No. 30 July 12, 2009

Walsh lends Lara a shoulder

Another big gesture from a big man famous for them

Kingston, 29 January 1998

Size matters in some things, especially in spirit, and true grandeur uplifts all in its precincts.

It couldn't have been an easy decision for Courtney Walsh to continue after he was replaced by Brian Lara in January 1998. After a week of reflection, he admitted his disappointment, but said the game was bigger and that he would support his new captain.

Jamaicans were not ready for such magnanimity, not after Walsh's curt dismissal, triggered it was felt, by Lara's jostling for the captaincy. Newspapers reported that plans were afoot to boo the new captain at Sabina Park, and that an anti-Lara campaign had been devised.

Things were warm as the team prepared for the match. The region was already severely divided by this shift in the captaincy; it could get very hot if mismanaged. Walsh rose magnificently to the occasion. Literally and figuratively towering above Lara, he strode out onto the field, arm almost protectively curled around the captain's shoulder. It evoked the sense of a mother gently leading her son toward the watering hole with predators watching hungrily. Walsh had taken guard.

Who could not have felt the bigness of this gesture? As a Jamaican hero, Walsh knew what he could telegraph in that moment, and he chose to endorse the new captain and to soothe chafing egos. It was true generosity of spirit, and it reinforced the link that has too often casually been made between cricket and gentlemen.

Vaneisa Baksh is a freelance journalist based in Trinidad