The world at his feet

 
 
 
 
 
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By Jada Loutoo

West Indies cricket captain Brian Lara’s superb batting performance of 400 runs not out at St John’s, Antigua, on Monday continues to be the talk of the town.

Almost 10 years to the date, Lara reclaimed the world batting record and became the first player to break the 400-run barrier in the history of Test cricket.

And as tributes continue to pour in from all corners of the world so too whispers of an apt reward for the newly-branded King of Port-of-Spain.

But rewards are not on the batting star’s mind right now. Getting ten English wickets is what he’s focussed on.

“It is not as if I sat down and planned to score 400 runs or break the world record in this Test match. It happened and obviously I’m delighted, but the the match is not over as yet and until such time, that there is a result, my focus will be on what is happening in the middle and not what I am supposed to get for my achievement,” Lara said in a brief telephone interview after yesterday’s play.

However, while Government is still to consider an appropriate tribute, Manohar Ramsaran, former Sports Minister and local cricketer, believes the cricketing hero should be honoured in two ways.

“It should be twofold. Government should make it a policy to do things in Lara’s name,” he said in a telephone interview.

One of his suggestions is building a Brian Lara cricket academy to encourage youngsters to get involved in the sport.

Quick to remind people that it was he, as Sports Minister, who removed Value Added Tax from sporting goods when fellow countryman Ato Boldon excelled on the sprinting track, Ramsaran said some incentive should be given for young cricketers to get into the game.

“Give schoolchildren an incentive like free equipment to schools and clubs,” he said.

But Ramsaran is also proposing a more substantial reward to the cricketing legend.

The offer of an ambassadorship, perhaps in sporting similar to United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors, is close to what Ramsaran has in mind.

“In my view his newest record is nothing short of being a phenomenon and he should be treated with the honour and respect he deserves,” he said.

Financial assistance should also be strongly considered, Ramsaran said.

“It would depend on what the Government wants to do but I would have no objection to any amount they want give,” he said.

Government sources said much thought and consideration was being given as to what Government would do.

“Rest assured Government will honour Lara’s achievement with a tribute befitting his greatness on the field and his inspiration to youngsters,” one source said.

“He is truly a national hero and will be treated as such,” another source said.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning has said his Government was making the appropriate preparations for his return to T&T.

A big celebration, complete with a motorcade reminiscent of the one afforded to him when he quieted England on the same Antiguan field in 1994 with a record-breaking 375 runs, is expected.

“We are getting proposals from all over. Everyone is suggesting one type of tribute or another but we still have to wait on Brian and hears what he wants,” a source said.

It is not certain when Lara will return home. After the end of today’s Test, he has many commitments he must attend to as captain of the West Indies team, a source close to the Lara family said.

There is the likelihood he may return for a short visit before the start of the seven One Day Internationals on Sunday in Guyana.

“We have to wait and see.”

For his feat in 1994, Lara amassed a number of gifts and awards including T&T’s highest national award — the Trinity Cross.

The National Council for Indian Culture, in extending congratulations to the WI team captain, said the former proposed racing complex at Caroni should be converted into a national sporting institute and named after Lara.

Reginald Vidale, chairman of the Dr Eric Williams Memorial Committee, suggests naming the inter-island ferry service after the batting maestro.

He would also like to see a picture of Lara placed in every school, alongside the late Dr Williams.

Ramsaran went one step further to suggest to the Antiguan Government to rename the Antigua Recreational Ground – the spot where Lara broke the world batting record twice within the 10 years – the “Brian Lara Recreational Ground.”

In his home town of Cantaro in Santa Cruz, villagers want a national holiday.

Bristow Caribbean Ltd plans to name a helicopter after him.

Tributes

“His achievements have not only rewritten the game of cricket but has created a new vision for the game.”

– Reginald Vidale, chairman Dr Eric Williams Memorial Committee.

“His feat is nothing less than amazing and removes all doubt as to who is currently the world’s greatest batsman. His record will not be easily attainable.”

– Deokinanan Sharma, president, National Council for Indian Culture.

“What is commendable and noteworthy is the backdrop against which it occurred (Lara’s record- breaking innings). The West Indies team being three down in the series reflects the commitment, resolve and dedication of Brian Charles Lara to cricket and also the West Indian group of nations.”

– Rudranath Indarsingh, president general, All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union.

“Brian Lara’s fantastic achievement on Monday will definitely put an end to the insularity in the West Indies.”

–Manohar Ramsaran, former Sports Minister.