AT the age of just five, West Indies cricket legend Brian Lara declared to his father his dream of representing the region.
Lara’s father, Bunty Lara, bought the soon-to-be-child prodigy a bat and a white long-sleeved shirt to emulate the best in the sport at the time, who just happened to be from the Caribbean.
“Thinking that big that young has enormous, enormous benefits because you start training your mind and you start thinking about becoming a West Indian cricketer. In my instance, that’s what I wanted to become,” Lara said.
He was speaking on Sunday during the latest stage of a motivational series for young athletes titled There is Hope, organised by the TT Football Association’s (TTFA) normalisation committee.
Lara told the enthralled audience all he wanted to do was mimic and sharpen the techniques of the best batsmen of the day.
“Now, as I grew a little bit older, I started to look at different cricketers and realising what I wanted from each one of them.”
One went by the name of Roy Fredericks, a left-handed batsman from Guyana who was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1974. Being left-handed and small in stature himself in those days, Lara said he wanted to be the next Roy Fredericks.
As he continued to study the best athletes, his range of abilities grew wider.
“There is the great Sir Vivian Richards. I found that he had so much confidence that it was just unbelievable.
“There was Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge. These guys are the best opening batsmen that ever played for the West Indies.”
Education has me here
While Lara famously attended Fatima College, where he broke onto the sporting scene by setting numerous records, there were struggles in the background.
He faced his education struggles head on, which is why he maintains a successful career after retiring from cricket.
Lara told the audience he passed for San Juan Secondary and spent a year there. But cricket was not part of the school’s sporting programme and the only taste he got of proper cricket was on Sundays at the Harvard Coaching Clinic. That didn’t satisfy Lara’s father, who sought an interview with Fatima College’s principal and got him transferred.
Lara was made to repeat the first form – and failed.
“Obviously, as a sportsperson, playing cricket and football, you’re well-liked by your peers, (but) I struggled a lot in school.
“But there came a time when I realised if I really wanted to do something positive with my life, I had to be educated. Cricket was easy, football was easy, table tennis was easy as a young man.
“I said to myself, and teachers at Fatima College made me realise, I needed to be qualified academically because sports (careers) only last for a certain length of time. I’m still a very young person,” said the 52-year-old. “If it was not for my academic background, I would ot have been in the position I am today. “My advice to you is to ensure you are a well-rounded individual.
“If you’re very good in sport, don’t feel like your life has to be all about it.”
To challenge oneself through education or other “uncomfortable areas” is to improve oneself and one’s self-esteem, Lara said. There is Hope will continue with another seminar on Sunday, and is open to young athletes from ten-19, inside or outside of the country, who play any sport.
Those interested in participating can make a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.