05 January 2020: A steady head. Strong, yet nimble arms. The posture. An open chest and a firm shoulder. Using the waist. A balanced body. The alignment of the feet. Those are just some of the things that are common to cricket and golf. No wonder then that plenty of cricketers swear by the game of golf as their second love. Maybe even a more significant after career companion. Brian Lara has been at it since he caught the bug in 1994 on the sidelines of a domestic game between Trinidad & Tobago and Leeward Islands.
The Economic Times featured a story on Lara, and how the boys got around to a round of golf after the pace battery of Leeward Islands decimated Lara’s team, exploiting a green top to end a four day game in just two days.
“I remember we had a four-day match. I was playing for Trinidad and Tobago against the Leeward Islands. They had Winston Benjamin, Curtly Ambrose and Kenneth Benjamin. It was a green track, so the four-day game lasted just two days,” he told the ET.
“When you play a team sport [like cricket] all your life, golf lets you get out there and show some individualism, in a sport where you are playing pretty much against nature. It’s a great way to get away from the pressures of team sports and having to travel around the world. It helped me a lot,” acknowledged Lara.
Several cricketers swear by golf
Kevin Pietersen, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Mahela Jayawardena are just some of the players on a long list of cricketers bitten by the golf bug. While most of them shy away from the game during the playing days, they plunge headlong into it soon after their international cricket careers are done.
That is partly due to the different dynamics of the two games and the risk of poor habits creeping into their main source of passion and professional income. “In cricket, you play with a straight bat, unlike golf. The wristwork is also different,” explained Lara in April last year. The backswing also tends to be significantly different. Lara chose to play golf right handed to avoid the differing habits seep into his cricket, where he was one of the most celebrated southpaws ever.
Lara’s recipe of media, cricket and golf
He was at the Willingdon Sports Club, Mahalaxmi, to inaugurate the Habitat Charity Golf Tournament in December. And he took the opportunity to take in some nuances from Kapil Dev, who has taken his golf to a high level after retiring as India’s premier pace bowler. While Kapil has been active on the amateur and pro-am circuit, Lara has been no pushover. He is reported to have taken his handicap to just three, a mighty impressive accomplishment for a mid-career professional switching his style from left to right.
A frequent visitor to India to fulfill media commitments, Lara is able to enjoy a healthy dose of golf in the country. He has a special liking for the Delhi Golf Club.
Lara also spoke in December about his admiration for Tiger Woods. “I think he is an unbelievable sportsman. His achievements speak for itself. He is currently playing in the Hero World challenge in the Bahamas. I have met him on a couple of occasions and he was very friendly. I look at him as some one who has achieved a lot. He went through a pretty tough period and to come back out of it and to do what he has done, winning a few tournaments and the Masters, definitely for me it shows that he is the best golfer ever,” he told the Sportstar.
“My golfing experience spans all corners of the World – Brazil, New Zealand, LA. I think the best time is when you play with friends and my best friend is former Manchester United player Dwight Yorke; anytime we can get together on a golf course is the best experience,” Lara added.
Over the years, Lara also enjoyed an opportunity to play at the home of golf, in the Dunhill Links ProAm on the Old Course at St Andrews. “You get a lot of celebrities there at St.Andrews. Shane Warne is always there, Michael Vaughan, and Jacques Kallis,” he told G Viswanath of the Sportstar and The Hindu. “I have played in tremendous golf courses around the world. It is tough to pin-point one and say that this is my best experience.”
The organic relationship between golf and cricket could serve the games better if we could try and find deeper synergies. Especially, golf could benefit from drawing in greater investment, a much needed input in India, if we could harness the popularity of some of our cricketers and their affinity to golf.