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Lara’s birthday gift for a ‘special’ Sachin

Calcutta: Sachin Tendulkar, who turns 34 on Tuesday, couldn’t have hoped for a more comforting present, particularly with the Establishment’s knives out for him.

“He has a couple of years left in him, maybe even another World Cup. He’s a special player and knows what to do… Besides being an outstanding cricketer, he’s a wonderful person off the field…

“Really, what can I say to him at this point… Like me, he had a disappointing World Cup, but I think he knows best what to do… Many cricketers have brought me a lot of joy, among others, friends like him…”

That was Brian Lara during his last press conference (early hours of Sunday) as an international cricketer.

The talismanic Trinidadian was referring to Sachin, with whom he had an epic batsman vs batsman rivalry.

Sachin believes rivalries are between nations, but for over a decade and half, bilateral face-offs focused more on him and Lara.

Of course there were occasions — like when the West Indies toured India in late 2002 or when we visited the Caribbean last summer — when one or the other wasn’t available.

Team India’s early exit from the ongoing World Cup meant another rivalry-chapter wouldn’t be added.

On the eve of the tournament, though, Sachin told The Telegraph: “People keep projecting one rivalry or the other. Over the years, I’ve featured in many, but I see rivalries as between countries. Sure there could be a personal element (between him and Lara), but we must not get stuck on individuals who’re only part of the team.”

With Lara having called it a day, one can’t think of any rivalry to match the one between him and Sachin.

Ricky Ponting has been awesome in recent years, but he has been competing with himself!

Then, there’s the solid Rahul Dravid, who received the ultimate compliment from Lara: “Rahul Dravid is one player I could go and watch. Come to think of it, if I wanted someone batting for my life, it would be Rahul.”

Kumar Sangakkara seems to be heading for greatness and one can’t forget Jacques Kallis and Kevin Pietersen…

Terrific batsmen, yes, but one can’t spot a rivalry.

In fact, with Glenn McGrath just days away from joining Lara, there won’t exactly be a riveting bowler vs batsman rivalry either.

Footnote: “I admit being in the limelight is tough, yet I make the effort to have a few quiet moments. I quite like the US where I simply get lost in a crowd. No cameras, no fans…” had been a Lara response during an exclusive interaction. Given the flood of emotions in Bridgetown, it’s inconceivable that fans and cameras won’t continue to chase him.

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