Sachin sends cheerful wishes to Lara on Lara reaching a half century!
Around the time of my 46th birthday last week, Brian Lara and I were doing a shoot together. We recalled how we had first met in 1990 when we were part of a West Indies v World XI game in Canada. ‘I’m 46 now and time has flown rather quickly. You blink and the years go by,’ I said. ‘I’m going to be 50 soon. Can you believe it,’ he asked. Today, on the day of his life’s half century, I am forced to believe it.
Certain people don’t look their age when you meet them. Brian tops that list where I am concerned. In Canada, 29 years ago, we were both very young. We spoke about our early steps in the game and our friendship blossomed over the years. On the subject of friendship, I recall telling him often during our playing days, ‘Brian, we are good friends, but not when I am playing for India. I’d love to watch you bat when you play Australia and other teams, but against India, I always want to see you dismissed.’
There are some who love watching opposition batsmen at work while on the field. I have to admit I didn’t belong to this category.
I always wanted him back in the pavilion.
I’ve spent quite some time with Brian and the one incident that sticks out is when I was captain of India and we had just lost the Barbados Test of the 1996-97 series to Brian’s West Indies team. He called me outside the dressing room and said, ‘A gentleman would like to meet you.’ He introduced me, I just said ‘hi’ and went back to the dressing room.
Later, Brian got hold of me and asked if I knew whom I had introduced him to. It was Manchester United footballer Dwight Yorke, a very good friend of Brian’s. My reaction to that introduction was flat, but not intentional. I was really low and felt terrible after the loss. The three of us met later on, but that introduction in Barbados was memorable and we still talk about it.
I’ve watched a lot of Brian’s innings on television. The time difference between India and the Caribbean provided a comfortable time for me to watch… coming home from my practice sessions and watching with Anjali’s father for company and at times, my brother Ajit.
What stood out about him was that he read the game well, was calculative in approach and paced himself well. He changed gears while batting in the most subtle fashion. Suddenly, one would discover that he has shifted gears and the game was slipping away from his opposition’s grasp.
Brian has played many great innings – the record-breaking 375 and 400 not out against England, the 277 v Australia at Sydney and that unbeaten 153 v Australia at Barbados. But my favourite Brian Lara innings was the one in which we put on 160-odd for the Rest of the World against a Pakistan attack comprising Imran, Wasim, Waqar, Aquib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed in Toronto during the early 1990s. In my list of favourite innings would also be the 91 during the Mohali Test of 1994 and the 103 against us in Antigua during the 1996-97 series. I remember him getting a faint edge off Venkatapathy Raju at Mohali and he walked before the umpire adjudged him caught behind. Brian was one of the great ‘walkers’ in cricket and he played the game fairly. Off the field too, he was genuine and straightforward. What you see is what you get from Brian; a gentleman without a doubt.
I heard that the 1994-95 Test series in India was billed as Tendulkar v Lara. While people like these rivalries, I didn’t pay much attention to it. I always said it is West Indies v India, not Lara v India and I felt I should be contributing the most for India. Regardless of whom we played – Australia, New Zealand or South Africa – I always wanted to be one of the major contributors to the team. Brian has gained a lot of popularity through his visits to India and he knows how much he is loved and respected in our country.
Love and respect come from the heart; cannot be bought. They have to be earned and Brian has truly earned that here.
As Brian celebrates his 50th birthday today, I wish him another half-century. Reaching 50 provides a batsman the best time to bat and it’s a dangerous phase for the opposition. I hope and pray that the best of Brian Charles Lara is yet to come.
Courtesy : Mid Day