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Tendulkar Ups The Ante On Lara

By Orin Davidson
Jan. 25, 2008
The debates will intensify, the passions will rise and a rivalry off the field will boil over on the issue of world’s best batsman as Sachin Tendulkar closes in on Brian Lara’s Test batting runs aggregate world record, that is sure to become the sole focus of all India for the remainder of 2008.

Brian Lara

With India and West Indies fans being considered some of the world’s most passionate, helped by the high number of great players produced by both nations, Lara’s and Tendulkar’s exploits have given new meaning to adulation from Bombay to Bridgetown.

By compiling his second century off Australia this tour, to creep within three tons of Lara’s 11,953 test tally, Tendulkar has set the stage for a year of frenzied expectations in India this year.

His epic 153 yesterday in Adelaide, followed up on the unbeaten 154 he compiled at Sydney, his favorite ground Down Under, aided by two other half centuries, have taken his Test aggregate to 11,769 and have suddenly brought alive the longest running discussion in the sport, even though Lara has since hung up his gloves.

Eighteen months ago the thought of Tendulkar bringing himself as close as he is to his first major individual world record, was unthinkable.

He seemed stuck in post-injury stagnation, to the extent that some of his adorable fans, fed up with his struggles, called for his retirement.

For India’s most admired cricketer of all time, that was an extreme reaction, made worse by ex Australia captain Ian Chappell’s condemnation of him as a liability in the team.

But it is a measure of Tendulkar’s greatness that he has overcome the intense flack in a country where cricket is an obsession for more than a billion people, by regaining something close to his best form against the most powerful team in the modern era in their own backyard.

Tendulkar will be among the first to admit that playing in Australia is one of the toughest places to succeed, given the quality of opposition in an intimidating atmosphere.

If you are good enough you will succeed there especially as a batsman.

You are not served slow featherbed pitches or small boundaries to score runs. The pitches are anything but slow, ranging to medium fast to lightening fast where the boundaries are far larger than the schoolboy type size, that predominate in most stadiums around the world these days..

It helps that the master batsman does not have to contend with two of the greatest Australian bowlers ever in Shane Warne and Glen McGrath, now retired within the last year.

Both have wreaked heavy havoc on opposing teams especially Down Under for as long as the Aussies began their domination of the world.

The inexperienced crop that make up Australia’s current attack outside of Brett Lee, have never enjoyed automatic team selection status, which is one reason they are struggling to put away India at this stage of the current series, which would’ve been a formality by now with the accustomed bowling lineup in the past.

Don’t tell that to the Indian fans though as they have grown so accustomed to Tendulkar’s prolific scoring against all types of bowling, it matters not now whether the quality of opposition is questionable or not.

They know their man is on the verge of going one up on Lara where the world records are concerned.
And it the said records that have kept Lara ahead of the race for superiority among the two batting mega stars.

Yet outside of the Test and first class individual world records and the Test aggregate mark Tendulkar is taking aim at, it requires more of a player to define himself as best of an era.

Which is why all these debates being generated will hardly prove anything, presently.

With Lara closing the book on his Test career last year, his status should already have been defined whether he loses the Test aggregate world mark to Tendulkar or not.

No doubt, the quantity of runs are important, but it is the quality of opposition and the pressure situations that defines a player of mega quality.

Lara has scored heavily in every country he has played which gives him top marks in that category. But his match winning and match saving knocks in situations that categorize value to such innings, pale in comparison.

Lara’s first ever Test century was gem which met all the said standards. It was a magnificent 277 that forced a draw in Australia and rescued West Indies from a defeat and built the foundation for one of best series victories Down Under in 1992.

But apart from two other fantastic innings against the toughest team in world cricket in 1999 at Barbados and Jamaica, the great man has found himself in many an embarrassing West Indies performance when he was needed to lead from the front in victory quests.

Consistency has been Tendulkar’s hallmark - he has the world record for centuries in both forms of the game, and by now he should have a patent on how to build three-figure innings. But like his great rival, India has not benefited from many match winning exploits to make their star batsman super great.

It might explain to some extent why India and West Indies have not had better results in the reign of the two great batsmen.

And while Indian fans will most likely celebrate Tendulkar’s second Test world record, with three Tests upcoming against South Africa and others versus Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, this year, he still has at least four more years by he should call it “a day”, to prove his overall superiority in the era he and Lara have dominated.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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