Rahul Bhattacharya is the author of the cricket tour book Pundits from Pakistan and the novel The Sly Company of People Who Care
Sometimes a work is so complete in itself, it requires no larger claims on its behalf. Brian Lara's 153 not out against Australia in 1999 did not alter the course of modern cricket, did not reshape the Caribbean imagination, did not spark a West Indian cricket revival - nor even lead to them winning the series. Yet, even as it unfolded, the innings felt like the sort of fantasy cricket that dreamers dream up. Nineteen years later it still comes with a pinch-me-not sticker.
Mainly this is because the batsman was Lara, whom nobody else could bat like. Then there were the circumstances: a 0-5 humiliation in South Africa following an undignified pay stand-off, then thrashed in the first Test of this series, in Trinidad, his captaincy and his reputation on the line.
Before the series, Lara was gifted a Michael Jordan book by an old school friend, Nicholas Gomez. Now, in the words and methods of Jordan he sought inspiration, and he reacquainted himself with the art of visualisation. Jamaica, in the second Test, he stroked 213 not out from 5 for 2 and 34 for 4, already one of the great Test innings. In Barbados in the third Test, he pulled this one out of his hat.
To win, West Indies needed 308 against McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and MacGill. Unbeaten on 2 on the fourth evening, Lara had a restless night, tormented by his dismissal in the first innings to the short ball. Before dawn on the final day he rang Gomez, who went over to his friend's hotel to talk, to plan. In front of a mirror Lara rehearsed his momentous innings in a more clinical and focused manner than the cricket dreamers were doing. The incredible thing - half the team gone for 105, 38 the second-highest score, the final 63 runs with Ambrose and Walsh for company - was that all was real.