The wizards, on their arrival, received warm applause. They then cast a spell that left everyone agape. They further occupied hearts and minds with a lasting imprint of their mastery. They have remained with us forever.
Featuring here are two wizards of cricket, Brian Lara and Shane Warne. No wonder they have a friend who is revered as ‘God’.
When Warne was asked, who was the toughest batsman he bowled to, Lara or Sachin Tendulkar? And Lara was asked who was the toughest spinner he faced: Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan? They both praised each other.
Warne, on Instagram, shared an image with Lara and Tendulkar, where he called the two batsmen the “best he’s played with or against”. When asked via his Reddit AMA on who he most liked to face, Lara replied: “Shane Warne, he played for the best team in the world during my era, he was, and still is, regarded as the best leg-spinner to play the game.”
On the cricket field, their deeds spoke. While the Trinidadian stamped his supremacy as if he held a magic wand, the Victorian, decided batsmen’s fate as if he held a crystal ball.
When they faced each other: it was skill versus skill; bat versus ball; Australia versus West Indies and above all, Warne versus Lara.
The left-hander would walk briskly rolling his arms and take guard from the umpire like it was a geometry question to be solved. It had to be correct. The placing of his MRF stickered bat, with it, drawing a straight line on the popping crease, scratching it with his spikes so that it remained till his stay — i.e. for days. Once he marked his guard, his bat would rest on his shoulders and his eyes would glance, not at the fielders but gaps in between.
Some 28 yards afar, the blonde would roll his arms as one hurls pebbles in a pond, the nearest fielder caught what he threw. While he stood, at his mark, twirling the ball from hand to hand, fielders moved as per his wish. As if to set the stage before the drama started.
The spinner with white zinc cream smeared on his nose and lips, diamond stud earrings pierced in the ear, a sweatband on the left forearm and (later in his career) a Tommy Hilfiger friendship band on his right wrist, would wait for a few seconds hearing the constant tapping of the bat on the turf.
As he paced, everyone tensed. The murmur was inaudible. The commentators resting nose on the lip microphone’s windscreen went quiet. He paced a little further, heartbeats raced. The waiting batsman stopped tapping, instead held the willow afloat. Ready. The wicketkeeper, close-in fielders bent a little more, the umpires focused a little extra and the non-striker stepped little outside the crease.
Warne now placed his left foot on the crease to rotate his bowling arm. At the other end, Prince’s feet naturally did the back and across initial movement. Time paused.
Who will emerge triumphant? Who will have the last laugh? In the air were these questions and the ball.
Hardly have we felt such anticipation, such excitement, such contests between bat and ball and such characters gracing the game.
With the skills they possessed, the competition they triggered, the panache they demonstrated, they sure weaved a magic web.
Perhaps, they whispered: ‘Abracadabra!’
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Believes a three-Test match series should decide the winner of WTC. Tweets charu_prabhu.