Why Brian Lara’s 400 not out will always be a testimony of his unsinkable legacy?
Brian Lara’s 400 not out: West Indies great Brian Lara etched his name in record books when he smashed 400 not out against England to set the record for highest individual score in Test cricket on April 12, 2004.
Exactly a year from now, on April 12, 2024, it would be two decades since the great Brian Lara scored his monumental 400 not out against England.
And if you put your mind to it, you’d realize cricket has perhaps changed in no fewer than a hundred ways from that time.
There is the DRS now. You can do Mankading. The boundaries have become a touch shorter. Batsmen tend to play the T20 style and a fairly large degree of risky strokes in the 5-day game.
Cricket, on the whole, has become skewed towards the batsmen. More teams are playing the sport as on date than they were back in time.
The West Indies, it ought to be remembered, are largely addressed as Windies; as if the very T20-esque play-it-easy moniker of a name was a cool statement to strut.
But truth be told, the basics of the game at the Test level, are still very much the same as they were in 2004.
Test match cricket is still about the rigour. It ebbs and flows. It still requires one to deploy a certain amount of patience. Teams target to bat out sessions. It’s about waning down the bowlers especially when a draw is to be achieved.
And Brian Charles Lara of Trinidad and Tobago did exactly that nineteen years back on this very date to accomplish what’s since been described in cosmological adjectives.
Some have called it a phenomenal achievement. To many, it has been a groundbreaking feat in the great game of Cricket. Others term it, and perhaps rightly so, as timeless.
But there are reasons for it.
There was rigour in that knock. He held on to an end on his own. The 400 not out required an extraordinary level of patience in that it meant Lara staying at the crease for 776 minutes, to be precise.
Lara achieved Test cricket’s most imposing feat yet for a batter by staying put for nearly two days during which he played no less than 582 deliveries.
That’s when today’s West Indies Test unit, if it were it not for Brathwaite, wouldn’t bat a day out amid testing conditions.
But about as important as the statistical output of his great effort is the situation amid Lara constructed what has since remained Test cricket’s highest individual score.
Had the West Indies lost this final Test match at Antigua, it would’ve resulted in yet more humiliation; England would then have whitewashed the Caribbean side for the first time ever whilst playing in the Caribbean having won all the previous three Tests.
Had Lara faltered with the bat, his career that was already on the line, would surely have received unwashable taint.
There was no way that he would stay on as the captain of the side. There was no way that he would be part of the West Indies team for all the dazzling feats he’d previously achieved as a cricketer.
So much was on the line. But with personal and team form in absolute disarray, forget not that in the first Test at Jamaica, the team were 47 all out, Lara went about repairing things perhaps taking one more chance to be destiny’s favourite son.
For that’s what the feeling was several hours before the 400 came about.
Familiarity of the pitch and the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARC) notwithstanding, the turf, much the West Indies’ liking, was flat as some T20 wicket.
After an initial set of difficulties imposed by Hoggard and Harmison, Lara was up and away. The familiar strokes square on the off side and the magnanimous pulls with the left hander cutting a ‘Nataraja’ pose informed one of the early signs of recovery of lost form.
Then came the hundred, a first for him in the series and not long after the 150. Lara had crossed the 150 on several occasions with his team’s fate so very often resting on his solo abilities.
But the difference between Brian Lara at Jamaica and the Lara one saw at Antigua was that he wasn’t done yet, not just yet; wanting to go on and on and on as he had on so many occasions.
Though, all of that was in the past. Lara really had nothing more to lose. What would you do when your own form is against you and when nearing 35, you aren’t getting any younger?
All England could really do on that particular occasion was to become one with the audience for Lara gave literally nothing away.
This wasn’t some ordinary side; there were several matchwinners like Nasser Hussain, Andrew Flintoff, Michael Vaughn and Steve Harmison.
But they were all tamed thanks to Lara’s magic; the prodigal son of the West Indies was out to serve the motherland.
With fours and sixes galore, Lara would become the matinee idol of a Test match and at the very same time, the pantomime villain for England.
His ruthless but majestic batting proving a bit too much for Her Majesty’s team!
And then came the most extraordinary moment of the Test match when a perfectly swept single towards the fine leg brought up the 400th run for Lara.
There was nothing really that Gareth Batty could do. The Prince of Trinidad, in so doing, had become the ruler of Antigua and in turn, returned to the throne of the world’s best batsman.
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The crowds, who insofar had only been treated to a non-stop show of West Indian battering, had seen the West Indies cook England for breakfast, lunch and high-tea.
There was pandemonium out there.
For a batsman who had only managed a personal best of 36 before this knock to score Test cricket’s highest individual score when everything seemed lost had won back the faith.
No longer were they saying, hang Lara’s career on the line; the subliminal moment meant they exclaimed, “our wounds are healed.”
The West Indies at the back of Lara’s might posted an invincible 751 on the board. What’s rather extraordinary about this achievement is that in the years hence, the Windies Test team have only scored a 700-plus total twice, once in April 2005 and then in February 2009.
But Lara’s 400 not out since then has become a feat far too dazzling for others to scale or breach.
It’s not that others haven’t come close; Mahela Jayawardene scored 374 versus the Proteas. In more recent times, David Warner has scored a triple ton.
But far away from any attempts to snatch the world record stands Lara’s almost Himalayan peak in Test match cricket, as if telling other possible climbers that it’s a bit unfathomable to scale the summit.
And while it may be broken one day, what wasn’t at the time of its construction was the sheer resolve and self-belief of Brian Charles Lara.
These were the two facets that frequently fuelled the very best that the Caribbean genius had to offer.