Graham Thorpe was one of the privileged ones to witness Brian Lara’s brilliance from close quarters during the West Indian’s magnificent 375 at St. John’s, Antigua in 1994. He recalled how observing how Lara was going about his batting helped him shape his own batting style at a later stage in his career.
Imperious stroke-play, characterized flamboyance, and a great degree of flair are few of the things that perfectly describe Brian Lara, the batsman who was a viewer’s true delight. There is no greater sight in Cricket than to watch Brian Lara in full flow. The stylish left-handed batsman from Trinidad got on top of the best of bowling attacks throughout his illustrious career and scoring huge scores, especially in the longer version of the game had become his habit. The world got a glimpse of his appetite for scoring big centuries in only his 5th Test for the West Indies at the Sydney Cricket Ground when Lara scored the unbelievable 277 against Australia. Only a run out deprived him of a triple ton which was there for the taking. But Lara didn’t lose heart and ensured he went even bigger when he scored that monumental 375 against England in Antigua and became the highest individual score record holder in Test Cricket, by going past Sir Garfield Sobers’s 365, the previous highest score in Test Cricket and that record had stood for more than 36 years.
The greatest all-rounder that Cricket has seen, Sir Garfield Sobers was present at the Antigua Recreation Ground when Lara broke his record and he said of Lara, “I don’t think a better person could have broken my record. He is the only batsman today who plays the game the way it should be played.”
Graham Thorpe scored an excellent century on his debut Test match against Australia but things went downhill thereafter as he didn’t achieve the consistency that was expected of him. When Thorpe watched Lara’s artistry when he dispatched all the English bowlers, spin and pace alike, he could only marvel at his brilliance. He watched closely the ‘Prince of Trinidad” took on the England bowlers and how he went about constructing his innings, he picked some valuable lessons which proved useful to his longevity as a Test batsman.
The former Surrey and England middle-order batsman said of Lara, “Lara was a real artist of a batsman. The best I played against. Jacques Kallis was an exceptional run-maker, and of course, there was Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, but you could restrict them a bit. With Lara, I used to feel that if he chose to take an attack down, whether that was against fast bowling or spin bowling, then he had the tools to be able to do it. He did score a lot of runs against England during my time – not least during his world-record score in 1994 – so perhaps I’m slightly biased towards him, particularly as a fellow left-hander.
“On the 1993/94 tour to the West Indies, I was far from the finished article as a player and had the chance to watch Lara close up. He had such a proactive technique and there were certainly parts of his game that I tried to copy, such as the pick-up of his bat. I used to lift my bat but after watching Lara I started to cock my wrists a lot more playing against faster bowling which gave myself a split second of extra time to execute shots. Watching him encouraged me to move my feet more actively against quicker bowling too.
“I looked at the positions that he got into as well. He was always very balanced on his shots and had very quick hand speed and that had an influence on me. He got himself into positions where he was capable of putting away good deliveries rather than just waiting for the bad ball. Aged 23, I still had enough time in my career to go away and practice these things and I saw the benefits.” Thorpe added.
The stylish left-hander has played 100 Tests for England and scored 6744 runs with sixteen centuries and 39 half-centuries to his name. He was a vital cog of the England team and helped England win matches in away conditions such as in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.