Calcutta: While the cricketing world has been busy for more than two decades in pitting Brian Charles Lara against Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, the charmer from Trinidad oozed respect, and only respect, for The Master, at a talk show, on Sunday evening.
Lara had been invited by the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) to watch the India-West Indies Test at the Eden. But while India wrapped up the match inside three days, Lara could arrive only on the fourth. So on Sunday, on what would have been the fifth day of the Test, Lara kept himself busy at the golf course, at Mother House and at Swami Vivekananada’s residence. He visited the Eden as well, though only for 20-odd minutes.
Lara preserved his best for the evening though. In company of former India captain Sourav Ganguly, the genius from the Caribbean, who is also the owner of over 22,000 International runs, enthralled a packed hall just like his flashing drives mesmerised a filled stadium.
Credit must be given to the CAB for organising for such a unique show at a time when cricket is in the air like never before.
The following are excerpts
On Sachin’s retirement
Lara: Sachin deserves the respect to decide when he wants to leave the game. He has served Indian cricket, and also world cricket, so well over the years. He has given over 25 years of his life to cricket. A Test match involves around eight days, including the travelling and practice… Now multiply that with 200 (Tests). Then add all the ODIs that he has played… He’s still very fit, though his performance hasn’t been great in the last couple of years. I think this is the right time to walk away from the game.
But sitting here, we can’t understand what effect he had on the young Indian team… You need to go and speak to the guys in the dressing room... For Sachin, don’t just look at the statistics.
I’m sure when he wakes up on the 19th and 20th (after the Wankhede Test), he’s going to think what do... But he’s going to quickly find his feet again… He is a successful man.
Sourav: I’m sure Indian cricket would use his service is some manner... He’s such a great player. It’s a fantastic decision that he has made. It’s also the right send off for such a great man. He deserves this respect. It would not have happened if he had retired in South Africa. He may have got runs, but the adulation that he’s receiving here is something special. Like Lara said, he didn’t have a great last couple of years… But he only got those opportunities because he is Sachin Tendulkar. If I was Sachin, maybe I would have gone a year earlier… But I think he has got the timing right.
On what would be Sachin’s mindset before his last Test, at the Wankhede
Lara: Well, it’s hard to give an opinion. Maybe he needs to think ‘I don’t need to prove anything… It would be wonderful to get a big score in my last match. I should prepare for that.’ He shouldn’t put any undue pressure on himself. It’s very important for him to find what motivates him. If it’s pressure, then let him be under pressure.
He has had the greatest cricketing career... I would tell him to just enjoy the next five days of cricket. (Smiles) You have the ability to score 400 runs, so go and score 400...
Sourav: For me, it doesn’t matter whether he gets a hundred or not in his final Test. He’ll still be one of the best. He’ll always be a champion.
On who could be termed as ‘someone near to Sachin’ in the coming days
Lara: I don’t think we will have someone whom you can say will be close to achieving what Sachin did. In terms of stats, you may have players with better stats… There are boxers who have a better record than Muhammad Ali, but if you mention boxing, you’ve to mention Ali… Similarly in basketball, you have to mention the name of Michael Jordan. So when I speak about cricket, I’ll speak about Sachin.
Sourav: It’s too early to speak on that… Ask me this question 15 months from now, after we have played a few series overseas… Then I will be ready to say. But I do see enormous talent in Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma.
On the popularity of T20 cricket
Lara: I believe the game has evolved… It is a spectator sport… T20 has brought a new generation of spectators to the cricket ground.
Sourav: T20 is here to stay, whatever you say… I am a big fan of T20 cricket and the IPL. When I played my first Ranji Trophy, I was paid Rs 400. But when I look at lot of these first-class players who may not get to play for the country, but get handsomely paid from the IPL, I like it.
On Sourav, the captain
Lara: The discipline, confidence and commitment that you see in the present Indian team was instilled by Sourav the captain.
Sourav: When you are the captain and make decisions, you have to face the consequences. When I sit back and see my days as the captain, when I see where Indian cricket has gone, I don’t worry about it. I’m happy that the Indian cricket has gone forward. As a captain, the biggest detail I focussed on was getting the right players...
You can have team meetings, but only players will win you games. I see that a lot of that in (Mahendra Singh Dhoni). He’s made Rohit Sharma into a player that he is. He would not have got so many opportunities if Dhoni didn’t believe in him. You got to give Dhoni the credit.
On what would he have done if he were captain of the current West Indies team
Lara: If I were the captain of this West Indies team, my game plan would have been just to win the game. Sachin would have been discussed in our meetings just as every other player. You play the game hard, you play for five days. But this occasion in India, is very special not just for Sachin, but for cricket as a whole… And this occasion is slightly bigger than the result that we play for.
On Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo not being selected for the ongoing series
Lara: I think the West Indies selectors have got it wrong. I don’t know if they have labelled Narine a T20 or ODI bowler… He’s the best in the world in that version of the game. But that does not mean he would not improve his game for the Test format. I see no reason why you would leave a successful cricketer like Narine back home. Absence of Dwayne Bravo baffles me as well. He deserves to be in any Windies team.
On who would be Lara’s top-five batsmen
Lara: It’s difficult… Without thinking too much, they would be Sachin, Viv, Allan Border, Sourav and Ricky Ponting.