Panchkula:Brian Lara was the Indian Cricket League's (ICL) biggest catch - big enough to even unnerve the cash-rich Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The Board even tried to persuade him to dump ICL.
But in the end Lara turned out to be the biggest disappointment of ICL's inaugural Twenty-20 championship played at the Tau Devi Lal cricket stadium in Panchkula.
0, 4, 3, 9, 'did-not-bat' and 15 are not the credentials that Lara - unarguably one of the best batsmen in the world - is used to.
But that is the reality of T20 that dawned on the great player in just six matches, his Mumbai Champs team played in the rebel ICL championship this month.
It surely was a big come down for the man, who not only has the record of the highest number of Test runs to his name but also the highest individual test score of 400 not out.
If not the ICL itself, Lara would like to put the inaugural championship out of his mind.
What was even more embarrassing for Lara was not only his individual failure in the T20 matches but also the fact that Mumbai Champs, which he led, finished last of the six teams. It lost five of the six matches that it played here.
It was also the first team to be knocked out of the championship.
The Champs were the most fancied team in the tournament with an international star cast that included Lara, Nathan Astle, Vikram Solanki, JJ Van der Wath and Mervyn Dillon in their ranks.
Ironically, in the one game that Lara's team finally won, the team's star batsman did not even bat - pushing himself down the order due to lack of form.
"I am new to the T20 format and will take time to adapt. I have not played this kind of cricket before. We did not play to our potential and failed in all departments. But I am pleased to see some of the younger Indian players. They have a lot of talent," Lara meekly put up a defence for his string of poor performances.
The justification seems out of place given the successful performances by his contemporaries Inzamam-ul-Haq, Chris Cairns, player of the championship Ian Harvey, Stuart Law, Nathan Astle and others in the same tournament.
The whole aura involving Lara with the ICL has been dramatic right from the beginning. Having signed the contract with ICL, Lara kept them guessing till the last moment by not turning up.
In between, there were reports that BCCI vice president Lalit Modi was in touch with him to get him to ditch the ICL and join the BCCI's new Indian Premier League (IPL).
At one stage ICL's executive board chairman and legendary cricketer Kapil Dev also seemed unsure when he said just a week before the championship, "I understand he has started from the West Indies. He should be reaching."
Lara finally did turn up for the ICL tournament but remained aloof from the rest of the international players playing here. Incidentally, while all teams and players were put up by the ICL at the government-run Hotel Mountview here, Lara and his team stayed in five-star comfort of the Taj Hotel.
Top players were generally accessible to media and fans. Inzamam, Chris Cairns and others were even seen crossing the busy street opposite their hotel in Sector 10, Panchkula and pulling their cricket gear with them, Lara was definitely in a different league.
When he practised, a virtual human fence of burly bouncers screened him from the media and fans.
Lara had to stay put here, even after his team was knocked out, while his team fought for the last two spots in the championship. It failed there also - finishing sixth and last