consciously extended my hand up and out toward the target because I had been coming up short. It looked like I was posing, but it was a fundamentally sound shot. It's truly amazing that I can break down a game into all those parts in that amount of time and then execute the play.

All that happened in about 11 seconds.

This was the thing called visualisation that Lara had been working on with the psychologist Rudi Webster, so that he could see the 153 not out in Barbados, make sense of it before it apprehended him.

Before coming to the 153, another little stop. Let us admire the scenery in Sri Lanka. Three Tests, three heavy defeats for West Indies, Lara 688 runs in six innings, against the great Muttiah Muralitharan on his own turf. In Colombo at the end of this lossful series, he made 221 and 130: No. 18 on the Cricket Monthly list.

This is two years after the events we have been discussing. We are interested here not in chronology but capacity. On a flight a friend once bumped into Ramnaresh Sarwan, who had a few things to say about how Lara tamed Murali, and that too is something I had been curious about ever since. So I rang Sarwan.

Lara is a beautiful name. It is a classic film theme, an animated heroine, and in cricket it is a poem that sings like a song

This is what happened.

In the first Test in Galle, Sarwan has no idea which direction Murali's deliveries are going to spin. He mentions this mid-pitch to his partner, Brian Lara. Lara tells him he isn't picking Murali either. "What you gonna do, boss?" Sarwan asks. "He says, 'Well, I'm going to try and sweep my way to a hundred.'" He adds, "'Before the series is out I will be pickin' him and hittin' him wherever I want.'"

In Galle, Sarwan watches a Lara 178 unfold without the batsman knowing which way the ball is going to turn. "Astonishing" is the word he uses.

In the second Test in Kandy, he sees that Lara has understood how it's coming out of Murali's hand, "because he was demonstrating to us how we can pick him. He was already using his feet and hitting him through midwicket and stuff like that".

By the third Test in Colombo the code is cracked. "They had long-off, long-on, and he was still using his feet and hitting those balls between long-on and long-off. Basically, he was hitting him wherever he want, just like he mentioned to me in the first Test match."

Perversely, he was using Murali's accuracy, his consistency, against him. "Ninety percent of the time if Murali want to put a ball on a 25-cent he will be able to put it there. Because he was so confident of Murali bowling in one area so consistently, he was going to use his feet and pick him off."

The code, though, I'm interested in the code. How was he picking him? What was the code?

In eight Tests against a Sri Lanka side featuring Murali, between 1993 and 2003, Lara scored five hundreds and averaged 86.53

In eight Tests against a Sri Lanka side featuring Murali, between 1993 and 2003, Lara scored five hundreds and averaged 86.53 © Getty Images

"He would pick him from his wrist. Obviously with Muralitharan, the topspinners with the offspinners, the rotation is the same, it's travelling in one direction. He said he was picking him up from the wrist, but obviously not everyone is as gifted as him."

"Did he tell you how to do it? Could you crack it?"

"I couldn't crack it (Laughs). A series or two later I was able to - I was not 100% sure - but I had a little idea which direction he was going to go. I couldn't commit the way he [Lara] was committing. But what he taught me throughout that series was the way to play Murali. If Murali was going to pitch the ball in a particular area you could prepare for it."

"What is his particular genius that allows him to pick Murali when others can't? Eyesight? Instinct? What is it?"

"I think you said the right word. Only a genius could probably do it."

When Sarwan was 19 he made his Test debut against an all-star Pakistan and made 84 not out. Lara, not playing that series, was the first person to call and congratulate.

The propulsive movements, in which lie the entire width and depth of batting possibility, the secret of his majestic flight - but now ending in broken-wing shambles

"I spoke to him about five minutes on the phone and I can remember the way he spoke to me. It was quite amazing because he'd already looked at me and processed certain things and he mentioned to me what I can do and I shouldn't do. I mean it's quite - I had never heard anybody say it before. So I think he has a computer in his brain."

What did he say?

"He's basically like, you don't need to get forward too early. Wait on the swing."

And he was right?

Sarwan laughs. "Yeah. Next game I played I was on the front foot and Wasim got me lbw."

Now Sarwan is a distinguished batsman. Eighty-seven Tests, average 40, at least one innings for a West Indies all-time list. Yet when he plays with Lara, it is apparent to him that at the other end is "somebody who comes once in a hundred years".

