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Ode to the prince

I Probably don't count as a cricket enthusiast these days, but I used to be one back in my school days. Growing up in one of the many schools housed in concrete confinements, we had come up with a rather innovative brand of cricket - one that involved table tennis bats, ping pong balls, and underarm bowling, the last of which was to make sure the concrete pitch did not damage the ball in anyway. Nevertheless, it was probably the most exciting rendition of cricket I had ever played, all about big hits since running for singles was never an option in a field the size of one's bedroom.

The one thing I remember about those games is how I, a born right-hander, would always insist on batting with my left hand. Ostentatiously, this was to get more stroke options, but deep down I knew it was so I could feel as though I had one thing in common with the man I considered the greatest batsman in the world -- Brian Charles Lara, the prince of Trinidad.

Of course, as my mother would readily attest, I did have one more thing in common. I still remember the most common conversation I used to have with my mom and sister back then. They would comment on how my dark complexion (all because of my running around in the sun all day, they insisted) proved I am adopted, and I would always counter by saying that maybe it meant I am somehow related to Brian Lara.

As I grew up, the prince's career was shadowed with one cloud after another. People questioned his dedication, the great Viv Richards was reported to have tired of his arrogance, and all this while S.R. Tendulkar was breaking records faster than the record books could be updated. The calypso seemed to die away, and the methodical cricket of Australia and South Africa moved to the forefront. The great Don Bradman named Tendulkar as his spitting image, and the capricious left-hander seemed doomed to oblivion. At about this same time, I lost interest in cricket, and would no longer feel the compulsive need to follow each and every match around the globe.

However, despite all my indifference, there have been two occasions where I simply could not switch the channel away from the game. First, I think I was in 10th grade, and the Windies were playing the aussies in the formers home ground. I remember staying up till 4 AM, apprehensively watching as Lara, assisted by less-than-stellar partners like Walsh and Ambrose, drove the Caribbean team to a victory. I remember muttering to myself, "I would like to Sachin do that with Agarkar in the other end!"

Then one day I hear the news: Matthew Hayden was broken Lara's record for highest score (375) in a test innings. Despite all the affected nonchalance I could master, I felt a pang -- another record slips away from the man many consider the last successor of Clive Lloyd, Vic Richards and Gary Sobers. Which brings me to the second match I was glued to till the last shot. Brian Charles Lara doing the unthinkable, as he played a masterful stroke, surpassing Hutton, Sobers, himself, and then finally Hayden, reclaiming the territory of greatness, stopping only at 400 runs this time.

I doubt any batsman, in this era of aggressive one-day style batting, will break this record. Even if they do, Lara still had made his mark: the one man to break a record, have it broken by someone and then swinging to back to set yet another record. No matter how indifferent I try to act towards sports, even I have to admit, it was a privilege living in the era of the great prince of Trinidad. I hope his last match could have ended on a happier note, but maybe even destiny ran out of gifts it could bestow on this great Caribbean.

The writer forgot to give the name


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