Muttiah Muralitharan and Brian Lara have produced some enticing contests in the past © Getty Images
While the clash between Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne could well determine the fate of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) versus Rest of World XI Lord’s bicentennial match, Brian Lara and Muttiah Muralitharan will rekindle a rivalry that has brought tremendous joy to cricket aficionados. Shiamak Unwalla looks at how the battle between the two wizards could unfold.
The very best batsmen in the world must sometimes suffer the humiliation of getting out to a certain bowler repeatedly over the course of their career. Michael Atherton was certainly a ‘bunny’ when up against Glenn McGrath — 19 dismissals in 17 games against each other proves that. Graeme Smith suffered at the hands of Zaheer Khan. There was a time when Virender Sehwag simply could not help but get out to Matthew Hoggard. Even a batsman of the quality of Ricky Ponting was made to look like an amateur against Ishant Sharma.
However, once in a blue moon, the roles get reversed. It is not the batsman who hops around, but the bowler. Of course, it takes the most extraordinary of batsmen to dominate a bowler on a consistent basis; match situations, pitch conditions, form and rhythm all play a huge role. And yet, there exists a batsman — note the singular tense — who had found a way to master the most enchanting, enticing bowler going around: Muttiah Muralitharan. Predictably, it required genius to do so. And genius is what Brian Charles Lara dealt in.
It was not like Lara dealt with him effortlessly. Far from it, Lara has said in interviews that the first 45 minutes of playing Muralitharan were the most difficult. However, if he survived those 45 minutes, the game was on. Muralitharan dismissed Lara on five occasions in Test cricket; twice for 10 or less, once for 18, once for 74, and once for 178. In between, Lara had four centuries — including a double — and a couple of fifties as well.
Muralitharan once said that as good as the record books said Tendulkar was, he personally rated Lara ahead of the Little Master. Perhaps Muralitharan too realised that if Lara got his eye in, there was nothing even he could do to stop the carnage; such was the belligerence of the Prince of Trinidad.
Lara’s ability to handle Muralitharan often resulted in a victory for the Caribbean kings. Tendulkar and his MCC team will hope that he can survive those worrisome 45 minutes, and produce another master class that will render the great Muralitharan powerless.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)