Navi Mumbai, July 4: Brian Lara thought his friend was on one of the many varieties of marijuana Jamaica offers when he prophesied that a West Indies team in free fall, with the 'Prince' on the verge of losing his throne, would beat Australia in a Test in 1999.
Soon, his friend's prediction came true as skipper Lara led from the front with a 213, to power his beleaguered team to a stunning win. On Thursday, of his many epics, Lara chose that knock as his best.
He placed the double ton at Sabina Park ahead of the 277 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the iconic venue after which he named his daughter and one that announced his arrival; the 153 that left their happy-go-lucky supporters at Barbados as well as their opponents, highly-skilled men of steely resolve from Australia, in awe of the genius. He also picked the knock over the monumental 375 and 400 not out against England, and he had his reasons.
"Okay you keep the net and I went side on the grass and knocked off (a few shots)... we were 36/4 (34/4) and (later) were 375/4... that innings of 211 (213) in the face of being sacked, I can see in the media, board members, they were so happy that Brian is coming to the end and we can get rid of him," Lara said.
"Obviously pulling that innings out in face of adversity, it showed me what I was capable of. It might not have been the prettiest, but it was definitely the best I have ever batted in my entire life... a week later they named me captain for rest of the year... 153 (in Barbados) was good but a week earlier the 213 was maybe my best-ever," he added.
Lara said that that particular double hundred in the second Test gave him the confidence that he was capable of delivering as a player. "Give me two or three minutes to explain why I picked this innings as pretty much my best innings and it has nothing to do with quality of the innings, say for instance 277 (or) scoring 400 (against England) or the 153 in Barbados (against Australia)," Lara said after being conferred with a Doctorate of Science by D Y Patil University.
"In late 1998, we had little bit of salary problem with the West Indies cricket board and we were stuck in a hotel in London and we were there for three-four days and the English press had taken us to pieces. And as captain I got letter under my door from late Nelson Mandela and it said all of South Africa wants to see the West Indies. We left for South Africa and by the end of that tour we lost all the Test matches, we lost ODI series 6-1, it was a bad tour for us. I really did not expect to be the captain," he recollected.
Lara faced hostility after West Indies had a miserable tour of South Africa in 1998/99 where they lost the Test series 5-0 and the subsequent ODI series 6-1. But Lara was still named as skipper for first two Tests against Australia. "But guess why the first Test match was in Trinidad and they were little bit scared of a boycott, so the political thing was to put it for two Test matches, you are playing against Australia, and they are not going to win, given a very poor team as well and the fourth innings of the first Test match we made 51 in Trinidad (at Port of Spain)."
In the first Test, Australia thumped West Indies by 312 runs at Port of Spain, and the second Test was to be played at Kingston. "And we arrived in Jamaica, which was my last Test as a captain because we were playing against best team in the world and I was booed at the airport by Jamaicans, at the cricket ground, it was very bad.
"On the first day of Test, Australia scored 259 (256) and at the end of that day West Indies were 36/4 (34/4). I was sitting in room, one of my Jamaican friends came in and said you guys are going to win this Test. Jamaica is famous for little bit of marijuana and I wanted to know which marijuana he picked, no way we were going to win that Test match."