Sambit Bal
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Editor, ESPNcricinfo

The two titans

Tendulkar and Murali have followed parallel careers to become their countries' greatest players. On Saturday, in their twilight, they face off in the biggest stage of all

Sambit Bal

April 1, 2011

Comments: 66 | Text size: A | A

Contrasting emotions: Muttiah Muralitharan's silent frustration against Sachin Tendulkar's relief at reaching his match-saving century, India v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 5th day, November 20, 2009
Muttiah Muralitharan and Sachin Tendulkar: Will we see one moment of magic involving the two in their last game together? © AFP
Related Links
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: India | Sri Lanka

Walking in to the freshly rebuilt Wankhede Stadium the day before the World Cup final, the most arresting visuals are the huge hoardings featuring Indian cricketers in body paint and primal scream. There's MS Dhoni looking slightly out of character; there are Harbhajan Singh and Virat Kohli in an extension of their on-field persona; and there is Virender Sehwag looking brooding and intense.

One cricketer is significant by his absence. Sachin Tendulkar doesn't endorse this cola brand anymore.

But just as well. For all of India, the World Cup has built itself up for the perfect finale, the dream finish: The Indian team winning it as the perfect gift for its greatest ever cricketer. It would complete the Sachin Tendulkar story. Throw in the hundredth hundred and the whole nation could die in peace. But Tendulkar isn't the only legend due a fairytale. There is another team in the match and what a farewell would it be for Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka's greatest cricketer.

And if precedent is anything to go by, the force is with Murali. The final ball of his Test career yielded a wicket, his 800th. The final ball of his international career at home fetched another and led to a comfortable win in the World Cup semi-final. Injury or not, who'd bet against him bowing on one leg and walking off the field with a handsome smile?

Fans in the subcontinent can sometimes be accused of missing the bigger picture by obsessing with individuals and certainly no one man can win the World Cup by himself. But that Tendulkar and Murali lend this World Cup final a certain poignancy and romance is unquestionable. Neither deserves disappointment but that's the cruelty of sport: for one dream realised tomorrow, there will be one broken. Murali has already been part of a World Cup-winning team but, if India lose tomorrow, Tendulkar will never know the feeling.

Neither deserves disappointment but that's the cruelty of sport: for one dream realised tomorrow, there will be one broken. Murali has already been part of a World Cup-winning team but, if India lose tomorrow, Tendulkar will never know the feeling.

Their craft and ways are different, but there are remarkable similarities between Tendulkar and Murali. Their careers have almost run concurrently and they have built records that are unlikely to be ever broken. Neither has allowed fame to corrupt them or divert them from their path. Both have made their nations proud not merely by their achievements on the field, but also with the dignity and grace they have conducted themselves off it. The controversies that Murali's action generated were not of his making; if anything, the way he has dealt with them has merely enhanced his reputation. And if Tendulkar can be accused of anything it is of being too reticent.

They have even had similar rivals. When they dazzled, Brian Lara and Shane Warne were more magical and compelling, but Tendulkar and Murali have endured because their devotion to the game was purer and they allowed nothing to distract them. And over the years they have become strong symbols of national identity in a way Lara and Warne could never have become.

And from their team-mates they have not merely earned respect but genuine affection. Murali has always been the soul of the Sri Lankan dressing room. Both Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara spoke endearingly about what a "nuisance" Murali is with his constant chattering about cricket. "He perhaps thinks he knows more about batting than Sachin," Jayawardene said. Murali, already a star, was the first team-mate to take him out for a meal when Jayawardene was a nobody, and he was neither the first nor the last one to receive his kindness. "Murali is always there for you," Jayawardene said.

Tendulkar has never been as effusive by nature but, from all accounts, young players are drawn to him. Unlike some of his predecessors whose presence was intimidating, Tendulkar has been a calming influence in the dressing room, leading not merely by example but by doing little things to put at ease younger players who might have otherwise been star-struck by him.

If there is anything lacking between them, it's the absence of the kind of rivalry forged between either Tendullkar and Warne, and Murali and Lara. Leave aside a grand series, or full innings or a spell, it's hard to remember a moment of magic involving them. And remarkably, even though India and Sri Lanka have played each other incessantly in the last few years, our ball-by-ball records show only 91 balls in ODIs and 366 balls in Tests between Tendulkar and Murali.

