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Lara tops Tendulkar in experts' list

By Deepti Patwardhan
Last updated on: November 04, 2006 22:41 IST
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Just two weeks ahead of the Ashes series, former Australia captain Ian Chappell took a dig at old rival Geoffrey Boycott, saying the Englishman was selfish and never scored a single run for his team.

"I wouldn't rate someone like Geoffrey Boycott as a great batsman," said Chappell, during a roundtable organized by Cricinfo in Mumbai on Saturday.

"A guy like Gary Sobers always put himself ahead of himself and he averages 58. Boycott didn't score a single run for his team; whatever he did was for himself and yet he managed an average of only 47."

The topic of the afternoon was 'How good is the modern batsman?' and Sanjay Manjrekar asked the panelists -- Chappell, John Wright, Tony Greig and Ravi Shastri -- what constituted greatness in batting?

"You'd worry about people like Viv Richards. I lost sleep sometimes thinking about Richards. Boycott didn't keep me awake; in fact, sometimes he'd put you to sleep on the field.

"It's guys who take control of the game and change the course of the game in a short time that are great," said Chappell.

Asked to pick their favourite contemporary batsman, three of the panelists picked Brian Lara, while Wright opted for both Sachin Tendulkar and the West Indies captain.

"You just look at some players and think you don't see talent like that everyday. The top three batsman I saw play were Barry Richards, Viv Richards and Greg Chappell. Of the current players I would have to choose Tendulkar and Lara," said Wright.

Greig and Shastri shortlisted Lara, Tendulkar and Australia's Ricky Ponting as the batting giants of this generation, but zeroed in on the Caribbean king simply because he dominated attacks more ruthlessly even while playing in a weak side.

"Ricky Ponting is very good but for him to be considered along with Lara and Tendulkar, he has to continue the run for a longer time," said Shastri. "Also, for Ponting to be considered a true great, he has to perform better on the subcontinent.

"That's where Lara is great. He is looking to attack even a bowler like Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan). Lara has dominated more often than not; he's played against some of the best bowling line-ups. To be playing in a weak team and yet come out and dominate like that is great."

The Trinidadian broke the world record for the highest individual score twice. His record-breaking scores, separated by 10 years, came against the same opposition (England) and at the same ground (St. John's Recreation ground, Antigua).

Lara is also the only batsman to score 400 in Test cricket and holds the record for the highest first class score (501).

"Lara had a short phase where we went crazy, but apart from that he's been a class player," added Chappell.

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Deepti Patwardhan