IN FOCUS – Legends and stars galore in a Lord’s special

  A much-awaited limited-overs match is set to be played at Lord’s on Saturday, 5th July as part of the iconic ground’s bicentenary year celebrations. The said game will be a 50-overs-a-side contest between a Marylebone Cricket Club (M.C.C) side and a Rest of the World side, with both teams featuring some of the former greats of the game as well as current stars.

  In the late nineties, Sachin Tendulkar vs Shane Warne was the contest that everyone used to relish watching. The silken straight drives against the deceptive googlies. The batting maestro from Mumbai in a gripping duel with the spin wizard from Melbourne. Whenever India and Australia played each other, be it in a Test or in an ODI, this used to be the contest within the contest – two champions trying to outwit each other with their exceptional skills. This Saturday, it will be Tendulkar vs Warne all over again. The M.C.C team will be lead by Tendulkar, and will have fellow legends like Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (who is still going strong for the Windies) for company. Tendulkar, Dravid, Lara, Chanderpaul in the same line-up – a mouth-watering prospect indeed.

zsrtsw    Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar during a Tsunami relief match at Melbourne in 2005. The two will be facing off each other as captains on 5th July at Lord’s (source – msn.com)

  The Rest of the World will be captained by Warne, who is often considered as the ‘best captain Australia never had’. And delightfully, he will be bowling in tandem with his fellow contemporary, the record-holding off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. I can already feel the excitement – Tendulkar and Dravid taking on Warne and Muralitharan in the wonderful setting of Lord’s. Also playing under Warne will be Adam Gilchrist, the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman that the game has known, and the mercurial Kevin Pietersen, who was ousted from the English set-up recently. ‘KP’ will join forces again with Warne, who have been good mates ever since they played together for Hampshire.

  Adding to the galaxy of stars in the M.C.C side will be the pace of Brett Lee and the guile of Saeed Ajmal. While Lee called it a day a couple of years back, Ajmal is currently playing for Worcestershire, bamboozling hapless county batsmen in Division Two of the championship. He will share spin-bowling duties with Daniel Vettori, whom I am looking forward to see in action after a frustrating back injury has kept him out of the New Zealand squad for quite some time now. Rounding off the bowling attack will be Umar Gul and Shaun Tait, both effective one-day pace bowlers. Former England wicketkeeper Chris Read will don the gloves. Australia’s limited-overs specialist Aaron Finch will open the innings, in all probability with Tendulkar.

  The Rest of the World too pack a punch with a strong all-round look. Paul Collingwood, Yuvraj Singh and Shahid Afridi are established names in the limited-overs game and they are all capable of turning a match around. India’s out-of-favour swashbuckler Virender Sehwag is set to open the innings with Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal. The only fast bowlers in the team are Peter Siddle and Tino Best. Admittedly, on the pace bowling front, the M.C.C have an edge, but then no bowling attack with Warne and Muralitharan in it can ever be termed ordinary. On the batting front, the fire-power of Sehwag, Afridi, Yuvraj and Gilchrist is pitted against the sheer class of Tendulkar, Dravid, Lara and Chanderpaul.

Ajmal-Afridi    Pakistan’s ODI spin twins Saeed Ajmal (L) and Shahid Afridi will find themselves in opposite teams – Ajmal for the M.C.C and Afridi for the Rest of the World (source – thenewstribe.com)

  In 1998, a similar M.C.C vs Rest of the World 50-overs match was played at Lord’s. Only two cricketers from that match – Chanderpaul and Tendulkar – will be playing on Saturday, and both of them made centuries in that match. Back then, the M.C.C, consisting of names like Allan Donald, Glenn McGrath, Ian Healy and Sourav Ganguly, among others, scored 261/4 (Chanderpaul 127*) to which the Rest of the World, consisting of the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya, Wasim Akram and Aravinda de Silva, among others, replied with 262/4 in just 43.3 overs. Tendulkar smashed 125 while de Silva made 82. The two captains were Michael Atherton and Tendulkar respectively, and all the players involved were current international players.

  It will be very interesting to see how the retired legends approach this match, the tickets for which were not surprisingly sold out within a few days. Can Tendulkar relive Warne’s nightmares? Will Dravid regale the Lord’s crowd again? Who will win the battle of doosras, Muralitharan or Ajmal? Does Lara still have the ability to delight with his piercing stroke-play, given that he is aged 45 now? There are endless such possibilities to contemplate for any follower of the game who has grown watching these greats and potential greats, and what better scenario than all of them converging on the same field at the Mecca of cricket?

  Whom will I be rooting for? No team in particular, but I would love to see Dravid and Chanderpaul bat together at the crease and score big. Or an intense battle between Lara and Muralitharan. Gilchrist and Warne exchanging high fives again. Tendulkar plotting Sehwag’s dismissal. It might be a ‘friendly’ match, but expect these big guns to be at their competitive best. This is one game no cricket lover worth his salt can afford to miss out on watching. Hope the rain stays away!

The Teams (with country and international career span of players) :-

  M.C.C XI- Sachin Tendulkar (captain, India, 1989-2013), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (West Indies, 1994-present), Rahul Dravid (India, 1996-2012), Aaron Finch (Australia, 2011-present), Brian Lara (West Indies, 1990-2007), Brett Lee (Australia, 1999-2012), Chris Read (England, 1999-2007), Saeed Ajmal (Pakistan, 2008-present), Shaun Tait (Australia, 2005-2011), Umar Gul (Pakistan, 2003-present), Daniel Vettori (New Zealand, 1997-present)

  Rest of the World – Shane Warne (captain, Australia, 1992-2007), Tino Best (West Indies, 2003-present), Paul Collingwood (England, 2001-2011), Adam Gilchrist (Australia, 1996-2008), Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka, 1992-2011), Kevin Pietersen (England, 2004-2014), Virender Sehwag (India, 1999-present), Shahid Afridi (Pakistan, 1996-present), Peter Siddle (Australia, 2008-present), Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh, 2007-present), Yuvraj Singh (India, 2000-present).

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