The World Cup can have only one winner tomorrow. Neither Tendulkar nor Murali would mind personal failure in their final World Cup match if their team ends up on the winner's podium. For cricket's sake, though, let's pray that these two titans rouse each other to a battle worthy of them.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 13:30 GMT)

just a few mins away for getting anwer of all quetions..

Posted by PakRox on (April 2, 2011, 8:56 GMT)

Comeon Srilanka,, we all pakistani suppoting ur team and we are praying for ur victory, U r the only one cricketing country who always support pakistan and pakistani cricket team,, I love to c Srilanka as the 2011 worldcup champion.. May Allah give u seccess Ameen.

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 8:38 GMT)

I am an Indian. A proud one at that. And Sachin is god to me. But I am a huge fan of Murali too. It is sad that a legend retires today. Jai India. Jai SL!!!

Posted by sharma_rahul29 on (April 2, 2011, 8:24 GMT)

Today is one of the incredible match will play in b/n ind vs lanka & sachin 100th 100 against his carrier............ BEST OF LUCK...

Posted by frank2011 on (April 2, 2011, 7:42 GMT)

So the sun is about to set for these two immortals in the greatest game of all: cricket. My thanks go out to Sachin and Marali, for all the great moments you have provided us through your careers. Best of luck to you both in the finals and I believe there are over a billion people awaiting for you two to face each other. May the best team win.

Posted by Surya_The_Gr8 on (April 2, 2011, 7:35 GMT)

Offcourrse both are legend and there are no question about it, for the final i would say and pray that sachin hit 99 runs and out wait for other match to score his 100th centuary because india wants to win the cup that only happen if he did not score 100 runs lik u see in semi final after several chance he dis score and 85 which help us to win the game. For murali we can do give him 5-6 wicket and a farwell and let india win the cup.

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 7:30 GMT)

murali vs sachin......well whose days gonna end better

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 7:26 GMT)

murali will blast all indian batting today

Posted by ImranSiddique on (April 2, 2011, 7:26 GMT)

No Doubt both excellent players and great servant of their country for long time now, and this is best chance for SACHIN to prove that he can handle the pressure of big game, I think both have a great chance to sing off International Cricket in style, BEST OF LUCK to both teams in FINAL..........

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 7:21 GMT)

Is this the last ODI for Sachin? Either way of the result, it seems like it.

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 7:19 GMT)

I am not sure if I can call Murali a "bowler".

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 6:43 GMT)

@ nanda kumar.

is it your dream.

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 6:40 GMT)

looking for a great match !! and let the best team win :)

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 6:38 GMT)

Its intriguing to think it as a final hurrah for both sachin & murali as far as world cup is concerned. every player wants a world cup winning medal & so does sachin. Murali has it already and is willing to have another one b4 he lives d arena as already announced. As for sachin his looming hundredth hundred & a WC winning medal would b fairytale ending to d cricketing god who had brought smiles to a billion people rich or poor all along. For this cherished dream to come true, both these champions would need suppoet form other ten members. So I think d focal points is 10 others, not sachin or murali. As for sachin, after this WC, his target would b a test series win down-under b4 he hangs his boots.

Posted by Lord.emsworth on (April 2, 2011, 6:18 GMT)

What makes these two stand apart from theirfellows other thant their great accumen in their respective fields, IE Sachin (batting) & Muttiah (bowling) is their affable nature and the great humantiarian role models they have become for youngsters. They dont throw Prima Dona tantrums, criticize their fellows, sledge excessively - if at all, or show any tendens towards idiosyncratic behaviour so common with most other top sportsmen. Gentle giants and true gentlemen. Thanks for the memories.....

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 6:04 GMT)

sri lanka will win the world cup final 2011 must....

Posted by Khwar-e-cricket on (April 2, 2011, 6:01 GMT)

well said Adnan Khan "No matter how the game end ..... I just want Sachin to score 100 and Murali to take five wickets (1 of his last ball).. " ... just wanted to add that hopefully Murali's last wicket would be in the last ball of the second innings :) and we all know what that means :) ...

