THE JOURNEY of one of the greatest batsmen to play the sport of cricket opened the 15th TT Film Festival, on Wednesday night.
The documentary 501 Not Out highlighted the extraordinary career of Brian Lara and allowed fans to reminisce on the talent and flair the left-handed legend showed as a youngster that led to him breaking the first-class batting record.
Director Sam Lockyer of Iconic Productions became a fan of Lara while growing up in England. Iconic Productions, based in Birmingham, England, took viewers through Lara’s early days at Harvard Coaching Clinic, Fatima College and Queen’s Park Cricket Club (QPCC) in the one-hour 48-minute film. Fans watched the production online because of covid19.
The film also focuses on 1994 – the year Lara became a household name after writing his name into the record books. It highlighted how he inspired a generation of cricketers and the admiration that his teammates and fellow TT athletes had for him.
Nikki Borde (Trini Posse co-founder), Colin Murray (former QPCC teammate and Fatima coach), Deryck Murray (former West Indies cricketer/QPCC), Bryan Davis (former West Indies cricketer/QPCC/Fatima), Harry Ramdass (Fatima College) and childhood friend Michael Carew all reflected on Lara’s early days.
Borde spoke about Lara growing up in Santa Cruz – a community that has produced several national athletes, including track and field legend Ato Boldon and the Bravo brothers Dwayne and Darren. Borde calls Santa Cruz “The valley of the kings.”
Deryck Murray said he met Lara for the first time when he was eight or nine, at Harvard, and said he wanted to be a wicket-keeper like him. Murray said he saw the “special talent” at that age.
Davis also said he knew immediately that Lara “would be playing for West Indies in the future.”
Lara was just as talented at football. Colin Murray said on one occasion Lara’s father Bunty wanted to know why he was not giving his son the opportunity to play on the football team. Bunty was satisfied with the answer, as Colin said, “I don’t want to be the one responsible for your son getting injured and not having a cricket career.”
The film included interviews with former Windies teammates Sir Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Browne. Ambrose met Lara in 1988, when he was playing for Leeward Islands, saying, “He did not look like a cricketer, he was so small – the bat seemed to be much bigger than him – but you knew he had some talent, the way he played his shots.”
Ambrose admired Lara’s work ethic, saying, “Brian Lara worked as hard as anyone to perfect his craft. I played with Brian for many years and there are times when he is batting and he is not feeling comfortable, his timing is a bit off, feet aren’t moving – and he (will) come off for the lunch session and go straight into the nets and have us guys bowl to him…a lot of people don’t know that, they only see the end result.”
The film features Lara’s friendship with former TT and Manchester United footballer Dwight Yorke, who was playing professionally in England (with Aston Villa) when Lara joined Warwickshire.
Before Lara reached the milestone in England, he broke the Test batting record held by Sir Garfield Sobers, for the highest individual score, when he struck 375 against England at the Antigua Recreation Ground, on April 18, 1994.
Less than two months later, Lara created history again with Warwickshire in a memorable season for both player and club.
He was the leading run-scorer in the 1994 County Championship, cracking 2,066 runs to lead Warwickshire to the title. It was part of the club’s record-breaking treble that year.
Warwickshire fans and teammates, including Gladstone Small, remembered the mid 90s as a notable time for the club.
“The team was already going places, and then you get that extra boost of having this superstar come into your ranks – and he is
a superstar…you just knew this guy was something special.”
Lara’s prolific season included the climax of this film: his first-class record of 501 not out against Durham on June 6, 1994.
Hanif Mohammed of Pakistan had held the record since 1959. Small admired Lara’s self-belief and lofty goals, saying the left-hander had his sights on Mohammed’s record when he was still 250 runs away from reaching the milestone.
As the match against Durham was coming to a close, Lara broke the record in the nick of time.
In an interview in 1994 after the knock, Lara said, “It was another special moment for me. As I said earlier it is hard to compare the two. One (record) is Test cricket, the other one is the highest ever first-class score and you just have to cherish both of them for as long as possible.”
The closing moments of the film included Lara’s 50th birthday celebrations in 2019, which of course included a cricket match.