"How much runs he needs to score in a session, and which bowlers he can take on to score X amount of runs. I mean he has it all worked out in the way he approaches things and how he wants to get there."

Sarwan and Lara get chatting after the record chase in Antigua against Australia in 2003. Sarwan scored a century in the second innings and Lara 60

Sarwan and Lara get chatting after the record chase in Antigua against Australia in 2003. Sarwan scored a century in the second innings and Lara 60 © Getty Images

Instances. In the 400 not out at Antigua, where the two put on 232, Sarwan remembers Lara had his eye on the record at about 150 (just as he had his eye on the 500 before he had got to 300, Dermot Reeve, his Warwickshire captain, once remembered). In Port-of-Spain v Australia in 2003, close to a long-awaited first century on home soil, in the heat of a torrid Brett Lee spell - the fastest Sarwan has ever encountered - Lara gets fed up of turning himself into an inverted airborne "C" against Lee's bouncers, looks around the field and tells his partner: "Listen, I'm going to hit him in front of square. When they move the fielder in front of square, I'm going to hit him a little more in front of square. And then I'm going to hit him behind square." Watch him here fulfil part of the plan. On 99 he fancies the spinner. "Get me on strike, I need to be on strike now!" First ball he duly takes a boundary and the century.

The 153 not out was before Sarwan's West Indies debut. But he recalls Lara saying something about it, "when I got to know him enough to ask questions".

"That innings he calculated that you need to hit X amount of fours - I think he had worked out that he needed 18 or 20 boundaries to win the game." Sarwan is in Guyana, I am in India and we are both laughing on the line and I think we are both shaking our heads. Afterwards I look up the numbers on the scorecard. BC Lara, 4s 19, 6s 1.

Over their history West Indies rarely lost a Test match in Barbados, and Barbados really is no place to lose a Test match. There, in a taxi or in a bar or from the boundary line they can shred your technique or your pretensions, because in those 166 square miles they have learnt from Sirs Weekes, Worrell and Walcott, from Sir Garry and Rev Wes, and Gordon and Dessie, and Joel and Malcolm, and Cozier too, and they know what's what and who's who. In a place like that you want to walk proud.

Lara gets fed up of turning himself into an inverted airborne "C" against Lee's bouncers, looks around the field and tells his partner: "Listen, I'm going to hit him in front of square"

The series is 1-1 when the prince of Trinidad swoops into the island on a runway that appears like magic over shimmering turquoise waters. After Jamaica, calls for his head have ceased. The re-coronation has held the Anglophone Caribbean in thrall, from the tip of Jamaica where it reaches towards Cuba down to the bottom of Guyana where the Takutu flows into Brazil.

In a Trini posse are one Nicholas Gomez and one Hugh Scott. Scott was the Fatima College captain before Gomez, when Lara was inducted into the first team, although as 12th man, and whom Lara therefore refers to as "my first captain". The first two skippers of the skipper of West Indies.

But the going in Barbados is not good at all.

Day one: Steve Waugh begins by winning the toss and finishes it on 141 not out. Day two: Ricky Ponting raises his century, Australia get 490; Lara sends in a nightwatchman, who is out first ball, and then Lara is himself in disarray, wearing one from Glenn McGrath on his chest, then hopping to a short ball from Jason Gillespie and fending it from a tangle of terrible positions: gone for 8. Day three: West Indies slide to 98 for 6 and this enterprise does not seem rescuable anymore; but there is a fightback, runs from Sherwin Campbell and Ridley Jacobs; Australia still finish 179 ahead with eight wickets in hand. Day four: the Aussies are shot out for 146 and West Indies are chasing 308; Lara is booed for sending in a nightwatchman again, and who is again out for nought. At stumps before the final day this is how it rests: West Indies need 223, Australia need seven wickets. Lara batting, 2.

That evening the two Fatima ex-captains, Gomez and Scott, they decide to take a little lime.