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 6:00 GMT)

In most likelihood, Sri Lanka is going to play 3 spinners (with Thisara Parera most likely to replace Angelo Mathews); if thats the case, India should include Pathan at the expense of Virat Kohli. Malinga is going to bowl max 3 overs at stretch & with such powerful batting line-up India got, he is not a threat. So, India should maximize against Lanka's spinners & Pathan could be absolutely lethal against them, mind you he can also chip in with 4-5 overs. Sreesanth should replace Nehra. My Final XI: 1. Sachin 2. Sehwag 3. Gambhir. 4. Yuvraj 5. Yusuf 6.Dhoni 7. Raina 8. Harbhajan 9. Zaheer 10. Munaf 11. Sreesanth. Most importantly, Yusuf should come before powerplay as Malinga is most likely to bowl in powerplays & yusuf is not good against yorkers & short balls. Jai Ho.....Go India Go

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 5:50 GMT)

sachin will blast d sri lankan team... but not murali.....

Posted by nataraajds on (April 2, 2011, 5:50 GMT)

WC Final is a perfect plotform for Sachin & Murali to complete their Dreem to gift WC to their respective country. Let's see who will do it. i don't think any player could reach the achivements set by these two in batting & bowling. salute to these two cricketing legends.

Posted by Tomksa on (April 2, 2011, 5:33 GMT)

India should win it for Sachin! Go boyz and get it!!

Posted by Vindaliew on (April 2, 2011, 5:16 GMT)

It will be a privilege for all of us following the match to just "be there" when these two legends clash. If we don't appreciate it now, we will several years later when we look back.

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 5:08 GMT)

Murali is the greatest magician of all time ........... hopefully his awesomeness would lead Sri Lanka to a glorious victory !!!

Posted by TheLastPerson on (April 2, 2011, 4:50 GMT)

Its like two eyes!!! Both r Legend!!! Lets Smash all!!! God Bless u masters!!!

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 4:45 GMT)

Hats off Murali and Sachin !!!!

Posted by donda on (April 2, 2011, 4:40 GMT)

Titans is perfect word for these players. Legends of their nation and two extreme humble sportsmen ever seen. Both players are bigger than cricket it self but still so humble and always putting 100% to play perfect cricket.

I think Murli already has Worldcup win taste therefore i will go with Sachin to taste it this time around. Sachin deserves this win today and he will.

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 4:24 GMT)

Murali you are going to have a great farewell!!!

Posted by ddrath on (April 2, 2011, 4:11 GMT)

Brillient players, we will not see any one like those two!Hats off to Murali and Sachin!! cant discribe in words!! invaluble players!!

Posted by CricSare on (April 2, 2011, 4:05 GMT)

HE GOD OF BOWLING ,The MAGICAL MURALI will get tendulkar for sure..FAIRYTAIL IS WITH SL...SL SL SL SL SL SL SL SL SL ~~~~ and it goes like that :P

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 3:49 GMT)

No matter how the game end ..... I just want Sachin to score 100 and Murali to take five wickets (1 of his last ball)..

Posted by FARUQUE8810 on (April 2, 2011, 3:06 GMT)

Tendulkar still has seveal good years left and he should continue to play Cricket. He might retire from test cricket but should continue playing ODI. I could see Tendulkar still being one of the top Indian batsman 4 years from now. I could see him bat at 3rd or 4th 4 years from now and still have deep impact in the game. As for Murali, I see this is a nice time for him to retire but if he wants to continue 2 to 3 more years he still can.

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 2:55 GMT)

Cricket gurus says India have the best batters in the tournament. But when you look at stats (highest runs scored) #1, #4, #5 slots belonging to Sri Lankans. (Dilshan, Sanga and Tharanga). Indians have #2, #6 and #8 in the list. (Sachin, Viru and Yuvi). In total Sri Lankan trio scored 1277 runs while Indian trio scored 1185. No doubt, this Final is battle of Bowlers of the two teams. Bowlers who can handle pressure will be in the winning side. Indian will depend on Zahir and Baji and patel as there main stickers and Sri Lankans will rely on Spin legend Murali, Malinga and Herath. Both teams can count on Yuvi and Dilshan as backup bowlers as they did throughout the tournament. Handling pressure in BIG GAMES will be the key but not the TOSS

Posted by sanath007 on (April 2, 2011, 2:46 GMT)

We love murali...what a too is sachin...hats off to the greatest bowler and batsman the game has ever lucky are we to see them in action

Posted by prashant1 on (April 2, 2011, 2:34 GMT)

I'm Indian, and so i LOVE Sachin....But I LOVE Murali too!!!!!!!!....But Murali has already got a WC....So, hopefully Sachin's turn now!!

