Lara rewrites record books
Fifteen years and 213 innings after writing his first words in Rawalpindi, Brian Charles Lara daringly jumped over the boundary hoardings at the Adelaide Oval here yesterday and grabbed the record books from one of the regular writers to rewrite them with a pen he’d kept hidden under his thigh pad. Although he has rewritten the books before, Lara topped all previous feats this time by rewriting 200 words, a good 35 more than Allan Border, who performed the feat during the tea-break in the third day of a 1993 test match.
Moroever, Lara has done it in far less time than the former Australia captain and in a team that has not rewritten anything since the early 1990s, partly because most of them are illiterate and cannot read or write. Lara did it in just 7 min, 56 sec while Border needed 15 whole minutes for his measly 165. “It was a chair built for right-handed people,” says the left-hander Border, in his own defence, “I was very uncomfortable while doing it… just couldn’t get the angle right. If I’d had a proper chair, or even a desk, God knows what I might’ve achieved. Anyways, all credit must go to Brian. It’s not a joke, writing 200 words.”
“It’s a great feeling,” said Lara, whose all-time tally now stands at a colossal 673 words, “There were a number of really difficult words on that page, but I struck them out patiently and rewrote them, taking care to get all the spellings right.” There have been several occasions in his career when he has been accused of not caring enough about his handwriting, and although he is not completely blameless on that charge, it can equally be said that his first-grade teacher Mrs. Richardson did not do her duty well. But Lara has improved in leaps and bounds and critics have noted that his latest effort is actually quite legible. “There’s still a little ambiguity about his ‘p’ and ‘q’ but overall, on the whole, it’s much better.” said a critic whose name we will not reveal because we have forgotten it.
It is also fitting that he took the record off an Australian in Australia, as it is Down Under that he announced himself as a great in the rewriting field. It was in 1993, when, in the third Test in Sydney, Lara re-wrote 124 words, a thrilling display that he still rates as his best ever. “It was one of the best paragraphs I’ve ever seen,” said his captain, Richie Richardson, “It even made sense, to some extent at least.” Lara, meanwhile, declared that he had been targeting Garry Sobers’s West Indian record 139 at that time.
Lara is widely admired in Australia, despite the odd spat, and the Adelaide Oval crowd rose in ovation after he’d completed his feat yesterday. “It’s quite special to do it here, with Allan Border being an Australian,” said Lara. “The reception was excellent and it’s touching to be appreciated by a country I’ve had some great battles with. Some fans even lent me their pens and asked me to use them the next time I decided to rewrite the books.”
Another remarkable fact to note was the word that took him past Border. When he was on his 165th word, needing one more to go past the Australian’s mark, Lara licked his lips when he noticed that the next word he had to rewrite was “a”. “It was like a slow full toss outside the leg stump,” Lara said in the post-rewriting press conference, “To get such an easy word for the record, I guess I just got lucky”. As soon as he’d finished with “a”, he punched the air, hugged Bob Andrews, the record-writer he’d grabbed the books from, and then raised his pen to receive the plaudits of the Australians.
Lara is a legend in his native Trinidad and Tobago. In 1997, when he finally managed to break Sobers’s record in Antigua, the Government gifted him 20 ruled notebooks as a reward for his achievement. And after he revealed, in a 1999 interview, that he only used Add-Gold Gel Pens, specially imported from India, for his re-writing purposes, the sales of the pen shot up all around the world. Today, school-kids in Trinidad and Tobago use the pen to write their biggest exams.
So what is the secret behind Brian Lara’s extraordinary ability with the pen? Is it just his pen or is there something else? Fortunately, we won’t have to wait too long to find out. Charlie Roberts, Lara’s secretary, is writing a tell-all biography as we speak and the book is expected to hit the stands in February next, after Lara has finished re-writing it.