Lara sweeps on his way to 153 not out at the Kensington Oval

Lara sweeps on his way to 153 not out at the Kensington Oval Ben Radford / © Getty Images

"We decide to go to a place called Harbour Lights in Barbados. A popular liming place. Hugh and I lime the entire night into the morning. And I'm not like this ah, I'm not like this. We leave the party and after it's closed, we reach back to our hotel at five o'clock in the morning. When we get back, we are now going to bed. Five o'clock in the morning and I get a call from Brian Lara. Brian says, 'Nick. What you doing now?' I said 'Brian you'll never believe, I just come from Harbour Lights, we now going to bed, boy.' He says, 'Nick, boy, I need your help. I need your help, I don't know how to play this innings today.' So I take the phone away from my ear and I say, 'Hugh, duty calls. Brian needs our help.' Hugh says, 'Nick, stop pulling my leg, bro.' I tell him, 'Hugh, I have told you about my journey in Jamaica and how it all unfolded.' Hugh says, 'Nah, Nick. You kidding me right?' I say 'No, Hugh, this is Brian, he needs our help. Let's go! You're up to it?' He says, 'Absolutely.' So we dress and go back downstairs, jump in the car and off we go.

"We get to Brian's hotel. It must be about 5.30. When we get there Brian is agitated, walking up and down, you know, talking about his batting faults. I don't know if you recall but there was an era where Brian was jumping to fast bowling before the ball is on him. So that when the ball is actually on him he's in the air, right, and he's not in control of what's happening. And this plagued him for a while. So he is really uptight about this and, of course, we talkin' Barbados, the wicket is fast, and they have Gillespie and McGrath."

It must be that first-innings dismissal. Short ball. Hopping, evading, flailing - dreadful sight. And now the maestro cannot rest. The innings he wishes to play is rolling through his mind and it ends in this hideous nightmare. I'm trying to imagine the hotel, the room, wondering if it's the Accra Beach Hotel where teams would sometimes stay. If it's 5.30, the sun must not have risen. Lights must be on. The old Fatima captains all limed out but revived. The present West Indian captain worked up, in need of clear vision, a fine, sleepless vision from his bed. What does that feel like? Maybe something like this.

Headley has told me that the night before a Test he rarely slept more than an hour or two. (The night before the second century in the Test at Lord's he never slept at all.) But he isn't suffering from insomnia, not in the least. This fantastic man is busy playing his innings the next day. The fast bowler will swing from leg. He plays a stroke. Then the bowler will come in from the off. He plays the stroke to correspond. The bowler will shorten. George hooks or cuts. Verity will keep a length on or just outside the off-stump. George will force him away by getting back to cut and must be on guard not to go too greedily at a loose ball - that is how in Tests he most fears he will lose his innings (a revealing commentary on his attitude to bowlers). Langridge will flight the ball. Down the pitch to drive. So he goes through every conceivable ball and makes a stroke to correspond.

It looks like something is going to burn in this conflagration, no wait, something is going to fly out of the flames, it could be the ball, or no, it could be the batsman

That's CLR James on George Headley, the ancestor spirit of the West Indian batting dynasty, as prodigious as the bowling dynasty. Lara said he came to visualisation via Michael Jordan. But did he really? Gomez says, "I think what happened was when he read the Jordan book, he realised he also did it. And used to do it. But didn't actually have a term for it. He didn't have a full way of describing it."

This is correct. Lara had forgotten. In the hero/villian/brat/messiah tumult of his life and celebrity he has even forgotten that he has forgotten, I am sure. Want proof? Fine.

I was up at 4 o'clock in the morning trying to see exactly how I'm going to get this next 46 runs. You know, you're going to push into the gaps and get 46 singles, or are you going to go out there and, you know, hit a few fours and when you get to 350, then look for the next 15 runs pushing singles. So I was playing my innings since 4 o'clock in the morning.

That's Lara from a 1995 documentary speaking about Antigua, 1994. First night of the 375 he went to sleep on 164 and warmed up the next morning with golf. Second night he went to bed on 320, and here he was, sleeplessly seeing, planning.

Now five years on, Michael Jordan has brought him back to himself. Lying in whatever hotel they are at in the cricket-and-coral island of Barbados, he is writing the momentous performance of his life like the great Headley, like Coleridge he is composing "Kubla Khan" in opiate dreams - and then the awful horror of that short ball, the jump.