Posted by Balumekka on (April 2, 2011, 2:20 GMT)

Although I'm a Sri Lankan, I love watching Sachin bats from my childhood. The elegance, technique, personality, consistency and aggressiveness in his batting is easily the best of all times with untouchable career aggregate runs. Murali is the best bowler ever not only with un touchable aggregate wickets, but also the humbleness, dedication, courage and never say die attitude. We want a class contest from both these gods today, and good luck for both teams for the first ALL SUBCONTINENTAL FINAL! May the better team wins the title, and hope a respectful runner-up title to the loosing team.

Posted by anuru_1 on (April 2, 2011, 2:15 GMT)

unbelievable careers from both... They are the super heroes in the cricket.......

Posted by indinakl on (April 2, 2011, 1:56 GMT)

Murali atleast was a part of the WC winning in 1996. But Tendulkar has never been so far. It would be nice if Murali and Tendulkar perform well, but it would be perfect to see the Indian team having the world cup so that the great man feels good and satisfied.

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 1:49 GMT)

Who said SACHIN TENDULKAR is in his TWILIGHT ?? Are you saying that because of his AGE ? He is still world's number 1 batsman. Has has been in the form of his life. There is no one currently in world cricket who can claim to be a better batsman than him on form or in class.

Please refrain using the word TWILIGHT for Sachin Tendulkar. He Still has a lot left in him !

Posted by maddy20 on (April 2, 2011, 1:31 GMT)

We will miss the similing assassin. The OZ will be thanking their stars coz there's one less true spinner to worry about! All of this apart, me being an Indian would like to see only one result -WC1999 like performance!

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 0:23 GMT)

Unbelievable Careers..... Super Super Heroes :')

Posted by   on (April 2, 2011, 0:13 GMT)

Best ever bowler Vs the best ever Batsman.....This would be the greatest world cup final ever!!!!!!!

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 23:41 GMT)

Its not match between sachin or murali only with two great country. Its true one lose & other win. All the best to both teams............. Luck favours in these cases

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 22:55 GMT)

A+++ article. Sachin & Murali will be remembered as the greatest players ever two countries have given to this world entertaining all the way. There will be no other occasion than a WORLD CUP FINAL to see Sachin holding World cup. My gut feeling beats for India. Bring it on INDIA.. DE GHUMA KE..

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 22:35 GMT)

Nothing could be more disheartening for me than to see Tendulkar wave his hands without the world cup winning moment. I'm praying and so are a billion hearts, for one man for his devotion to the game, may all the gods be partial for one day and favor India for one night.

Posted by Vibrant_Patel on (April 1, 2011, 21:53 GMT)

U can't find even a single Cricket Fan in India who Don't like Murali..!!! Similarly... U can't find any SL Cricket Fan who don't like Sachin..!!! This is only bcoz.. they are like God... Their behaviors off-the field & achivements on-the fields are those No one can even think about go near..!!!

Love U Sachin...!!! Love U Murali...!!! One Team will gonna lose tomorrow... one of the legends have shattered his dream tomorrow... But, ultimately... Cricket Will WIN Big Tomorrow..!!!

Good Luck... INDIA !!! We need this WC badly..!!!

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 21:36 GMT)

i dont want any1 to leave. it will be so disappointing. great players

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 21:28 GMT)

tendulkar god of batting, and murali god of bowling will meet tommorow. It's going to be an epic match. I truly hope that murali and the lankans can win tommorow. ALL THE BEST BOYS!!

Posted by S.K.Chowdhury on (April 1, 2011, 21:14 GMT)

I reckon people of my generation are so blessed....It's been a privilege to watch Tendulkar, Lara,Warne and Murali.....

Posted by Gansmith on (April 1, 2011, 20:33 GMT)

We need to World Cup for India. Sachin winning is just icing on the cake. Stop putting pressure on the team by saying it is for Sachin. It is for India!

Posted by wnwn on (April 1, 2011, 20:32 GMT)

Yes they have both been great players but 20 years of cricket is too much in my opinion. Sachin Tendulkar should retire immediately after he gets his next hundred and give someone else a chance. It will be very selfish if he carries on playing.

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 20:31 GMT)

d best thing which is common about them is dat even d fans frm d opponent sides respect dem

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 20:30 GMT)

a batsman should never retire unless he finds himself consistently among the 2 least scoring batsmen of his side against World class oppositions, is not able to hit six or is not able to score 100............Tendulkar is exactly opposite of all these 3 conditions so he must not retire from ODIs so should Ponting too.

