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The importance of being Lara

He was portrayed as carrier of vast legacy past legends had left behind, and world knows he has fulfilled that, writes Varun Gupta.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 18:42 IST

JUST AS John the Baptist traversed Israel proclaiming the arrival of Christ, cricket scribes throughout the Caribbean had begun chanting the name of a precocious, extraordinarily talented youngster who was "light-years ahead of his league", even before he was 17!

Brian Charles Lara was destined for greatness, portrayed as the sole carrier of the vast legacy past legends had left behind, and world knows he has fulfilled that destiny, with as much gusto as with nobility and flair.

It's been 16 years since Lara first blazed across the international arena, 16 years of sweat, blood and perhaps tears, considering the quagmire the West Indies team has found itself in over the years.

His glory has walked hand in hand with Windies' doom. His period of ascendancy --from being a prince to the king of the Caribbean -- has been in conjunction with a stark decline in the standard of West Indies cricket, which have seen them beaten to pulp more often than not. Add to that, his tendency --- always be ready to speak your mind and base men shall avoid you --- and the prospect of a rendezvous with the Trinidadian appeared less and less endearing.

So, as one was being prepared for a tete-a-tete with the great man himself, the suggestion to refrain from asking personal questions further fuelled one's nervousness. But then, it has always been the personal life of the enigmatic Lara that has fascinated and intrigued one more than anything else, and the sententious advice was always going to fall on deaf ears.

As he emerged from his lavish bedroom, the urge got the better of one, which was met by a slightly bewildered look.

"You settled down in a second didn't ya laddie?" Lara quipped. And then began to take on the myriad bouncers hurled at him over the years with aplomb.

"Well, I have been projected as a bit of an enigma but it's not true at all. If people see you at 10 at night, it automatically becomes three and the papers slash headlines on my merrymaking. I've always worked hard but it has been away from the public glare, and people do tend to focus more on the negatives than the positives.

"My record in international cricket wouldn't have been such if I didn't work hard and was a wanton, that I'm known to be. Also, I'm not a prima donna and a loner. On the contrary, I love to socialise and always have a lot to offer," he added.

One was starting to settle in and shot off the next question. Has motivation ever been a problem considering that you've been a part of a struggling team?

"It's painful to see Windies cricket on the wane," he said.

"I've been part of the imperious Windies side of the early 90s and then the extended period of malaise set in, and at times, I've wondered about the reasons. It's like life only, where you have your ups and downs and I've had my share on the cricket field. But I won't say that it has been unfortunate as it has been an honour and a privilege to don the maroon jersey," he explained.

So, who's influenced the man who himself has inspired generations?

"As a kid I was a blank slate. Colin Cowdrey and Roy Fredricks were my childhood heroes and I used to imitate Fredricks's every shot for hours and even used to wear a full-sleeve shirt with cuffs on, like him. I still have that shirt," he revealed, as his eyes lit up.

"Later on, of course there were different players who left an indelible mark on me. I loved Vivian Richards, he was chock full of grit, Gordon Greenidge for his technique and Desmond Haynes for his tenacity. Allan Border too made a huge impact, for his ability to spur a modest Australian side, as he was the knight in the armour, much like me," he added.

Being Brain Lara was never easy. So how has he coped with the pressure and is there another Lara waiting to happen?

"It has been one helluva ride mate! It has taught me a lot, about the different facets of life and I think I have coped with the pressure very well. Being a kid from a third world country to being internationally acclaimed, it doesn't get much better. Yes, I've made mistakes but I won't take back any of them, as you only learn when you falter.

"Also, I think Dwayne Bravo has it in him to carry Windies cricket forward. He loves the big stage, is never daunted and plays like there is no tomorrow. I have high hopes from him," Lara said.

Prudence has always been a rich maid courted by incapacity, at least, Lara has always believed that, and it reflected when asked the culminating question about having any regrets.

"No regrets mate, they don't work, they only hurt!" the King signed off emphatically, but not before creating an experience that, in a sense, transformed existence.

First Published: Apr 04, 2006 23:16 IST