A partnership that started in the mid-1990s didn't even know what it was going to become in future. "MRF" which stand for "Madras Rubber Factory" opted to sponsor a certain Sachin Tendulkar, a young upstart who was slowly starting to become the cricket frenzied nation's only hope.
At that time Sachin was without a sponsor for his bat and Sachin's manager Mark Mascarenhas was able to pull off this deal with MRF and both embarked upon a journey in which Sachin and the "MRF" bat that he wielded reached iconic status all over the globe.
For a long time, it was only Sachin Tendulkar who wielded a willow with an "MRF" sticker on it. But in due time MRF also spread its wings and sponsored many other players.
During the years that have followed, there have been a plethora of batsmen who have graced the batting crease with an "MRF" sticker on their bat. Be it Shikhar Dhawan or Virat Kohli these days. Or just sometime earlier, Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma as well.
A good move or not but MRF opening its arms to sponsor more and more players in recent times has certainly had an effect on the aura or the exclusivity of the "MRF" Bat. With so many players wielding an MRF willow the exclusivity and the iconic stature that the bat had has gotten diluted to an extent.
But still, some amazing batsmen in the history of cricket have had a chance to get a hold of it. Let's have a look at the top 5 Players who have wielded an "MRF" willow during their career.
#1 Sachin Tendulkar
If there was a player that put "MRF" on the cricketing map then it has to be Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin is single-handedly responsible for the iconic status that the "MRF" bat reached.
Signed up by MRF after the 1996 World Cup Sachin slowly came about to become the best batsman of that era and among other things that differentiated from the rest was the tiny fact that he used an MRF bat whenever he walked out to bat.
In a world of Gray Nicolls and Slazenger bats, when the best batsman in a world uses something that was uniquely associated to him it started getting identified with him and the brand itself reached iconic status.
Matches: 200 Runs: 15921 100s/50s:51/68 Highest Score:248*
Matches:463 Runs:18426 100s/50s:49/96 Highest Score: 200
#2 Brian Lara
Brian Lara was a much later addition to the MRF stable and what an addition he was. Many cricketing fans, to this day, would remember Gareth Batty bowling to Lara and the latter smashing him for 6 to get to his 400 which, till this day is a record.
What was more memorable was a sight of Brian Lara waving his bat around the ground as he acknowledged the crowd. Brian Lara was a new addition to the MRF stable after Sachin and he was aptly given the title wizard on his bat.
Though Brian's career is in no way defined by the MRF bat one of his biggest records in international cricket came with that bat which makes it an unforgettable memory for any cricket fan.
Matches: 131 Runs: 11953 100s/50s: 34/48 Highest Score:400
Matches: 299 Runs: 10405 100s/50s: 19/63 Highest Score: 169
#3 Steve Waugh
One of the best captains cricket has ever seen. One of the more hardworking, gritty and mentally tough batsmen of his era, Steve Waugh was signed up by MRF as he opted to move from the Gunn and Moore bat which he had used throughout his career.
Steve was the captain of one of the most successful Test sides in the history of cricket and was given the title "Conqueror" on his bat. It was at this time that MRF had started branding batsmen and personifying them with their character traits reflecting on their bats.
By signing up and having Sachin, Lara and Steve Waugh in their stable, MRF had three of the biggest icons in cricket signed up with them.
Matches: 168 Runs: 10927 100s/50s: 32/50 Highest Score: 200
Matches: 325 Runs: 7569 100s/50s: 3/45 Highest Score: 120*
#4 Virat Kohli
In so many ways from Sachin to Virat Kohli what we've seen is nothing less than a passing of the torch in Indian as well as world cricket.
Virat Kohli is to cricket now what Sachin was to cricket in the 90s and 00s and in many ways, it looked like a logical progression for MRF as well to sign up Virat Kohli and sponsor his bat. Succinctly it can be said there's a reason why Virat's bat also carries the word "Genius" on his bat, the same phrase which was given to the Little Master when he was playing.
Virat coming out to bat and batting with that same authority depicted by Sachin in his heydays really turns the clock back a few notches.
Matches: 73 Runs: 6331 100s/50s: 24/19 Highest Score: 243
Matches: 216 Runs: 10232 100s/50s: 38/48 Highest Score: 183
#5 AB De Villiers
Although the MRF-AB de Villiers partnership was for not too long, the quality of the former Proteas captain makes it impossible for him not feature in the top five players who have used the MRF bat.
The marriage between the two parties was for only a season or so but even then it was of great importance for MRF to have one of the best batsmen of all time onboard and part of the MRF stable.
Although there many Indian players, like Gambhir, Dhawan or a Rohit Sharma who are all amazing in their own right but until now they've not reached the heights that AB Devilliers took his career to.
Matches: 114 Runs: 8765 100s/50s: 22/46 Highest Score: 278*
Matches: 228 Runs: 9577 100s/50s: 25/53 Highest Score: 176