Kohli hadn’t yet arrived in the game back then, there was no Joe Root and nobody knew Steven Smith; there was no such thing as Fab Four.
There was only one fabulous batsman in world cricket besides Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
He was known to fight fire with fire. Aligning sheer artistry with single minded determination, he was known to produce knocks that would ensure that the West Indies flag kept fluttering regardless of who they played and where.
He would counter storms and often single-handedly. He’d push fans to the edge of the seats to a zone where they were simply stunned.
His impact on the onlookers was about as hypnotic as the one possessed by a magic spree; you were simply unable to focus anywhere else for as long as that high backlift came down rampantly producing one stroke of genius after another.
Left handed and thus perhaps full of grace, he was part magician, part artist but purely, a matchwinner.
And he so often waged lonely wars with little or no support from the other end rescuing a contest from the hinges of mediocrity whilst producing gems for his side when the West Indies were pelted by heavyduty contest and soul-shaking opposition.
Brian Lara conquered opponents, bedazzled spectators and lifted the spirit of a contest as only he could.
And on March 30, 1999 he did exactly that in an effort that not only uplifted his own team whilst it baffled the Australians; it pretty much left the Cricketing world stuck to the magic of the Prince of Trinidad.
The Third test of the 1999 Australia tour of the West Indies took the hosts to the land of the great Sir Garfield Sobers.
The two previous Tests fetched a memorable victory for the West Indies at Jamaica while the contest before turned into an embarrassing submission of sorts.
At Trinidad, Lara’s home turf, the West Indies captain and the side’s most capable willower produced no magic as his team succumbed to a distraught 51 all out. The game was lost in the dust and the team were buried under sands of embarrassment.
With the series on the line as also Lara’s own captaincy, having suffered the horrible ignominy of a 5-nil Test drubbing at the hands of South Africa around a quarter of a year ago, so much depended on this contest.
Even before this Test series had begun, they had begun calling for Lara’s head. One media outlet even went as far as reporting that the selectors were ‘baying for his blood.’
The Trinidadian’s own form had been patchy; something brilliant and perhaps even out of the box is what was needed and desperately so.
And as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures, Lara, the usual and famous number three decided to come at number 5.
Only this time, he would produce a spell of magic that would turn voodoo for the Australians, the big mighty Australians that weren’t accustomed to resistance on the part of their opponents and the only way they knew how to play was to attack.
Lara’s genius came to the fore on day 5 of the third Test at the Bridgetown Oval when against all odds he fired what Wisden would come to describe as ‘amongst the greatest Test innings ever played.’
Even today if you happen to Google all things Brian Lara, you can’t help but not come across the famous 153 not out; the giver of hope to the West Indies that may just not have functioned without any.
But as it often happened with Lara in the middle of an important innings, there was a top order collapse that only worsened the pressure that the hosts were already jilting with.
After a vital fifty plus run stand, Sherwin Campbell, centurion of the first innings, was sent walking by the most threatening of all Australian bowlers: Glenn McGrath.
His opening partner Adrian Griffith would depart soon after; the West Indies were now 77 for 2. Another 231 were needed. But further trouble arrived with Dave Joseph fell for just 1 and night watchman Pedro Collins couldn’t hang around for long.
Feeling the insanity of pressure, Lara zoned into a space of focus where he was to be the monk soldiering on despite the burgeoning troubles.
The contest now hung by a tiny thread for the West Indies. The only real semblance of any hope was Lara’s prodigal genius.
Attacking and watchful in equal measure, he’d treat anything bowled short or marginally outside the off stump with sheer disdain.
Those who watched the contest back then, were treated to such exquisiteness that it had royalty and class written all over it.
Make no mistake; captain Steven Waugh threw everything at Lara. Warne tested his defences while MacGill tempted the flamboyant batsman with turn and flight.
McGrath would offer a volley of bouncers whilst Gillespie tried to set him up.
Yet, nothing could breach Lara’s defences and just about nothing dissuaded the Prince from saving his kingdom.
Dancing down the track like an eagle and breaking into the Nataraja dancer pose whilst sending the wayward delivery around middle and leg to backward point, Lara came alive when his team most wanted.
Soon, the equation pretty much became- Brian Lara vs all of Australia.
The only real threat, frankly speaking, that stood in the Aussies’ way was Lara and in the end, he turned out to be an immovable force of nature that none would’ve fancied colliding with.
It’s not that it was all easypeasy for the Prince; after McGrath engineered a mini collapse in the middle and lower middle order, things came down to Ambrose and later, Walsh batting alongside Lara to win it for their team.
With 8 wickets down and the score stuck at 248, the West Indies were still 60 away from what then seemed an unlikely win whilst the Australians were just 2 wickets away.
Surely, a lot about how the West Indies achieved what can only be described as surreal was down to Jimmy Adams’ resilient 38, an inning where his doggedness allowed him to bat on for 125 deliveries.
But in the end, it all came down to that man and that man alone: Brian Lara.
The pressure was mounting all the time. The West Indies had nothing more to lose and Lara had nearly orchestrated a pitch perfect rescue operation where he was both the firefighter and the fighter.
Even today, well over two decades from that magnanimous day in the history of West Indies cricket, one cannot forget the odds Lara battled to hit that exquisite cover drive to Gillespie with 1 needed to win.
The mad pressure that Courtney Walsh endured, the most number 11 batsman of all tailenders around that time, had been witnessed.
The constant field changes and the verbal volleys thrown around like venom; all of it had been endured.
And then came the moment, on the first delivery of the 121st over, to be precise where a fuller delivery pitched marginally around the off was smashed to the covers.
It was as if Lara had been ordained to smash the Australians and rescue his beleaguered West Indies side.
Upon reaching the breakthrough, there was Lara with his arms up in the air, entirely jubilant and what soon followed was a tsunami of fans who’d conquer the ground akin to raindrops falling right into the ocean.
Pride had been restored to the Caribbean while faith, previously jilted and shaken, had been imbued with a surreal touch that only Lara could provide.
The same fans that wanted Lara to go now wanted him to never leave. And truth be told, for the sheer magic and mayhem of his inning, Lara’s effort hasn’t yet and may never leave the conscience of the cricket-doting fan.
All hail the Prince of Trinidad