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Lara back with a bang
Wednesday 14, April-2004
by ANDI THORNHILL
It is arguable that he needed them just as much or more than the team itself. After all he was at the helm when a number of infamous records piled up against the West Indies. The latest would be the fact that England were able to win their first series in the Caribbean in over 36 years. Not only that, his team had been bowled out for scores of 47 and 94 as the English seemed on course to hand the West Indies their first whitewash at home.
So, there was plenty of pressure on Lara in particular, and the team in general, going to the Antigua Recreation Ground.
No one could be sure how they would have responded after appearing to be psychologically shattered at 3-0 down and one game to play. Any betting man would have given the English even money to complete the whitewash.
Even the hundreds of fans who greeted the team at the V.C. Bird Airport the night they arrived from Barbados must have had their doubts. But in a true show of loyalty, they were intent on helping to rekindle the moral fire that had been dimmed, almost extinguished, by marauding opponents.
However, no one had the vision to accurately predict what the West Indies and Lara, in particular, would achieve in St John’s.
If he has not quite reached the summit in terms of leading men, he certainly has no peers as far as being a complete and inspirational batsman. Lara’s record 400 was superb. I don’t believe that at the start of his innings he intended reclaiming the world Test record. It probably was more about salvaging some lost pride.
Suffering has a way of reinventing who we really are. It puts humility back where it should be – at the top of the tenets we draw on to get back on track once we’ve lost our way and aren’t afraid to admit it. Amid team failure, Lara has always been able to dominate with the bat, but he struggled before going to Antigua.
He is a very proud individual and must have answered that personal call for introspection. The fruits from his stay in the middle suggest strongly that he did. More power to him.
What I found most remarkable about Lara’s achievement was that it came ten years after establishing his first milestone.
Sportsmen, even though they get wiser with age, certainly aren’t likely to have the same level of reflexes, stamina and concentration as when they were younger. In modern sport the exceptions would be people like Linford Christie, Frankie Federicks, Merlene Ottey, George Foreman and Evander Holyfield.
You can add Lara to that august group.
Not only that, apart from talent, the one significant ingredient that makes these people champions is that they are all competitive, they all have a burning hunger to win, to stay at the top of their field. Because of this Lara was in total control from the outset.
A benign pitch notwithstanding, it appeared England could do nothing to disturbed his composure or his mission.
Another critical component in it all was the support he got from wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs.
Yes, Antigua did bring consolation. Led by Lara, we must continue to build from here without turning back.
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