On a day when one of the world's best batsmen, Brian Lara faced yet another delivery from one of the world's best bowlers, Glenn Mcgrath, history was meant to be rewritten. The fascinating duels between these two has been a treat for the billions of viewers worldwide. It is a different matter that Mcgrath has dismissed him most number of times in Test cricket(15 in total) and it is altogether a different issue that Lara has dominated the Australian bowling attack many a times in the past decade. It is sheer destiny that Lara had to break Allan Border's record for most test runs in Australia against Australia, and by clipping Mcgrath for a single on the onside. Lara's feat today is a result of his stylish dominance over almost all bowlers in the world. The class and style evoked by the master is evident by that stylish backlift when he pulls the fast bowlers through the on-side piercing the gaps with ease. Lara can be attributed to have been gifted with a priceless sense of timing.
Now talks on Lara reminds us of another great batsmen of the era, the Indian prodigy - Sachin Tendulkar. The Bombay bomber is in a league of his own and has dominated bowlers in ruthless fashion. Playing for 16 years is no joke at the international level and he might be the next one in the line to break Lara's record. He will definitely perch himself in a level that would be impossible for the others to overtake in a jiffy. Considering the number of years he has left in him, one can expect a lot from the Indian master blaster. So, this inevitably leads us to the question - Lara or Tendulkar? Let's stack up the stats!!
Lara has played 121 matches and has raked in 11,000 odd runs surpassing Allan Border. He is three short of the world record of the number of centuries. He has an average and figures that do not interest me. We can similarly raise nice figures for Tendulkar to make his resume look good. There are some innings where both the players have beaten the scruff out of the opposition.
1) I vividly remember the first test at Madras in the 1998 Australia tour of India. Shane Warne dismisses Sachin for 4 in the first innings and Australia take a crucial 80 odd runs lead. The second innings witnessed Sachin at his blistering best, a sold 155* against a high quality pace and spin Australian attack. The Australians were blasted out into the black hole created by the Master.
2) A match against Pakistan peps up any Indian fan, and it is easy to imagine how much of a pressure the cricketers of both sides will have to put up with. Madras match again. Sachin notched up an innings of very high quality by putting up 136 runs, a match which saw India go down by 16 runs. This is where one can notice the key difference between him and Lara. Lara generally ends up finishing the match for the West Indies.
3) World Cup 2003 : Team India had to chase 274 runs in The Centurion and Shoaib Akhtar had said in the pre-match reports that he planned to target Tendulkar. But by the first over, the equations had reversed. Tendulkar demolished Akhtar out of the attack by taking 18 runs in his first over. Akhtar and Pakistan were devastated. That was full flurry unleashed.
4) I think it was the 1996 test series against South Africa in South Africa. The touring Indian team had a terrible team under Tendulkar's captaincy. It was the second test match of the series. He wilted an aggressive South African bowling comprising Allan Donald at his best, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener and Fanie de Villiers. He scored a brilliant 169 at the Cape Town test and also shared a fantastic stand with Mohammed Azharuddin. Sachin also scored in similar fashion about five years later when India again toured South Africa, but this time scoring a superb 155 in the company of his disciple Virender Sehwag.
5) How can anyone forget the Sharjah Innings where he single handedly destroyed Australia in one of the most ripping innings in ODI!Now coming to Lara,
1) A scathing 277 in SCG in 1992 against an Australian attack which boasted of Craig McDermott and Shane Warne. Most of the Cricket Pundits rate this as one of the greatest ever Test Innings of all time.
2) The BridgeTown test match where he single handedly takes West Indies to victory from the jaws of defeat. WI are 105/5 (as always) and chasing a target of 308 in the fourth Innings against the best team of the era, Lara single handedly plucks the match right in front of the Aussies' nose. WI won the match by a wicket and one still remembers the two balls that Courtney Walsh had to face from Glenn Macgrath. Lara had done it again!
3) The innings of 375 and 400 against England where in the first of the two, he creates a world record and in the next he reclaims the world record.
4) The 2003 World Cup where Lara launches an assault of terrific quality against the much hyped South Africans in the inaugural match. His hundred took WI to a victory against all odds. In an earlier instance, in the 1996 edition, he similarly defied a much superior South African bowling attack in the quarter finals to bring up a sensational victory.
Talking about both these players, one can go on and on about the skill and prowess both of them possess. It is a delight to watch the maestros bat. But at the end of the day, after unearthing the statistics and after inevitable comparisons, it seems that Tendulkar has never won a match when the chips are down. He might have gone on to play a big innings but it was somebody else who had to finish it off in the end, unlike Lara who single handedly battles it out in the crease. But both of them give their best against the Australians. It remains to be seen what the future beckons from the blades of two of the brightest stars in world cricket.
PS : Please don't ask me how in the world I had the time to compose a big one!