We all know that he is a genius. We all know that he is arguably the greatest ever batsman of our time. We all know that he has been the solitary hope of Caribbean cricket from last 10 to 12 years. But what we don’t know is his level of hunger for runs. He is one player who kept encoring centuries after centuries with utmost of ease, style and grace. Ricky Ponting scored 9 centuries in the span of last one year and got ICC Cricketer of the year award, and Mohammad Yousuf registered 6 centuries in the same time period, but can they emulate Lara ever? Can they keep up the good work with the same level of intensity and sheer brilliance for as much length in time as Lara is doing? It is doubtful. Batsmen tend to do these sorts of things on cricket pitches. Records meant to be broken, but if there is one player who has habit of doing it again, again and again then he has to be Brian Lara.
So many things had been written about this elegant and imperious left-hander’s style and ease with which he makes his runs, but very few of us seldom mention the mental aspect of his batting. When you make so many big scores with such consistent flow then there is some very stiff mental work in progress behind the scene. Even the best of modern day cricket fail to match the mental strength of this genius. Rahul Dravid is known for his concentration and dedication, but even the man of his stature got only 4 double hundreds in Test cricket. Sachin Tendulkar got 3 double hundreds whereas Lara so far got 9 double hundreds, 1 triple hundred, 1 quadruple and 19 scores of more than 150 runs in an innings and overall tally of 34 hundreds at the highest level. Lance Armstrong won Tour De France 7 times, Mohammad Ali lifted heavy-weight title 3 times and Jahangir Khan stayed unbeaten for 774 games. When athletes cross these milestones then it has to be something other than talent and skill. It has to be something with the mental toughness, physical fitness and character. Great players tend to prepare themselves for bigger challenges with different attitude. Lara said it several times that match preparation is the most crucial ingredient of any sport. People think that he is doing it consistently because he is Brian Lara. No. This is not the case. He is doing it because he tones himself such greatly that everything starts falling in right place. Recent Hundred which he made against Pakistan at Lahore in the first test was the struggle for him through out. Whoever watched that 277 against Australia at Brisbane in 90’s and double hundred against South Africa couple of years back must know what true Lara Innings is? Lahore innings was the preparation for this great display at Multan. He gutted it out in Lahore and reaps fruits in Multan in his natural forceful, aggressive style. It is not that he kept making runs with utmost of ease. He do find himself in tight corners in these long innings, but he knows the art of getting out of those tight corners courtesy of his mental toughness better than any of modern contemporaries. 9 double hundreds, 5 overseas 4 at home. He made them against McGrath, Muralitharan, Warne, Ntini, Harmison, Flintoff. All these great names gave him walkovers so that he can rewrite record books against them with grace and panache. No. They posed fiercest of challenges, but Lara knows how to handle all of them. Sometimes with attack and sometimes with attrition and stoic defence.
By doing the encore of these entire great run-making feasts, he is assuring his young team that he is here to defend them whenever they want his expertise and experience. West Indies reached the Finals of Champions Trophy 2006. Critics and experts gave several reasons for this resurrection. But the most critical factor of this resurgence is that their senior pros are taking responsibility and Lara is on the forefront. In the qualifying round matches, West Indies was thrashed by Sri Lankans. But they did make recovery and beat Australia in a needling contest. What made them do it? It was the gritty and steely knock of 72 of Lara in tough conditions that lifted the entire team. West Indies was 50 odd for 4 in first fifteen overs, but from then on Lara guided them through a nerve-wrecking period using all of his long experience and patience to reach the target of 225 which proved enough for strong batting line-up of Australians. Impetus was given to the young side by great hero, and they grabbed it with teeth. These are ominous signs for other teams ahead of next year’s World Cup. Lara is standing right next to his young and effervescent side. Whenever senior players play their roles immaculately, sides tend to do well in longer tournaments. In first two world cups, Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards did it for others. Imran Khan and Javed Miandad drew the map to 1992 World Cup with utmost precision. Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva and Gurusinghe led the way to the historical victory in 1996. Steve Waugh and Shane Warne cleared the path for Kangaroos in 1999. Experts put it to the clicking of important players at the right time. But it has more to do with the senior players to take the responsibility at the right time in big matches, in bigger tournaments and Lara is ready to do it again for West Indies and that makes them tough nut to crack in their backyard.