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Brian Lara - Wrong man for the ICL job!
by Vaneisa Baksh
Dec 18, 2007
It may not have been such a big deal that the Mumbai Champions found themselves at the bottom of the Indian Cricket League (ICL) Twenty20 Championship. What was more striking was that after playing six matches and losing five, their captain, Brian Lara, had only once scored double figures – 15 runs off 16 balls in their match against the Hyderabad Heroes. His other scores were a duck (first-ball), four, three, and nine, and the only time his team won a match was when he did not bat.

Hyped as one of the stars of the inaugural tournament, Lara’s performances disappointed those who felt his presence would add a special lustre to the already exuberant atmosphere.

After the finals, organisers lost no time in announcing five tournaments for next year, all Twenty20 games, save one fifty-over domestic tournament. They may consider this controversial foray to have been a success, but they will have to rethink the basis on which they select participants.

Obviously, to create the necessary interest it was important to attract big names to the line-ups, and that they certainly did. But performance matters – unless the real intention is to simply provide an entertainment zone with cricket at the periphery. For Lara is not inherently a Twenty20 man. Despite his class as a batsman, his entire career has been one that favours the longer form of the game where he has stood above others as a master craftsman of massive innings. He is a builder, not a flasher.

When he broke the record for the most Test runs a couple of years ago, I had written that Lara’s innings do not begin at high noon as Neville Cardus said in 1950 of Frank Worrell’s; they harboured the tentativeness of a night person greeting dawn’s piercing rays. Yet, as that first cup of coffee can make everything right, so when he gets started it is high noon till sundown.

Anyone who has studied his matches could see that for the most part, he needs time to settle in, and if he gets in, he’s going to be there for some time. It is a completely different mindset for Twenty20, which requires high noon from the first delivery. It could not have been easy for a man at the end of almost twenty years of Test cricket to come in to craft an innings off twenty overs; not a man like Lara, who’d once written that he felt that playing too much One-Day cricket (50 overs) affected a batsman’s ability to construct the kind of innings required by Test matches.

Sir Garry Sobers had written that, “When I wrote my autobiography Twenty Years at the Top in 1988, I said I believed my 365 would never be beaten. I based that on the theory that one-day cricket was producing a type of batsman who is less capable of playing a long innings. There were few batsmen around, I said, with the necessary concentration to stay at the crease for ten hours or more and aim for a score of 300 plus.” He was speaking of Lara.

Lara himself wrote that nearly all of his hundreds had been totals well over the century, “because I firmly believe that, having reached the milestone, it is essential to go on to the next one and the one after that. Subconsciously, the temptation is there to relax a little once the 100 goes up, which I believe is the reason why so many players are out shortly afterwards.” It suggests a mind that conceives in epic proportions. Of his 34 Test centuries nine were over 200 (including his first: 277, and his 375 and 400*), 19, which is more than half, were over 150 and only nine were under 130.

Lara’s failure might have exacerbated by lack of practice or form. He had not been engaged in cricket, either the long or short of it, for some time. Yet, there is nothing of an epic within the Twenty20 culture, and that might be the crux of his innocuous performance.

More Views by Vaneisa Baksh
  Stanford T20 - Living it and loving it
  Brian Lara - Wrong man for the ICL job!
  Mastering their craft
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