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Test match

How would two modern masters fare against the fastest bowlers of the 70s?

Sambit Bal

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Clockwise from above left: Dravid, Lara, Thomson, Marshall © Getty Images, PA Photos

I'm going to cheat a bit. These are not the players I would have most liked to watch play against each other - those would have been the Comptons, the Trumpers, the Nayudus, Bedis and Lindwalls. This is more to do with curiosity about how some of the great batsmen of the modern era - in which the conditions are generally more suited to batting - would stand up against great fast bowlers of the past.

I was recently asked by a cricketer friend whether Rahul Dravid would have averaged what he does now in the 1970s and 80s. My immediate reaction was to say that he would have found a way.

It's unfair to belittle the modern batsman for his use of the helmet, just as it is unfair to point out that Don Bradman played most of his Tests in two countries. All players are shaped by their circumstances, and my feeling is that great players can adapt to most conditions.

To settle the argument, I would like Dravid, who has scored runs against and in every country, and Brian Lara, who I consider purely for his stroke production the best batsman of his generation, to take on Malcolm Marshall, the most lethal fast bowler I have seen; and Jeff Thomson, possibly the fastest.

I want to see how Dravid, the most secure against the short ball among contemporary batsmen, copes with deliveries aimed at his head and ribcage; and Lara, the twinkling, younger version, produce the strokes that dazzled us for a decade and more just past, against two fast bowlers who were considered, for different reasons, among the most challenging of their times. And yes, they would bat without helmets.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

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Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.
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