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16 March 1999
Thank you Jamaicans, thank you Lara
Whatever is the outcome of the Test match at Sabina Park, Sunday, the second day, will be remembered as one of the finest days in the history of West Indies cricket.
At the end of the first day, the West Indies, following the surrender during their 5-0 defeat in South Africa and following their performance at Queen's Park Oval where they lost the first Test by 312 runs after being routed for 51 in the second innings, were on the skids again at 37 for four, and although Brian Lara was batting, although James Adams was still to come, it appeared that the Windies were in for another hiding.
In a brilliant performance, however, the West Indies, starting with Lara on 11 and Pedro Collins on one, and ending with Lara on 212 not out and Adams on 88 not out, batted throughout the day to reach 377 for four with Lara and Adams, after Collins was forced to retire injured on 10 at 56 for four, posting a record-breaking fifth-wicket partnership of 321.
In what was a truly magnificent performance - a performance probably inspired by night watchman Collins who reeled off two spanking drives to the long-on boundary off pacer Jason Gillespie.
The day will be remembered for two other things, however, and Lara and the thousands of Jamaicans who were on hand to witness the performance deserve to take a bow.
Lara should take a bow, not only for his master innings and his brilliant strokes, but also for the courage which allowed him to go out before what was expected to have been a hostile crowd and performed the way he did - especially with his team in serious trouble.
That is one of the signs of greatness.
The Jamaicans, on the other hand, should take a bow for rallying 'round the West Indies - for coming out in their thousands on the first day, for behaving like true sportsmen and sportswomen and not making life miserable for their captain, for coming out on Sunday although their team was in trouble, and for cheering on the players from the start of the day's play.
Based on the performance of the West Indies in South Africa, Lara's contribution, because of his behaviour, to the embarrassing performance, and the reaction of Jamaicans when he was retained as captain, the consensus was that the fans would have stayed away, and that many of those who turned up would have booed and heckled him.
To their eternal credit, not only did they not boo or heckle Lara, but they also cheered him as they did idol Lawrence Rowe against New Zealand 27 years ago when he scored 214 and 100 not out in his first Test; and in response, Lara, after ticking off his first Test century, at Sabina, after transforming it into a double, lifted his hat - not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times as he turned in every direction and said thank you to the cheering fans.
It was West Indies cricket at its best. Probably because of the way he seemed a part of the team in the field, probably because of the brilliance of his batting, the Jamaican part of the family had said to Lara - let bygones be bygone, and Lara had responded - no problem man.
In one day, Lara had won back friends and influenced others - so much so that he is now the toast of Jamaica.
Source :: The Jamaica Gleaner (http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/)