What if Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara played for the same team?
How would it be, if Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi played for the same team? How would it be, if Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal teamed up as doubles partners? (we've actually seen the latter in the Laver Cup, and let me tell you it was FANTASTIC).
Now just imagine this…
Wow! On the one hand, you have Tendulkar - a genius, a master craftsman who had the ability to toy with the field. His straight drive made even the best of bowlers wince in disbelief.
On the other hand, you have Lara - a left-handed dynamite, a plunderer of attacks, whose one-handed cover drive through the off side made fans crave for more.
Just ask Shane Warne how it was like bowling to Tendulkar, and he would tell you that he experienced nightmares. Then, ask him how it was like bowling to Lara, and he would probably recall the days when the ‘Prince Of Trinidad’ just ripped him apart.
Now, just tell him that both these men are out there in the middle at the same time, and Warne would probably tell you that he has already had enough!
For decades, the cricketing world was divided as to who the better batsman between the two was. Some said Tendulkar was the most complete batsman of all time; others opined that Lara’s flamboyance was unmatched. Some believed that Tendulkar’s straight drive was the most beautiful sight in the game, while others asserted that Lara’s cover drive had class written all over it.
We can all agree on one thing though. Tendulkar was the backbone of the Indian batting line-up for over two decades, just like how Lara was the lone ranger for the West Indies throughout his career.
Now the question is, would so many of Tendulkar’s centuries have gone in vain if he had a batsman of Lara’s ability to support him? And on the other hand, how many more matches would the West Indies have won, if Lara’s brilliance was matched by Tendulkar’s genius?
Travel back to that Test match in 1999 when India played Pakistan in Chennai. India need 271 for victory in the 4th innings and at 6/2, in walks Tendulkar.
He sends us all into a trance. Time is nothing more than just an illusion now. Gaps are created, the demons in the pitch vanish, the fielders become quiet. Tendulkar has scored a brilliant hundred. Batsmen come and go, but Tendulkar fights on….
But then, with just 17 runs needed for victory, disaster strikes….
Saqlain Mushtaq tosses the ball up, Tendulkar goes for the expansive drive, mistimes it, and the ball lands straight into the hands of Wasim Akram.
And as Tendulkar departs, the hopes evaporate too, and India lose the match by 12 runs.
How would it have been, if Tendulkar had someone like Lara at the other end? Would India have lost that match?
Now, let us travel to 17th January 2001. The West Indies are taking on Australia in an ODI at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Australia put up a total of 277/4, and in reply, the West Indies are tottering at 31/2, and in walks Lara.
He takes the attack by the scruff of the neck. It seems as if Lara is playing on a totally different pitch as compared to others. Fielders become mere spectators, the bowlers are baffled. Lara casts a spell on the Aussies.
But then, the other West Indian batsmen fold like a pack of cards.
Lara wages a lone battle, but there is no support from the other end. The West Indies, despite Lara’s wizardry, fall short of the finish line.
Now just imagine if Lara had someone of the class of Tendulkar on that day. Wouldn’t the West Indies have crossed the finish line?
The fact is that India could only produce one Tendulkar, and the West Indies, only one Lara. But if these two men would have played for the same team, it would have been absolute catastrophe for the bowlers!
What an ethereal sight it would have been, the genius of Tendulkar and the wizardry of Lara unfolding at the same time, for the same team…