Brian Charles Lara is a Trinidadian former international cricketer, widely acknowledged as one of the greatest batsmen of all time. The prolific left-hander was the captain of the west indies. His duels with Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan are the stuff of legends. The West Indian legend's rivalry with the two premier spinners of their time made engaging viewing and fascinating battles of modern-day cricket even. Muralitharan is widely regarded as one of the most successful bowlers to play international cricket. He is the only bowler to take 800 Test wickets and more than 530 One Day International (ODI) wickets. As of 2022, he has taken more wickets in international cricket than any other bowler. On the other hand, Lara scored 34 centuries in the test matches and 19 in ODIs. He also holds the record of scoring the highest individual score in a Test innings scoring 400 not out at Antigua during the 4th test against England in 2004.
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The battle between the greats:
The year 2000 was not a very good one for Brian Lara. Across nine tests he scored just 497 runs at an average of 29.23. During that time there was a lot of talk about his technique and form. On the other hand, it was a very good year for Muttiah Muralitharan, across 10 tests he scalped 75 wickets at an average of 19.50. His the largest ever haul for a single calendar year. The Sri Lankan had found his rhythm and was nearly unplayable at home.
And that was the backdrop to the West Indies tour of Sri Lanka in 2001. Sri Lanka was looking for their first Test series win over the men from the Caribbean but Lara felt that he had a thing or two to prove to his critics. Brian Lara watched a lot of tapes of Muralitharan's bowling and analyzed at which lengths he bowled. The west Indian team management at that time invited many local spinners with similar actions to bowl in the nets. The preparation helped. From the first innings of the first Test, Lara set the tone. While wickets fell like ninepins around him, he took his batting to a different plane.
The most astonishing part of his batting was the ease with which he played Muralitharan, in conditions that the off-spinner loved and exploited so well. The other West Indian batsmen struggled to pick the doosra but Lara was comfortable using his feet and even using the depth of the crease to constantly leave the bowlers guessing. He made batting look easy and was the top scorer in the three-match test series scoring 688 runs. However, the Windies lost the series by 3-0 but Brian Lara was back into his form. Also, Muralitharan took 24 wickets in that test series.