Georgetown: Sparks are expected to fly as Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar prepare to showcase their batting prowess in the five-Test series between India and the West Indies, starting here on Thursday.
All eyes will be on the awesome twosome carrying the burden of their average teams and both have many more things in common. They are prolific run-getters, dominate the opposition with a wide range of attacking shots, disenchanted with captaincy and the only superstars in their respective teams. The giants have clashed twice in a Test series -- 1994 and 1997 -- in illustrious careers, which span more than a decade, providing their fans with a rare batting feast. The left-handed Lara, who suffered a shoulder-injury in a One-day International in Sri Lanka last year, recently said in a TV interview he was looking forward to playing against Tendulkar. "He's the best player in the world and playing cricket on the same pitch with him is a challenge. It's going to be a tough series for us and I'd love to be part of the challenge." Statistically, Tendulkar is ahead, having scored 7,673 runs in 91 Tests with 28 centuries to Lara's 7,221 in 83 matches with 18 hundreds.
The Indian is just one Test century short of equalling Australian Don Bradman's mark of 29, the second-highest on the all-time's list after Indian Sunil Gavaskar's 34. He is also the highest run-getter in the shorter version of the game, with a world- record 11,069 in 286 matches with 31 centuries. Lara has scored 7,257 in 193 One-dayers with 14 hundreds. The West Indian, who scored a Test record 375 against England in 1994, said if he had to pick a person to break the mark, it had to be Tendulkar. "He's the best batsman I've ever played against and a joy to watch," said Lara. Both Lara and Tendulkar are a spectators' delight, having a knack of doing the unexpected even under pressure. Just a moment of inspiration and each can alter the course of a match. Tendulkar, like Lara, enjoys batting more than captaincy.
He was named captain in 1997 before being replaced with Mohammad Azharuddin a year later. Tendulkar was reappointed in 1999, but stepped down next year after a two-Test series against Hansie Cronje's South Africans at home. What separates Lara and Tendulkar from the crowd is their intense desire to dominate the bowling and the willingness to improvise. Bowlers have often found it difficult to curb the two because of their amazing skill to score even off good deliveries. Lara went on a run-riot in Sri Lanka last year, amassing 688 to become the second- highest run-getter in a three-Test series after Englishman Graham Gooch's 752 against India in 1990. Observers say Tendulkar is more consistent than Lara but often leaves the job unfinished, throwing his wicket away at a crucial stage.
Even Gavaskar once remarked that Australian Steve Waugh was a better Test batsman than Tendulkar for his ability to deliver under crunch situations. None, however, denies the over-dependence on Tendulkar and Lara by their respective teams, prone to lose much of their batting strength without them. And everyone agrees the batting is a spectacle when the two are on song.