Bajan barracking: the Barbados crowd took a while to warm up to Lara, unimpressed by his decision to send a nightwatchman ahead of himself in both innings

Bajan barracking: the Barbados crowd took a while to warm up to Lara, unimpressed by his decision to send a nightwatchman ahead of himself in both innings © Associated Press

But that jump is not entirely separate nor is entirely meaningless. It is of a piece with his backlift and his wind-up and his entire conception of batsmanship, which roars to life like oil meeting spark as the delivery makes its way, and it looks for an instant like something is going to burn in this conflagration, no wait, something is going to fly out of the flames, it could be the ball, or no, it could be the batsman.

The propulsive movements, in which lie the entire width and depth of batting possibility, it is the secret of his majestic flight - but now ending in broken-wing shambles. Unacceptable. Vision cancelled. He must sift, sort, contain one thing yet not the other. The maestro is in crisis cause else the crisis will be all over him.

"'Brian, let's, let's shadow the short ball,'" Gomez is standing before a mirror and saying. "'Let's have a plan, let's figure out how we going to play the short ball, right. No need to worry about this, let's figure it out. You know how to do this.'"

What the maestro needs is reassurance, the feeling of being of top of things; he needs to come out on the other side of turmoil. "'Let's just practise it and shadow it in the mirror, right, and then let's talk about how you're going to build the innings, right.'"

They shadow, they talk, they plan. What is Lara seeing? Is he seeing the two quick wickets in the morning leaving them five down with over 200 to get? Is he seeing second-highest score 38? Is he seeing having to put up 60 runs with Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh for company? Is he accounting for having to turn down Ambrose's offer of "No, skipper, you don't need to shield me" with Jordanian conviction: I had no intention of passing the ball under any circumstances. And earning Ambrose's admiration? "Every fifth delivery he got a single, even if the field was close. It was genius how he found a gap every time." McGrath's altercation, Healy's drop, Walsh's flamingo leave-alones, are they all part of the vision clarifying itself with the force of destiny?

It's a list tingling with the Lara sensation. Four Lara Four! All four in the top 30, three in the top 20, one of those in the top five

A few hours of it and the visionary has seen what he needs to see. The sun is blazing, the crowds are pouring into the Kensington Oval and the cricket must start. Brian Lara has emerged from his tunnel. He flies into a "Binta" Breeze poem-song.

is a pair a eye dat see de ball
before de bowler       tink it

a pair a leg dat dance wid ease
anywhere he       lan it

a pair a han dat have more joint
dan jus elbow       an wris

is a fella dat will fine de gap
instead a mindin it
instead a mindin it

And at the weary end, hear the roar, watch the people; everybody is flying.

17:39:34 GMT, January 5, 2016: Caption for fourth picture from top amended

Rahul Bhattacharya is the author of the cricket tour book Pundits from Pakistan and the novel The Sly Company of People Who Care





  • POSTED BY Dwayne on | January 27, 2016, 5:30 GMT

    I only ever saw Lara in Australian matches but in my life of being a cricket tragic, from the early 90's to now, he is the best batsmen I've ever seen. He could be a dodgy, nervous starter. He'd plod around and play and miss for 20 minutes at times at the beginning of his innings (especially when facing McGrath) But once set, I have never seen such a genius at work. Once he was in the zone, it seemed that the only person who was going to get him out was himself. And normally by that stage he'd have a big hundred next to his name. I saw every ball of his 182 live, at Adelaide, in 2000. The way he'd thrash the ball through backward point with those amazing wrists and flamboyant follow-through, it was amazing to watch. If ever someone had been put on earth to bat, from all the players I've seen in 25 years, it was him. Not only a prolific run-scorer, but I think, the best and most exciting batsmen to watch when in full flight.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | January 22, 2016, 1:59 GMT

    Yes Rahul, the other comments below are correct...this is a wonderfully researched and crafted story...a very enjoyable read, many thanks!

  • POSTED BY Clive on | January 20, 2016, 5:35 GMT

    Writing of class! This article was superb. It is a thrill to have read this gem while learning so much at the same time. Thanks a billion. Lara is legend. There are those who like to see many runs being scored. For me I prefer how the runs come, even if a little less. I crave good bowling, batting, fielding and wicket-keeping. Whichever is in the ascendency that day, fine with me, but it ought to be from the top drawer. That's why anytime comparisons arise, I have to mention the best of them all - Lawrence Rowe.

