Australia replaced the West Indies as the dominant force in world cricket in 1995 and under Steve Waugh’s leadership, were well on their way to become one of the greatest Test sides in history.
They had beaten the West Indies in the previous two editions of the Frank Worrell Trophy. In fact, since 1995, they had played 12 Test series, won 11 and lost only one, in India. They had also lost a one-off Test, also in India.
West Indies, who had not lost a single Test series for almost 15 years till the Frank Worrell Trophy in 1995, had seen a drastic change in fortunes. They had just suffered their first ever five-Test series whitewash in an absolute drubbing in South Africa. The tour was mired in a payment controversy with West Indies cricket at an all-time low.
The Frank Worrell Trophy, 1998-99: A situation of absolute despair and hopelessness engulfed the Caribbean after the hosts went down by a massive 312 runs in the first Test against Australia at Port of Spain and registered their lowest Test score (in 71 years) of 51 in the second innings. Lara had been without a Test hundred for 15 Tests.
His impact in this period had also been 31% less than his overall
Lara was ridiculed and there was a public outcry for his head. Even his most ardent fans were turning away. He had been given a two-Test ultimatum to prove his worth as a captain. He had failed in the first.
What followed next was awe-inspiring.
Second Test, Jamaica: Australia posted 256 in the first innings. West Indies lost early wickets and Lara came out to bat at 5 for 2. McGrath and Co. wreaked havoc and made further inroads reducing the home team to 37 for 4 at close of play on Day 1 with night-watchman Pedro Collins and Lara at the crease.
Collins retired hurt early on Day 2 and Jimmy Adams joined Lara with the score at 56 for 4. Lara started to take control. He took Warne to the cleaners. Stuart MacGill was not spared either. Lara’s confidence grew. The strokeplay became breathtaking, as Lara showcased his entire repertoire. A pitch invasion was followed by a thunderous uproar when the third umpire turned down a run-out appeal with Lara on 99. Whatever was dished out by the Australians, including verbal rants from Glenn McGrath, was met by a stronger retort with the bat by Lara.
There was another crowd invasion when Lara completed his double ton. He had no option but to run to the dressing room to escape the delirious crowd. There was absolute frenzy at Sabina Park. Australia went wicketless on the day. They were shell-shocked.
Lara was finally dismissed on Day 3 for 213 in 344 balls after putting together 322 for the fifth-wicket with Adams, who went on to make 94. West Indies had amassed 431. Debutant Nehemiah Perry picked up five wickets in the second innings and along with Walsh who bagged three, skittled Australia for 177. West Indies won by ten wickets. It was one of the greatest comeback victories in Test cricket history.
Lara recorded a
It was not only the highest impact performance with the bat in that game but also the highest impact batting performance in West Indian cricket history.
And the seventh-highest in Test history.
Lara’s impact with the bat in this match was higher than his aggregate
After scoring almost 50% of the total runs scored by the West Indies in that match, his impact with the bat was 227% higher than Adams, the second-highest impact batsman of the match and his
Lara was in a different zone by now. He gave inspired performances in the next two Tests too (a classic, match-winning 153 not out in a fourth-innings chase of 311 at Barbados -the third-highest impact batting performance in West Indian cricketing history, followed by 100 in 84 balls at Antigua).
Although Australia came back to draw level the series at 2-2, Lara got a
Lara’s ability to rise against all odds and adversity and produce two of the top three highest impact performances in West Indian cricket history in one series is a testimony of his greatness.
He remains the highest impact West Indian batsman of all time.
Art- Gokul Chakravarthy
NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.