Murali was confusing but Warne the best I faced: Brian Lara
Shane Warne and Brian Lara have been involved in some engrossing duels over the years. (Getty Images)

Brian Lara’s duels with Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan is the stuff of legends. The West Indian legend’s rivalry with the two premier spinners of their time made for engaging viewing and fascinating battles of modern-day cricket even.

Lara, widely considered the greatest batsman of his generation (along with Sachin Tendulkar), recollecting his rivalry with the two-leading wicket-takers in Tests, pointed out that even though Muralitharan wasn’t easy to get away with, it was his battles with Warne he cherished the most.

“Shane Warne,” Lara replied, on being asked to name the best bowler he faced, during the Reddit AMA. “He played for the best team in the world during my era, he was, and still is, regarded as the best leg-spinner to play the game. It was a battle I just embraced in some of the largest cricketing arenas.

While Warne and Muralitharan, considered the best spinners to have played the game, went on to pick up 800 and 708 wickets in Tests, the batting front was dominated by Lara and Tendulkar. The year 2001 in particular held a lot of significance for both batsmen. It was the year when Tendulkar became the first batsman to score 10000 ODI runs, and one that is remembered for Lara’s masterclass against one of the deadliest spinners in the world, Muralitharan. Sri Lanka swept West Indies 3-0 at home but Lara aggregated 688 runs in that series, including two centuries and a double.

“Muttiah (Muralitharan) always confused me in the early part of our confrontation, whilst Shane Warne didn’t. Having said that, as my innings grew I felt I had more control over Muttiah, whilst Shane seemed to grow in confidence. They were definitely the two best spinners of my time,” Lara said.

While several parallels have been drawn between Lara and Tendulkar, the West Indian went on to achieve something the former Indian batsman couldn’t – scoring a triple century in Tests. Tendulkar’s highest Test score was an unbeaten 248, whereas Lara went past 300 twice in Tests – both times a World record. His 375 against England lasted for 10 years before Matthew Hayden of Australia scored 380 against Zimbabwe. Lara then, within a few months, claimed back the record with an unbeaten 400 against England in 2004.

“To approach those heights again, which I never thought was possible (personally), was just magical. Even back in 1994 after recuperating from my 375, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t go on to score 400,” he said.

On being questioned about the two most exciting batsmen of the current generation, Lara’s response was straightforward: “Virat Kohli and Joe Root.”

Lara’s also weighed in on what West India needed to do to recapture their glory days. Winners of the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979, the Windies have suffered a downward spiral in world cricket, and while there have been moments – winning the 2004 Champions Trophy and two World T20s in 2012 and 2016, the overall progress has been underwhelming.

“We need a far better infrastructure with a far more professional approach from all parties involved,” Lara said. “Without this, it’s difficult to imagine West Indies returning to their glory days. We succeeded up to a point on natural ability but the game has changed tremendously and there are far more components that create a winning team.”