By RICKEY SINGH
April 22, 2007
BRIAN CHARLES LARA, the greatest internationally renown batsman produced by the West Indies, played his final test inning yesterday at Kensington Oval with an estimated 22,000 fans waving and shouting their sad farewell, many of them with difficulties to restrain the tears
It was his deeply shared hope that the West Indies would win yesterday's match against England to end up in fifth position knowing that both teams were already out of the semin-finals.
But in a memorable nail-biting, tension-filled battle that kept both teams valiantly struggling to the end as moods of their supporters kept changing, the English reached the winning target of 301 with just one delivery left. Lara's disappointment is that of the West Indian people. It was, nevertheless, a fantastic match, regarded by experienced commentators as the best played so far in this World Cup.
For all the sharp crititicisms,prior to yesterday's fierce duel at Kensington Oval, that had surfaced from disappointed fans over recurring poor performances in recent years by the West Indies team under his captaincy, when Lara announced his retirement last Thursday, the shock and hurt were felt by admirers and detractors alike.
Because he had come to embody so much of our West Indian pride as he dazzled the world of cricket with his genius as a batting sensation, we kept expecting too much too often from him and, finding it too difficult to conceal our disappointments when expectations were unfulfilled, there flowed the emotional criticisms, some quite unkind at times..
Now the 37-year-old international cricket icon has chosen to bow out of the West Indies team and world cricket. He had started his professional career 17 years ago. It has ended with a most impressive, enviable world record of approximately 12,000 runs; another world record with his hit of 400 runs not out in any test, and a total of 34 centuries to his illustrious career..
Yesterday, in a fine gesture, consistent with the spirit of the world's third greatest sporting event, England's captain Michael Vaughan, led his team in a guard-of-honor to salute Lara as he made his entry to bat for the last time for the West Indies and as an international superstar of the game.
Regretably, he was run out after scoring just 18 runs. He would have loved to make many more, if not a century---one last time for his ever adoring fans. It made total no difference.
The thousands of spectators, West Indians and visitors of varyious nationalities, were standing all over Kensington Oval to lustily cheer and wave as the cricket genius from Trinidad and Tobago walked back to the pavilion, stoically waving above his head in warm appreciation the tool with which he has indelibly written his fame in West Indian and world cricket history--his bat.
When Lara returns to Kensington Oval on Saturday, April 28, for the final match of World Cup 2007, it would be as a unique spectator. Whether or not the Aussies, who have been dominating the tournament, retain the World Cup trophy, Lara, whose name is also synonymous with Trini-style fetes, has already organised a party for that Saturday night .
It would be open for all willing to pay US$125 to be at his leased sprawling Barbados mansion in the parish of St. Peter--after the closing ceremony at Kensington Oval.
Born on May 2, it promises to be a memorable pre-38th birthday party for the 'cricket prince' who seems headed to be the recipient of coming national awards and,hopefully, honoured also by CARICOM.