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Castled! Home for King Brian Lara

In Trinidad, he is king. The other famous sons of the soil like Naipaul, Yorke or Hasely being mere mortals in comparison.

india Updated: May 29, 2006 04:15 IST

The gate at 1 Knaggs Hill opened, operated by an automatic device, and a glistening black Mercedes Benz with the registration number PBU 400 rolled out and sped down the bend in the road, its owner waving at a couple of Indian journalists from the driver’s seat.

It was a cloudy day, lending an air of mystery to the lonely castle atop the hill, away from the din of urban life-perhaps symbolising its famous resident’s wish to screen himself from public attention.

It’s understandable, because his name is Brian Charles Lara. In Trinidad, he is king, the other famous sons of the soil like VS Naipaul, Dwight Yorke or Hasely Crawford — the country’s only Olympic gold medallist, in sprints in 1976 — being mere mortals in comparison. He is more than a living legend.

“He’s the No. 1. There was nobody like him and we are sure there won’t be anyone like him. He is a one-man industry. Anything that he lends his name to sells like hot cakes. He can become the Prime Minister if he wants to,” noted a veteran Trinidadian scribe.

Lara rarely gets time to stay at his palatial house, which matches his kingly stature. When he does here, fiancée Lisselle, their daughter Sydney and brother Richard are his companions. He is the 11th among eight brothers and four sisters, most of whom live in the Santa Cruz area of Port of Spain, where Lara grew up. And when he is not here, seven-year-old Sydney stays with his mother, who is a radio and TV presenter.

“Can’t make it to the ground when dad plays unless it’s a holiday because I have to go to school. And when I watch him on TV, I usually bite my nails off,” said Sydney, who didn’t let herself be photographed because “dad told me not to.”

The little girl with a striking resemblance to her father ran alongside the Merc on the driveway until it picked up speed. It is one of the five cars Lara uses, and the number plates of all are reminders of their owner’s achievements.

While the one Lara was using on Thursday tells the world who holds the world record for the highest Test innings, there are others marking his first-class record of 501 and his previous Test best of 375.

Unlike what the experience can be with most of his Indian counterparts, it’s not difficult to reach Lara’s house, though for obvious reasons not all are allowed to proceed further. But again, unlike his Indian counterparts, the owner of the place doesn’t mind strangers taking pictures or acknowledging their presence on his way out.