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Stranglers and swordsmen

The King and Pollock, up against Murali and Pidge

Dileep Premachandran

April 26, 2008

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Clockwise from above Murali, Richards, Pollock, McGrath © Getty Images, PA Photos
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Having been fortunate enough to watch Glenn McGrath and Muttiah Muralitharan front up against Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, my mind has often wandered to a place where imaginary contests light up the field of dreams. As with many children of the 1980s, for me picking up a bat meant one thing - wanting to be like King Viv. An average of 50.21 seems almost commonplace in this age of flat-track bullies, but Richards could strut his stuff anywhere and against anyone, smashing centuries against BS Chandrasekhar and Bishan Bedi in India and counterattacking gloriously against Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson at their white-hot best.

In McGrath he would be confronted with perhaps the most effective bowler of all time, a man without the charisma of a Dennis Lillee or the repertoire of Wasim Akram, but possessed with an uncanny knack of knocking over the big boys time after time. With Scrooge at one end, Murali would be free to experiment at the other, extracting prodigious turn with those freakishly supple wrists.

Given that Murali has sometimes struggled against left-handers, Graeme Pollock would partner Richards. I wasn't fortunate enough to watch Pollock play, but archival footage of the 125 at Trent Bridge and another masterpiece for the Rest of the World reveal a batsman whose ability to time the ball as sweetly as anyone before or since was almost incongruous given his rugby-scrum size.

McGrath and Murali would be like twin boas, slowly choking their prey, but neither Richards nor Pollock would hold back, launching into strokes with the hauteur and majesty that only the anointed possess.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo

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Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com. Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
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