Brian Lara didn’t exactly set the last edition of the Road Safety Series on fire – did he?
With much regard to the batting legend, Lara excited but didn’t fully entertain.
The Prince of Trinidad scored 154 runs from 6 games, but remained unbeaten in two, one of which led to a fifty.
And that’s the thing about Brian Lara in the 2021 Road Safety Series that hurts and perhaps encourages in equal measure about what could be.
All that Lara managed was a solitary fifty in the previous round.
Which leads to a simple question: can Lara cover up for last year’s dearth of runs in the 2022 edition?
For starters, there’s no doubting the potential of a man who romanticized the art of playing big innings and at peak, made mad runs for fun.
The Santa Cruz, Port of Spain-born began with 277, then went on to score 375, his epochal Test knock, a decade after which he’d strike a monster: 400 not out in the sport’s highest echelon.
Even before he’d get to Test cricket’s tallest mountainous peak, Lara had sculpted a mammoth: his 501 for Warwickshire against Durham (also in 1994).
In between came the dips and rises, the sudden lashings and the purple patches; Lara’s entertained like few others can or will.
Even fewer will combine an artistic flair with unbent determination like Brian Lara did.
And who knows, maybe still does?
Maybe that’s why he’s been brought to the Road Safety Series as a paragon of batting that can do only what few, like Sachin can achieve: the unending mastery whilst occupying the crease.
A simple evidence of the fact that Lara ‘still had it’ was felt in the 2020 Australian charity game for the Bushfire cause; the former Windies captain emerged unbeaten, hit a few captivating strokes, endeared himself not just to the assembled audience but even Elyse Villani whom he stroked for some gorgeous boundaries.
He didn’t get out.
That’s the whole point. Lara carried his bat despite coming at the end of the Ponting XI’s inning.
In a contest where Langer and Hayden made 22 together, the Prince struck 30 on his own off just eleven deliveries.
That’s precisely the Lara magic that crowds, whether in Indore, Dehradun or Raipur will come to see.
What a shame that due to personal reasons, the man behind the famous 153 not out at Bridgetown, Barbados has not yet arrived in India.
What a loss for those who perhaps bought tickets akin to a star-struck kid of the nineties excited endlessly by the thought that what fun might it be to see past legends bat again?
Anyhow, what’s supposed to happen usually happens.
This, however, doesn’t mean that the likes of Johan Botha, Chris Tremlett, Vernon Philander, Makhaya Ntini, Munaf Patel, Abdur Razzak, Hamish Bennett, Brett Lee, Stuart Clarke and the likes should take things for granted.
Many have suffered endlessly by assuming that Lara’s an easy fish.
Go nowhere but ask Graeme Smith, former Proteas captain for answers about how it felt like when Lara hammered 28 runs in a single over against his Robin Peterson?
Ask Murali and check with Vaas just how it felt when both legends rammed into an unbreakable fortress Lara created in 2002-03, where he single handedly scored 40 percent of his team’s output (with the bat)?
In fact, look no further than Umar Gul and Danish Kaneria whom Lara tethered upon his final-ever Test series, where hundreds were creamed with the same ease with which a kid holds a candy.
What Brian Lara did aged 37, he can still do sixteen years later, at 53 and it’s to entertain, entertain and entertain.
This time, however, there’s a poignant message to the carnage. And it’s to uphold the valuable message that the Road Safety Series’ campaign wishes to spread; to not take one’s life for granted, to adhere to safety rules whilst driving and to exercise caution by taking due steps into consideration, such as- wearing of seatbelts and the helmet.
It, in some ways, is quite like offering a disclaimer to bowlers where it comes to Brian Charles Lara:
“Explosive package, handle with care”.