Cricket: Trinidad awaits second coming: Lara returns to another hero's welcome from nation lost for words

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The Independent Online
THE last time Brian Lara came home to Trinidad it was quite an occasion. He arrived straight from Antigua and his Test record 375 to find tens of thousands, including the prime minister at Piarco airport to greet him.

He was showered with gifts, including a house from the government and pounds 30,000 in air travel from the national airline, motorcaded through towns and villages for three days and awarded the highest national honour, the Trinity Cross. Not even the Pope was accorded such a reception.

He flies back to Port of Spain from London tonight for the second coming, two days after passing yet another of the game's records.

Homesick, he had planned the trip well before his unbeaten 501 at Edgbaston on Monday. Apart from a little golf he had anticipated a quiet week off with his mother, Pearl, and his family at their unpretentious home in the rural village of Cantaro in the lush Santa Cruz valley of north Trinidad, where he was born.

'I hope I can sneak in somehow,' he said forlornly on Monday. Fat chance. The fans will again be at Piarco in their thousands although the politicians, never shy to hop into someone else's spotlight, may be more guarded this time after widespread criticism of their previously overstated involvement. In any case, with its honours just about exhausted, Patrick Manning, the prime minister, might be mindful of Lara's last return.

Announcing to the crowd then his government's intention to make an award to Lara he asked: 'What should we give him?' . . . 'Let him be prime minister,' came the reply. Lara is already uncrowned king and Manning will not be taking any chances, however frivolous they may seem.

While the 375 in Antigua could be followed live on television throughout the Caribbean, Lara's latest excursions into the extremities of cricket's outer space have not received such immediate coverage. As he advanced to his latest date with destiny on Monday only intermittent news agency reports on radio kept the public up to date.

When his final score was confirmed at 1pm East Caribbean time, even West Indians who now believe he is capable of anything were stunned into initial incoherence. Radio stations and newspaper offices reported several calls querying its authenticity.

'It's beyond words. It boggles the mind. It's quite inconceivable,' said the president of the West Indies Cricket Board, Peter Short.

Lara's meeting with his West Indian team-mate, Curtly Ambrose, has meant the Sunday League fixture against Northamptonshire at Northampton on 26 June will be all-ticket. The club are installing 1,000 extra seats.

B & H semi-finals, page 34

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