Sunday, April 18, 2004

Lara dislikes the ball and means to drive it away from him. Sobers used to co-opt it. Lara in full cry will bloody a bowler and leave him wishing he were dead. Sobers used to make bowlers fall in love with him.

Every ball bowled to Lara is to him an adventure, a brand new problem or window of delight; and the question you see him asking in that split-second pause is: "By what inventive chord-of-a-stroke shall this one be put away?" When he winds up dead-batting, Lara feels it as a constriction, an interruption of what he's there for. For all his elan, he is at heart a marauder, a taker-apart of a fielding side.

By contrast, every ball to Sobers was part of a preordained scheme of things. He didn't ask, "With what chord shall I destroy this one?" He asked, "Where in the melodic line does this ball fit?" Most times, he found the response which harmony dictated....

Brian Lara lives in and through cricket. But where Sobers was of Barbados and the colonial 50s, Lara is from Trinidad and a product of the '80s. He grew up amid the Me Generation, not the British public school and its traditions. He has no empire either to administer or to resist; he comes from a country with nine synonyms for heckling; and his immediate cricket ancestors are Pace-like-Fire and Licks-like-Peas. Moreover, he is generationally a man of the Americas, an American. And what all these mean is that, unlike Sobers, Lara is a man alone.

Among West Indians, Trinidadians are the existentialists.... Perhaps it has to do with the relative young-ness of the society. Or with its urban demographics, or its bi-ethnic composition.

But you see it in Lara, in the little lunge-and-rock-back, the early sighting but the playing late, the sense that, to him, each ball represents a discontinuous new promise and peril.

-- Wayne Brown, writing in today's J'ca Observer.

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