WITHOUT doubt Brian Charles Lara has been the major casualty of a considerable and ever-lengthening World Cup list of sackings, retirements and murder.

He had been expected to lead West Indies on their four-Test tour of England starting next month. However, having got wind of the news that not only did the selectors not want him as captain (understandable), they didn't want him in the team either (surprising), he jumped before he was pushed.

It will be a major sadness not to see him at the wicket this summer. He was one of those rare batsmen who emptied bars, not by using the Freddie' Flintoff method of swallowing the entire contents, but because he was an entertainer supreme.

Like many great batsmen, he was below average height, very light on his feet and superbly balanced. Len Hutton told me how he had ventured into an empty Australian dressing room during a pre-war Test match and examined Don Bradman's boots.

He had very small feet, that was one of the secrets of his success. Very light on his feet and quick moving', said Len sagely.

Lara also had exceptional fast arm and wrist movements. Quickly into position, his bat speed from an unusually high backlift was a total blur. Like Bradman, he looked around the field to see where the fielders weren't, not where they were. During his 375 in April 1994 he repeatedly placed his strokes into a gap in the field that England's captain, Mike Atherton, had just made.

A decade later on the same Recreation Ground square at St John's, Antigua, he began his innings in the final Test with his career on the line. Dismissed in half his six innings by Steve Harmison, his tally for the series to date was exactly 100: 23, 0, 0, 8, 36 and 33.

After he had reached 50 on a road' specially prepared by groundsman and former fast bowling ace Andy Roberts to avert an English whitewash, Lara's whole demeanour confirmed his determination to recapture the world record recently bludgeoned by Matt Hayden against lowly Zimbabwe.

Lara is alone in setting and recapturing the record individual score in Test cricket. Incidentally, only one man fielded through both those innings - a handy question for winning bets in bars! (answer at the foot of this page*).

His record tally of 11,912 runs from 130 international Test matches (ignore that spurious nonsense involving an ICC World XI and the Australians), included 34 hundreds, nine of them over 200. Among fielders, only Mark Waugh has exceeded his total of 164 catches. Add his record first-class score of 501 not out and you have a truly remarkable contribution to the history of cricket.

* Graham Thorpe