  • POSTED BY Charudatta on | January 20, 2016, 3:44 GMT

    Thanks Rahul for this..What a start to the day..Brian Charles wasnt just a genius..He was a brilliant genius..

  • POSTED BY Brian on | January 19, 2016, 18:19 GMT

    I am in India and our sports channels never play any of the LARA's innings in any Channels. We as fans never get to see LARA's innings in any sports channels.

    All channels only play INDIANS batting which is boring now , especially only SACHIN's innings.

  • POSTED BY Sreeram on | January 19, 2016, 17:00 GMT

    Very nice article. It's really impossible to comprehend what would be going through Lara's mind when playing those master classes like 153, 213, 277, 400, 375 etc etc etc. In Tests, he has time so he can execute his plan without this variable. However, I am interested to get such analysis when he played such match winning innings in ODIs. And, hello to all SRT fans, BCL had a great ODI record until he started playing down the order to push the younger batsman up (well, that's something which SRT could never even think). BCL is in the Top 5 fastest batsman to reach 5K, 6K, 7K, 8K runs, which speaks volumes. Though he gets mentioned in Tests, BCL as ODI player is more or less, never mentioned.

    Mr. Rahul, can you help to enlighten the world about BCL's ODI contributions?

  • POSTED BY Oz on | January 19, 2016, 5:39 GMT

    Gomez is an EY guy!!! Hope they didn't send Lara a bill.

  • POSTED BY Shafiq on | January 19, 2016, 5:33 GMT

    Fantastic read, for fantastic player. No doubt, the best batsman of our lives, only 2nd to unseen bradman...i doubt if bradman could play Murali , Warne, Akram like him....for me Best bowler of my generation Wasim Akram, best fielder role model from cricket 'consistency, grace and work , Sachin...., the genius batting WK Gilchrist, and the best all rounder Imran khan..... i m sorry to Viv Richard

  • POSTED BY vamshi on | January 19, 2016, 4:04 GMT

    April 23 2007 .. The last time I truly craved for cricket. The last game of King Lara.. His sheer brilliance captured in its entirety by this magical essay.. I know Rahul bhattacharya as a true Lara fan..he did the king the justice he so deserved.haven't seen The Don.. But hv seen Lara.. His place in the Pantheon is right on top of the pedestal.those who have seen Lara bat will forever be touched by sheer artistry, genius and audacity of shot making. The Greatest!!!

  • POSTED BY Abhishek on | January 19, 2016, 3:46 GMT

    Cricket was my religion....but Lara (and Dravid and Ambrose) are still my gods.....and Mr.Rahul, this essay.... I read like Bible or Geeta.......and tears in my eyes. God bless you Mr.Rahul......this essay is beyond description.....words and imagination fall short !!

  • POSTED BY jaswant on | January 19, 2016, 0:30 GMT

    Mr Rahul,this article is poetry in motion,its luminosity compares with the illumination of an incomparable star "Brian Lara". A star like Lara comes once in eons, he dazzles the human minds leaving indelible memories of calculated genius which surrenders only at the call of the inevitable. He is astonishing,in command, and on his days which were many,even the gods would have taken time off to watch his finesse. Describing him is futile, his artistry goes way beyond a willing pen. A gentleman he is and blessed are cricket lovers who saw him even when he scored disappointingly.

  • POSTED BY Zafar on | January 18, 2016, 19:49 GMT

    It gave sooo much pain when I watched the magician on TV on his last tour to India.. he was struggling to drive due to his back pain. But when hell of a talent, a true genius, the epitome of class. huh I have no words. But I am privileged to say that I watched cricket with most enthusiasm during my early childhood, teens and then early twenties. These years coincided with the master's career and I feel very lucky to watch him live on TV for so many years. Greatest of respects from Pakistan, hope will meet ya some day

  • POSTED BY Syed on | January 18, 2016, 18:05 GMT

    Comparing players is a tedious and unworthy exercise. I have done that for a long time but have realized that every player comes with some quality that is unique and that is what makes him special.

    A leg glance from Tendulkar's blade is special in its own way, as a square-cut from Lara's bat.

