Nothing is impossible when Lara's around

When Brian Charles Lara completed his fifth Test match double hundred at St. Lucia recently, it marked an outstanding personal achievement. He indeed is a jewel in the West Indian crown.

It is the hallmark of a great batsman when he converts his starts into centuries, and then moves on from there, and gets into the double and triple hundred zone. Lara has done precisely that.

He owns the record for the highest individual score in Test cricket, and all through Lara's career, his ability to concentrate hard, without compromising on his aggressive instincts has stood out.

Batting for long periods of time is never easy. Every session brings its demands, reflecting on a cricketer's fitness, endurance and motivational levels. It is to Lara's credit that despite tons of runs in international cricket, he has managed to stay hungry.

It is all too tempting for a batsman to relax just that little bit after reaching his century; even more so in the case of Lara, who has already achieved so much. However, Lara has simply gone on to bigger things, his appetite for runs very much intact.

Probably, no other batsman has handled off-spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan with such mastery as Lara has done over the last two years. The left-hander was at his very best when the Caribbeans toured the emerald island, and at St. Lucia too, Lara displayed the same touch.

Lara's footwork is so good, and he is able to get into a position so quickly, that he is able to seize the initiative away from the best of spinners. It is to his credit that even against quality bowlers, and in demanding situations, Lara is commanding in his methods, his urge to dominate attacks very visible.

It is here that I see shades of Vivian Richards in him. The two are very different batsmen, however, both never quite allow the bowlers to call the shots. Instead shots fly from their blades. I do not have to dwell too much on Lara's shot-making ability, it is all too well known for me to elaborate, but I would like to comment on the Trinidadian's penchant for bailing his side out of trouble.

Lara has accomplished this time and again, withstanding tense situations. In fact, nothing is impossible when Lara's around. That's the kind of reputation that he has built for himself.

Steve Waugh is another batsman of the modern era who thrives in crisis. However, for his gift of striking the good balls past the ropes, Lara it is, who is a bigger match-winner.

There have been occasions when he has left his supporters disappointed, perishing to forgettable strokes, but, given Lara's style of batsmanship, this is understandable. When the West Indian finds his timing and range, he is sheer magic.

Importantly, he is able to handle responsibility and captaincy does not weigh heavily on him. On the contrary, it only appears to motivate him even more.

This has been a season when he has led a young West Indian side with courage and confidence. I have a feeling that over the next couple of years, the Caribbeans would develop into a formidable force. With Lara in charge.

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