One of the all-time greats of the world game, Brian Charles Lara came into the West Indies team in 1990, batting at number four behind a top order of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Richie Richardson. All greats in their own right, but Lara would go on to outshine them all, ending his career with 11953 runs, a world record at the time of his retirement in 2006.
Memorable innings included the 375 and 400*, both against England, both in Antigua and both world records for the highest individual score in Test cricket. In between those two landmarks, Lara found time to record the highest first-class innings score of 501* while playing for Warwickshire against Durham in the County Championship. But Lara’s contribution to cricket was about far more than mere numbers. The trademark high back lift that allowed him to flay cut shots and drives through the off-side became a ubiquitous sight throughout the 1990s as many a bowling attack was eviscerated by the left-hander’s panache.
Lara’s rivalry with Shane Warne was a battle for the ages; the great leg-spinner dismissed him seven times but Lara’s average of 54.57 against Warne puts him in an elite bracket of players who can lay claim to having got the better of the Australian.
Lara had three stints as captain of the Test side with mixed results. Though he averaged 57.83 when leading the side, against a career average of 52.88, Lara described his record as captain as a story of ‘modest success and devastating failure’. He could point to West Indies’ 2004 Champions Trophy win as a tangible triumph when leading the ODI side but his leadership of the Test team could not arrest the team’s downward spiral from the turn of the millennium and beyond.
Ending his career without a win from his last 15 Tests served to illustrate how far West Indies cricket had fallen since his first appearance on the international scene. On an individual level though, Lara continued to shine: his 216 in Multan in his penultimate Test was his ninth score of 200 or more, a figure that could only be bettered by the great Sir Don Bradman’s 12 at the time.