It was ten years ago when Brian Lara was to face, not a bowler’s might, but an empty Eden where the West Indies had been routed by an innings and 51 runs inside three days. Lara was to felicitate Sachin Tendulkar in his final outing at Eden Gardens but the match got over before he could reach Calcutta.
However, Lara took it in his stride, saying that the Mumbai Test would hopefully last for five days and he would have a chance to see Tendulkar bat for one last time. The two had become very close friends.
So Lara, delivering the oration at the Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture, a joint initiative by The Bengal Club and The Telegraph, at the Oberoi Grand on Thursday, appeared immensely pleased when the image came up on the screen during his talk, showing the Brian Lara-Sachin Tendulkar Gates at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
I hope to see these gates next time at the SCG, where I have watched many a match, particularly the 1978 Test (Bishan Singh Bedi and Bob Simpson were the respective captains), which India won by an innings and two runs. The five-match series was tied at two-all after the Sydney Test, and our spinning trio were the fab Chandra-Bedi-Pras combo.
Let’s take a peek into a book where my late husband, the cricket commentator and veteran journalist Kishore Bhimani, penned the stories of 60 of the world’s best one-day cricketers titled Portraits of the Game. Shyam Bhatia, the inveterate businessman from Dubai, whose passion is cricket, commissioned Kishore Bhimani to do this book, garnering stories from cricketers of the top cricketing nations. A daunting task, but I gave KB company on his travels, and eked out stats of each player’s best game. The illustrations were all watercolours, done by Cape Town artist and wicket-keeper Richie Ryall. The next time Lara is at Bhatia’s cricket museum, he can see the original watercolour of himself, and get a copy of the book, which it did not occur to me to take to the Oberoi Grand with me on Thursday evening.
In the book, Lara modestly starts his tale told to Kishore Bhimani thus:
“A cricketer goes through ups and downs of form; sometimes everything goes right for him; at others he is dismissed by that one unplayable delivery of the match or gets an incredibly poor decision. It is all part of
But then he does go on to his memorable 1993/94 season when he became the highest run scorer in both Tests and first-class matches. He also made his then-highest score of 153 in ODIs against Pakistan, from 143 balls with 21 fours. Fast forward to when Lara optimistically talks about the forthcoming World Cup in 2024, where West Indies will be co-hosts and Lara looks forward to winning the World Cup!
Rewind to another book, written again by Kishore Bhimani, called India’s Caribbean Adventure. Remember 1976? So much happened on India’s tour of the West Indies. How old was Brian Lara then? Just cutting his teeth at age seven at the weekly coaching sessions that he was bunged into by his dad at the fancy-sounding Harvard Coaching Clinic. It was at the highly picturesque Queen’s Park Oval that the second and third Tests were played. Andy Roberts and Michael (“Whispering Death”) Holding both played in the second Test which the Indians drew. Roberts missed the third Test which India won. They scored a then-record 406 runs in the fourth innings to win. And many moons later the Brian Lara Pavilion was to come up, apart from the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba — a massive sports complex. Which could be one venue for the World Cup.
Back to Lara’s hometown. Kishore Bhimani’s despatch would have warmed the cockles of a young Lara heart in 1976. “Port of Spain. March 21. If cricket in Barbados is an overriding passion, in Trinidad it is a religion....The Trinidadian is quite honestly non-partisan and his one addiction is good cricket.” (The second Test began on March 24, 1976.)
Lara would also have loved a replay of KB’s commentary on Radio 610 in Trinidad, where many people would recognise the tones and call out to Bhimani as “The Voice Maan”.
So Brian Lara, Prince of Port of Spain, we look forward to some calypso cricket next year.
The writer is a PR professional who has been a cricket columnist over the years, having toured Australia, England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, leaving West Indies to be covered by the husband.