Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Sunday, June 08, 2003  

Let the experts ponder the question of who should have bowled the last over. Let others argue over how the field should have been set coming down to the end. Let someone else decipher how, having scored 312 runs for four wickets off their 50 overs, the West Indies went on to lose the second one-day international and thus the series to Sri Lanka, today in Barbados.

Instead, I'd like to note the shattering of a myth that has too long been entrenched in the West Indian mentality: that Brian Lara, regardless of the umpire's decision, always walks when he is out.

I don't know when exactly this notion gained serious currency, but it has hardened over the years, so much so that it seems the majority of West Indies fans - and worse, many of our cricket commentators - think that if Lara doesn't walk, he isn't out, no matter what anyone else says.

Earlier today, when he was yet to get off the mark, Brian Lara edged a ball and was caught, and adjudged not out by the umpire. Replays showed clearly that he nicked the ball; there was the unmistakable sound of ball grazing past bat. If no one else, Lara surely would have heard it, as surely as he knew that if he was out at that stage, the West Indies' chances of winning the match and levelling the series would have been in serious jeopardy.

He did not walk. (And went on to score a century.)

Naturally, the commentators were in the main loath to talk about it: only former England captain Tony Greig, and to some extent Tony Cozier, discussed it. Greig, speaking generally, deplored the continued slide of cricket into disreputable territory.

To many West Indians, having Tony Greig lecture on gentlemanly conduct in cricket would be a bit like Fidel Castro speaking out against human rights abuses. Greig is, after all, best remembered here as the man who infamously declared that he would "make the West Indies grovel" on our tour to England in 1976. (The Windies went on to win the Test series 3-1.)

But the past is the past, Greig has long since apologised (and been forgiven) for the comment, and is now one of the better commentators on cricket. Yet I wonder how many West Indians will take his opinions today seriously? My point here is not whether or not Lara should have walked. It is simply that Lara is human, and prey to the same failures and mistakes as anyone else. He is not beyond reproach, a fact that we need to take seriously. Too often we rhapsodise over his cricketing brilliance (and brilliant he is, without a doubt), and tend to overlook his shortcomings. Which is as bad as having nothing good to say about Lara at all, a la Jamaica's Tony Becca.

Let's face it, who in our tenuous Caribbean nation is currently more widely known, more talked about, more revered, more hated, more likely to capture our collective imagination with the slightest action or comment (on and off the cricket field), than Brian Lara? (And on a side note, apart from our cricketers, can anyone besides Bob Marley claim such a prominence?)

If we acknowledge Lara's status, we must also be willing to see him for all that he is. To do so would be to the benefit of all concerned: us as a people, West Indies cricket, Lara himself. What we need more than almost anything, in all spheres, is honest and critical self-examination, instead of indulging in hyperbole and burying our heads in the white powdery sand of our beautiful beaches. It is the only way to real and meaningful progress in our politics, our business, the arts and sport.

It might be peverse to say so, but what happened today, in having this myth about the Prince of Port of Spain broken, was in my view quite necessary.

I now await the scribes and sages, and their views on the matter.

posted by Jonathan | 7:03 PM 0 comments


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