In a special ceremony yesterday, former West Indies batting star Brian Lara was presented with an honorary award by the Australian Government. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in this country for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, pinned the medal on Lara's jacket. The ceremony took place at the official residence of Australian High Commissioner Philip Kentwell, in Cascade, Port-of-Spain. Lara is now an Honorary Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia. Rudd said Australia and the Caribbean shared a long history, and that Lara continued to play a role in cricket as mentor. He noted the maiden century by Adrian Barath in the first Test against Australia in Brisbane.
He said Lara spotted Barath at age 11 and had played a role in his development. Lara frequently visited his home state of Queensland and the Centre for Excellence at the Cricket University. He said Lara was a hero to many Australians, just as his name, along with other West Indians, such as Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd and Joel Garner, were well known as Australians Sir Don Bradman, Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh. Rudd made everyone laugh when outlining Lara's many records, including his still standing highest first-class innings of 501 not out: "That is considerably in excess of my personal best of 11 not out."
In accepting the award, Lara revealed how he got the nickname Prince of Port-of- Spain. He said back in 1990, when the Australians came to the West Indies, he was 12th man, and not really involved in playing in the series. So, too, were Australian players Greg Matthews and Mike Whitney. "And I showed them the nightlife in Port-of-Spain. And that is how I got the name Prince of Port-of-Spain. "Today, I know my two friends in Australia will be very proud, along with Shane Warne, Michael Clarke...and all my friends and family in Australia."
He said he had every reason to love Australia, since he scored his first Test hundred (277) at Sydney. Lara said he fought with Sydney's mother Leasel Rovedas a bit before she gave in to her daughter's name. He said he had fierce competition with the Australian team. He quipped, "Yes, I love English bowling; we know that," no doubt referring to the two occasions he broke the world record for the highest Test innings against England. "The competition offered by Australia throughout my career was tremendous, and something I looked forward to."