    Leaving aside all the factors that contribute towards a cricketer's greatness, and considering just sheer entertainment, who would you pay money to watch? I will go with Brian Lara. I believe most of the cricket fans would do the same.

  • POSTED BY Tim on | January 18, 2016, 16:43 GMT

    What would it take one to learn to write like you, author? And, is that easier than learning to bat like Lara?

  • POSTED BY Samuel Arun on | January 18, 2016, 16:40 GMT

    This is the best article on a cricketer that I have read since reading Cardus and Robertson-Glasgow's sketches. When I have my meals, I love to read, and my subway just became the best meal I have eaten in a very long time.

  • POSTED BY d on | January 18, 2016, 16:33 GMT

    Best Batsman of late 90s and early 2000s era. It's amazing to see how he carried west indies in that era with a lesser support compared to batsman from other countries. It was treat to watch his batting even after he retired. Thanks for the entertainment Legend.

  • POSTED BY Pablo on | January 18, 2016, 12:14 GMT

    This essay matches the sheer brilliance of that innings and that is the highest complement one can pay to the writer. I watched that 153 in a dank and grey Oxford college common room and by the end complete strangers were dancing arm in arm with sheer disbelief and joy.

  • POSTED BY anthony on | January 15, 2016, 0:10 GMT

    Wonderful writing.i read this prose on a freezing dark central london night on the 16th floor of the Hilton hotel close by to Lords over buttery teacakes and camomile chai.every crunchy bite waa enhanced by this princely writer

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | January 13, 2016, 16:56 GMT

    Rahul Bhattacharya, take a bow. This is such a gorgeous, brilliant essay. Even by the remarkably high standards of The Cricket Monthly, this one is an absolute belter. What I liked most was how Bhattacharya had eschewed the traditional narrative style of the genre and adopted a completely different style altogether. A delightful, lightfooted style which sprang surprises kept me hooked till the very end - much like a Lara innings then!

    The content was equally startling -Lara made it look so easy that one thought it just flowed naturally from him - that he could and would simply go out there and start batting. That cricket's prodigal son was actually one of the keenest and most calculating cricketing brains comes as a genuine surprise.

    It also shows that Lara and Tendulkar are more alike than people may think. We've read about the remarkable sharpness of Tendulkar's cricketing brain, it is interesting to note that Lara had a mind very much of the same mould.

  • POSTED BY Harsh on | January 12, 2016, 12:08 GMT

    The high water mark of Lara was that in the gravest of situations he did not curb his strokeplay or attacking instinct.Lara blended the agression of a tiger with the elegance of a bird flying.Describing a Lara innings was similar to peviewing a classic novel or movie ,such was the depth of his artistry.Sadly he never scored a century in test against the genuine quickies of his time like Alan Donald,Waqar Younus or Wasim Akram like Sachin Tendulkar or like Viv Richards ,Gary Sobers or Sunil Gavaskar earlier did.I feel against great or genuine pace Viv Richards and Sobers were marginally better batsmen and arguably Tendulkar better by inches.Lara was also more prone to loss of form than Tendulkar and did not have the consistency Tendulkar and Sobers as a batsmen.Why Lara would rate 2nd to the Don in test cricket is the extent to which he bore the mantle of such a weak side and the flourish with which he turned games.A virtual photo finish would seperate Lara and Tendulkar .

  • POSTED BY Brian on | January 7, 2016, 17:56 GMT

    The Essay is breathtaking.

    First i want to thankyou for taking us through Brian lara's Mind on what exaclty he was going through.

    I would like to see a Auto Biography soon .

  • POSTED BY Gisele on | January 5, 2016, 17:17 GMT

    Lovely... breathless reading.

  • POSTED BY Rohit on | January 4, 2016, 17:40 GMT

    Lovely essay. A small correction to the Jordan caption: It was a two-pointer that he hit over Russell in '98.

  • POSTED BY SRIVATSAN on | January 4, 2016, 15:54 GMT

    Bloody genius and great writing. When cricket monthly started, the Top 50 ... I thought off we go again, yet another list like the one Shane Warne does every few years, to rile his former mates. Don't care much about the rankings, but just worth it for the articles.

    Just awesome.