On December 6, 1990 a certain Brian Charles Lara walked into the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore for the very first time in whites for West Indies. He made his international debut, some 1,200 kilometres away at Karachi in an ODI against Pakistan less than a month ago. It was an uneventful debut as West Indies suffered a narrow 6-run loss against the Imran Khan-led side in a 40-over game. Lara made just 11.
However, his Test debut turned out to be a little more memorable as Lara came in at No. 4 and hit 44 and followed that up with 5 in the second innings as West Indies thanks to Carl Hooper’s 134 and 49 not out managed to salvage a draw and the 3-match series ended 1-1.
It would be unfair to say that Lara did not deserve a call-up. After all, he had scored 1,375 runs at 45.83, which comprised of two fifties and five hundreds in his 21 First-Class matches before his debut.
He took very little time to adjust to the West Indies set-up. He converted his maiden century into a big double ton (277) in Australia and from there on, he never looked back. Not just achieving huge landmarks in Test cricket, but also in First-Class cricket. In the year 1994, Lara became the first man on the planet to score 500 in a First-Class match, when he did that against Durham against Warwickshire. He finished 501 not out off just 427 deliveries, which was no mean feat.
Just a couple of months before this magnanimous achievement, Lara went past West Indies legend Garry Sobers to register the highest individual score in Tests (375). it was clear, Lara was destined for greater things. Lara had briefly lost this record to Australia’s Matthew Hayden, who slammed 380 against Zimbabwe in Perth in 2003. Less than 6 months later, Lara got his record back, when he became the first and only batsman till date to score 400 in a Test. He achieved this feat at St. John’s Antigua – the same venue where Lara had broken Sobers’ record 10 years ago.
One of the most elegant players in the world, Lara succeeded in Tests as well as the ODIs. When on a song, even the best in the world would struggle to stop him. He finished with 11,912 Test Test runs at 53.17 and 10,348 at 40.90 for West Indies, which is still a national record. He is the only player to have scored over 10,000 runs for West Indies and the only player after Shivnarine Chanderpaul to score over 10,000 runs in Tests.
Lara led from the front when he was handed captaincy. Out of his 131 Tests, he led West Indies in 48 games, where he scored 4,685 runs at 57.83. However, he was not as prolific as captain in ODIs. In 125 matches as captain, he slammed 3,725 runs at 35.81. His last match for West Indies was a World Cup Super Eight match in 2007, played at the Caribbean, which West Indies lost and crashed out of the competition. Lara, therefore, had to retire without a World Cup trophy in his career. But that does not take away from what a champion batsman and ambassador of the game he really was.