If you want to talk of Godfathers, he has the blessings of Marlon Brando of cricket — Brian Lara.
What Lara saw in Adrian Barath as an 11-year-old, found a brutal expression when Barath picked up the bat for his first T20 game for Trinidad and Tobago against Diamond Eagles in the Champions League on Sunday. He slammed four fours and four sixes on his way to 63 as T&T scaled to 213 for four in 20 overs.
“When I was a boy, my dad, who coached me, would get frustrated when I lifted the ball in the air,” says Barath, now 19. But this is the age of T20 where batting careers are defined by the number of boundaries. All Barath did was “grasp his opportunity.” He got his chance after a shoulder injury to Darren Bravo.
Like most Trinidadians, Barath started playing cricket with his friends. But rather than aspiring to be the next Lara, he copied the leg-breaks of Shane Warne. “My dad told me, ‘you shouldn’t be a bowler. In the West Indian team there is only one spinner while there are 5-6 batsmen. So, there is a better opportunity to break into the team.’ When he first bowled to me my natural instinct was to play the ball straight. People who haven’t had formal coaching generally hit across the line, but I played with a straight bat.
“He saw the talent in me and used to bowl at me for 2-3 hours in the day. At that time I had one pad, which was too big for me, one bat, no helmet and we used to play with a proper cricket ball. To prevent myself from getting hit, I had to play with the bat and not the body, show the full four inches, and then duck when the ball was short. That’s where I developed my technique. It also taught me to be brave and fearless.”
Lara got a whiff of it when he saw the little Barath practice at the practice nets at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain. He has, since, taken a special interest in Barath’s career, taking him on the England tour in 2007 and initiating a contact with the “the great” Sachin Tendulkar. Lara still calls on his ward to give him advice on batting and handling the new-found success.
“I don’t want to be the next Lara. I have a lot of respect for him. Lara is Lara, there will be no one like him in the next 100 years.”
He made his first-class debut as a 17-year-old and scored hundreds in his second and third games, making him the youngest century maker in West Indian domestic cricket.