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Buzzing for Brian, Sachin
One retired over seven years ago. The other just under seven months. But very few will deny that the buzz surrounding today's bicentennial match which commemorates 200 years of cricket at Lord's, surrounds the Prince of Port-of-Spain, Brian Lara, and Sachin Tendulkar, the batting genius who the pundits argue, rival him as the best batsman of their generation. Both will line up on the same team for the second time in their careers, having batted together way back in 1994 at the Sky Dome in Toronto where they enjoyed a fruitful partnership, as Tendulkar recalled yesterday.
The Indian maestro will lead the MCC team, opening the batting alongside Australia's Aaron Finch, with his former team mate and captain Rahul Dravid, batting at three and Lara, at four. Australian Shane Warne leads the Rest of The World team. Tendulkar, the highest run-getter in both Tests and One-Day cricket has been in the nets over the past 12 days and confessed yesterday that he was still trying to find the centre of the bat. “It is nice to be back in gear and hitting a few balls, but I'm still trying to find the centre of the bat.” The 41-year-old, Tendulkar who made his debut at Lord's as a teenager, said his presence at Lord's brought back great feelings. “No matter how many times you come here, the feeling is always special. To be part of what is happening is indeed an honour.”
Most of the players are seeing the occasion as an opportunity to leave their mark on history, and yesterday's training sessions, saw a full turn out, and was conducted with an intensity that emphasised its competitive nature. Lara, who failed to score a Test century at Lord's in an illustrious career that brought him 34, smashed a superb 56 in a game for MCC against Hertfordshire a few days ago. But that only seemed to have rekindled his enthusiasm. He has been in the nets almost every day since, ironing out the chinks in his armour, of which there aren't many. Father Time and an absence of time in the middle, may have slowed down both reflexes and foot movement, but the Prince of Port-of-Spain can never be faulted for cashing it when the big moment arrives.
Now 45, and the oldest player in today's match, he is eager to ensure that he provides something special for the fans, who lapped up every available tickets for the match within 30 minutes of them going on sale. “The idea is to celebrate the occasion and give something special to the spectators,” he said yesterday. “The occasion demands it.” On Thursday, Lara and all the other members of the teams attended an anti corruption meeting which spelled out the dos and don'ts as it related the game. “They are taking this event seriously, the officials, the players, the fans...everyone, so it is important that we do well and make it a special occasion.” The weather here has been wonderful over the past week and everyone will be keeping their fingers crossed in the hope that it remains that way at least until the game ends today. It's a 50-over affair.
MCC: Sachin Tendulkar (captain), Aaron Finch, Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara, Chris Read, Umar Gul, Brett Lee, Saeed Ajmal, Shiv Chanderpaul, Daniel Vettori, Shaun Taitt.
Rest of the World: Shane Warne (captain), Tino Best, Kevin Pietersen, Muttiah Murilitharan, Shahid Afridi, Adam Gilchrist, Paul Collingword, Tamin Iqbal, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh.