Colin E. H. Croft
A few years ago, when they were all still playing Tests, I was asked this question while doing commentary: “Crofty, if you had to choose between Brian Lara, Steve Waugh or Sachin Tendulkar, to bat to save your life, which one would you go for?” What a very difficult question that is!
You know how Trinbagonians like to say; “Yuh askin’ answers or whuh’?” But, this is not “Jeopardy!” My reply to that question was not even in the given choices. As brilliant as those three have been; only Sachin is still playing; I would not nominate either to bat for my life, even as enjoyable as it might be!!
I could not select any of them, not if Rahul Sharad Dravid might also be available. Michael Jackson’s 5th studio contribution; tuxedo, afro, sharp white socks and all; was mega 1979 hit album – “Off the wall!” In cricket, if my back was against one, I would want to be protected by its namesake – “The Wall!”
Look, Stephen Rodger Waugh was as ruthless, intense and stubborn as they come. I have witnessed that first hand. You cannot make 10,927 runs; 168 Tests, avg. 51.06; then suggest that is some fluke! Nah!
While covering the series in Jamaica, 1995; Steve was not yet captain; and with West Indies straining desperately, like an aging fighter, to keep hold of its Test championship, barely hanging in, I witnessed Steve Waugh in his utter pomp; 200 no, at Sabina Park; to grind that championship back to Australia.
Like India v England now; Test No. 2 being played at Trent Bridge; rated No. 1 v No. 2; West Indies v Australia, back in 1995, was for it all too. Whichever team had won then would be World Champions!
Australia had already won Test No 1 of that series, in Bridgetown, by 10 wickets, while Test No. 2, at the venerable Antigua Recreation Ground, was a good, even draw. West Indies won Test No. 3, Queens Park Oval, with Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Kenny and Winston Benjamin getting all 20 Australian wickets; Ambrose getting nine and Walsh six in the game. Sabina Park was to be the full decider!
Present West Indian selector Courtney Brown, as wicketkeeper, on Test debut, dropped Steve, on 42, described as ‘the simplest catch he would ever drop.” He never looked back. Mark Waugh made 126; Steve a magnificent, career-best 200 no. Shane Warne and Paul Reiffel, four wickets each, cleaned up!
West Indies lost the game, by an innings, series; 2-1; and world championship, all in one dreadful moment. I remember seeing grown, very senior, veteran members even, of the West Indies, cry long, open tears. It was if they had known that the baton had been dropped, for longer than 15 years now!
If Steve Waugh was tough, Brian Charles Lara’s statistics, and style, were quite different. Brian was there to lose in 1995 to Australia too, but his 375, gaining that batting record from Sir Gary Sobers, v England; 1994; or 400 no, also v England; 2004; also at ARG, are still stand-out beacons for batsmen anywhere!
Lara’s statistics are to be seriously marveled at too: 131 Tests; 11953 runs; avg. 52.88; truly amazing! Already suggested, Lara’s 153 no, in 311-9, to beat Australia in 1999, his very best innings ever. His best series, though, by far, for pistols-drawn and deep-in-the-trenches batsmanship, had to be Sri Lanka, 2001. I say again: If you ever get a chance to see that series on DVD’s, just buy them. It is incredible!
Lara made 688 runs in 3 Tests; 178 and 40 (1st), 74 and 45 (2nd) and 221 and 130. West Indies still lost every game, badly; by 10 wickets, 131 runs and 10 wickets. It was not even that close! That series confirmed that BCL was a full batting genius, despite Chaminda Vaas and Mauttiah Muralitheran!
What can one say about Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar that has not yet been said overall? His is another story altogether. According to ‘Cricinfo’; SRT is “perhaps the most complete batsman and most worshipped cricketer in the world.” This guy has more batting records than some people had lunches!
After Lords last weekend, he had played 178 Tests, 14738 runs; avg. 56.68. Just for dessert, he also has 18111 runs from 453 ODI’s, average 45.16. This is about his Tests and real class! What a player! Whoa!
The first time I saw him bat in person, Sachin was actually captain, QPO, 1997. He made 88 and was run out. I would never forget the crowd’s reaction when he made his first stroke, a caress that exploded, for four, through extra cover. Everyone stood and applauded. Some shed tears when he was dismissed!
One of the numbers that gave me a great laugh, on reviewing Sachin’s batting resume, was that ‘only’ 63,097 Face-Book people “liked it.” This guy already has 99 centuries, and would probably add that so far elusive century of centuries in this present series, and that is all the following he has? Nah man!
Yet, with such excellence from those, I would still go for the security of “The Wall” to look after my back!
Rahul Dravid is nothing about flash. He plays his cricket to be as efficient, effective and productive as he can be. While the world has ushered many praises at Sachin, Rahul has, under the radar, managed to upstage him, in a sense. He is always there, takes whatever comes, and fights to the end! Always!
He is described by C-I as “probably the last classical Test match batsman, that most pragmatic and grounded of men, a colossus of a cricketer in his own right. Even with his pedigree, he has never fussed about conducting his own cricket under the great shadow of Sachin Tendulkar!” Absolutely!
Built in the mould of England’s Geoff Boycott, Australia’s Greg Chappell or Pakistan’s Majid Khan, Dravid has always put a great premium on his wicket. Almost always, they never gave bowlers any chances!
Dravid made his 33rd Test century last week, 103 no, at Lords, when India were in deep trouble, eventually in a losing cause. He always bats well when his team needs it most. His trademark first Test of the series century, at Sabina Park, last month, against West Indies, won India that series too!
Rahul is the most reliable batsman India had had since Dulip Sardesai or Sunil Gavaskar. His hundred at Lords last week also culminated, and probably appeased, a hunger for one at that great ground. When he made his debut there, in 1996, he made 95, while the other debutant, Saurav Ganguly, made 131!
Like Shiv Chanderpaul, who has done similarly for West Indies, “The Wall” has stopped the world’s bowlers by batting at any number in the line-up.
He batted at No. 7 on debut, and now, in this 2nd Test against England at Trent Bridge, he is opening. No other batsman in recent memory, for any team, with perhaps the exception of England’s coach, Andy Flower, has been as utility a batsman as Rahul Dravid!
For real batting security, I always would jump on “The Wall”, Rahul Dravid! Enjoy!
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