With the current climate of a halt in cricket and sport in general, it’s time again to look back at a significant moment in the gentlemen’s game. The year was 1990 and a 20-year old Brian Charles Lara was about to take another leap forward in his cricketing career, both on the domestic and international level. With his national team Trinidad and Tobago, he was given the captaincy, thus becoming the youngest ever to led the twin-island republic. Later on, in the same year, he would make his long-awaited Test debut for the West Indies on the tour of Pakistan.
Brian Lara took a step to stardom
Let’s chart an historic year for the left-handed batsman in 1990.
Heading into the West Indies regional domestic campaign, Trinidad and Tobago had not won a trophy for five years, with the four-day title in 1985 being the last triumph. It was even longer for a 50 over title, as the last one was in 1981. Changes were the order of the day and the burden of the skipper’s position was entrusted to Lara at the start of the season.
The young star from Santa Cruz had only been in the team for two years, but already had shown his maturity and leadership abilities. In just his second match versus arch-rivals Barbados with the fearsome pace attack which included Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall, he made a stroke filled 92. Previous to that he captained his country to the Under-19 trophy in 1987 gathering 498 runs along the way, including 116 in the final.
In the four-day competition the Leeward Islands would claim the crown, but things were vastly different in the one-day format…The structure of the tournament was two groups of three teams, with every team facing off once and the top two would meet in the final. In Trinidad and Tobago’s group were the Windward and Leeward Islands and they won both league games comfortably.
In a match shortened to 49 overs due to some showers earlier on in the day and played at Guaracara Park in Pointe-A-Pierre, the hosts batted first and made a total of 240-5. Opener and current West Indies coach Phil Simmons cracked a typically explosive 125, while Lara was the second top scorer with 29. The Windwards batsmen never got off the ground and managed to reach just 176-9, losing by 64 runs.
The wickets were shared around with Ian Bishop, Kelvin Williams, Rangy Nanan, Richard Sieuchan and Rajindra Dhanraj all contributing to skitilling out the Windwards. What was impressive about Lara’s captaincy was the way he rotated his bowlers, never allowing the opposition batsmen to get accustomed to any one bowler and his all out attacking field placements.
A week later and the team wearing red, white and black faced the Leewards and this time they bowled first in a match played at the Queen’s Park Oval. The home side’s bowlers ran through the batting line-up, with Bishop, Sieuchan and Nanan claiming three scalps apiece, while the returning Anthony Gray grabbed the other wicket.
In their turn to bat, T&T found themselves in a bit of bother at 22-3, but a partnership of 67 between Lara and Gus Logie repaired the damage. Lara was the last batsman to be dismissed for a stylish 25, while Logie made a gusty 37 and it was left to the two Williams, wicket-keeper David and Kelvin to see the team home.
They waited to see who they would face in the grand final and low and behold it would be arch-rivals Barbados after the Bajans topped their respective group ahead of Jamaica and Guyana. On Saturday 10th of February at the Queen’s Park Oval the teams faced off for the honour of being called the best in the region…It would be the fifth time the teams would meet in the final, with two wins each, Barbados winning back to back in 1976 and 1977, while T & T triumphed in 1979 and 1981.
The Bajans batted first and in a team containing Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, Philo Wallace, Carlisle Best etc…the T&T bowlers and fielding was of the highest order. They dismissed the boys in blue and yellow for just 178, with Marshall making the top-score of 24. The chief destroyer was Gray with figures of 9-3-22-3 with an economy rate of 2.44.
At their turn at bat Simmons and David Mohammed gave the team a solid foundation with an opening stand of 40. Lara came in at number three and with the pressure of a final as a captain, he commanded the Oval. He added 81 runs with Mohammed, contributing 41 before being bowled by Marshall, to take the total to 121-2 and put his team in a dominating position. Logie then took over the mantle from Lara as the right hander made 33 from 41 deliveries, as the team reached their target with 16 balls to spare.
What a win! Lara captained his country at the age of 20, in his first season and won the 50-over final against his team’s arch-rivals at home, it really does not get any better…
It came as no surprise when the West Indies selectors took notice of the rapid rise of Lara and he was selected to the squad to tour Pakistan later on that year. He took another significant step in 1990 on said tour to the Asian nation, as he made his debuts in both formats of the game that existed at the time.
He wore the famous maroon colours of the Caribbean team in an ODI played versus the hosts in Karachi. The match was contested as a 40-over match and Lara scored 11 in a total of 205-7, as the visitors lost the match by six runs. It was the opening match in the series that the hosts would win 3-0.
His first match in the Test arena occurred just under a month later at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. The man who would later become known as the “Prince of Port-of-Spain” came in at No.4 with his team tottering at 24-2, which soon became 37-3 when Greenidge was dismissed. He was joined by Carl Hooper and the young pair set about building a partnership. They added a valuable 95 runs for the fourth wicket, with Lara himself scoring 44, which included four 4’s. The match would eventually end in a draw, as the three match contest ended all-square at 1-1.
Lara had his first taste of success with the Trinidad & Tobago senior team and he made his full debut for the West Indies in the year 1990. What a time the genius from Santa Cruz was experiencing 30 years ago.