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 20:29 GMT)

a batsman should never retire unless he finds himself consistently among the 2 least scoring batsmen of his side against World class oppositions, is not able to hit six or is not able to score 100............Tendulkar is exactly opposite of all these 3 conditions so he must not retire from ODIs so should Ponting too.

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 20:20 GMT)

"Neither deserves disappointment but that's the cruelty of sport: for one dream realised tomorrow, there will be one broken. Murali has already been part of a World Cup-winning team but, if India lose tomorrow, Tendulkar will never know the feeling." - Sambit Bal is simply amazing every time his pen meets the paper!

Posted by stormy16 on (April 1, 2011, 19:37 GMT)

Great article and the point for be being about these two is the symbol they in their society beyond their cricketing achievments. Great examples of Lara and Warne both wonderfully talented geniusus but that was it - all cricket. They both had huge ego's and had endless dramas around them with one thing or another... in short - they were bigger than the game while Sachin and Murali respected the game and were the best which is something unique. Humble is another work I would throw at Sachin and Murali which you couldnt even run on Warne or Lara. Dotn get me wrong I am not suggesting Lara and Warne are not as good - the point being no matter how good they were Sachin and Murali had something you just cant match. We will miss Murali but Sachin for a while longer hopefully.

Posted by dnkrish on (April 1, 2011, 19:35 GMT)

Sachin scores his 100th international century, Murali gets 3 or 4 wickets to equal or surpass Glen McGrath's record in world cups. And INDIA WIN the World Cup 2011 after 28 years.

Posted by nandz4u on (April 1, 2011, 19:31 GMT)

God (Tendulkar) and Demi God (Murli) meeting for the last time..........truly this match will be a class apart..........a match to be remembered for a long long time.........Go India Go

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 19:27 GMT)

Sachin is not saying anything about his retriement. Then, why you guys are assuming this is his final world-cup ..I would say he play next world cup easily...not far away ..just 4 more year...We don't think sachin will loose his form and fitness in 4 years.So, please don't say this is last world cup for sachin...After so many years of his cricketing life, he is still the No1 batsman....So, Age is not a constraints in front of Telant ....

Posted by nlambda on (April 1, 2011, 19:16 GMT)

Murali has already won a WC. He should be a gentleman and let Sachin win one too. Also, Murali's wife is Indian. Not sure he would like to take 5/30 and get in trouble at home. Hoping for some nice long hops from such a decent man.

Posted by manshin on (April 1, 2011, 19:11 GMT)

My prediction is that this will be a boring game like all those that SL played on their way to the finals. The Indian bowlers will rip thru SL top order and run over the middle to hold them within 200. the only highlights worth witnessing would be SRT's ton, see him lift the trophy and announcing his retirement from the ODIs.

Posted by Mark00 on (April 1, 2011, 18:42 GMT)

Bal, you write better than you speak. You seem to have accidentally edited out a word, however,

"And from their team-mates they have not merely earned but _______ genuine affection."

Posted by hatsman on (April 1, 2011, 18:38 GMT)

sachin and murali i and every man alive applaud you

Posted by MILAN.BONDI on (April 1, 2011, 18:35 GMT)

Just saw Cinderella Man and saw 1000's of people praying for braddock to win his championship bout. And if with a 1000's people support, an old man can overcome a thunderstorm in the ring and survive his death and become the hero of his fairytale comeback. I just dont know why when more than 1.2 billion people out there will be cheering for 11 players on the field tomorrow, why this world cup is not coming home. Really pumped up for tomorrow. And as like any other person reading this, i will be glued to my TV set not moving an inch. probably this time the boys will bring back the hope i lost in 2003. I will be swearing when munaf will be getting his ass kicked or when gambhir will be getting himself out after running out of patience. i know i will be swearing a lot. But deep down there, from the bottom of my heart, i will be saying. GO INDIA GO! And if the miracle does happen. Then the nation will truly BLEED BLUE.. -Milan Aggarwal

Posted by mrgupta on (April 1, 2011, 18:34 GMT)

Definitely Two of the greatest players of this sport. One a master at batting and other one the champion bowler. I don't know if it is true but looks like its the first time the Highest Run scorer and Highest Wicket taker in ODIs are playing together in a ODI World Cup Final. Murli has already had his hands on the Cup in 1996, let it this time be Sachin's. India has been the better team throughout as one more record awaits us, when we will Win the finals, we will be the team who will becomes World Champions by defeating every other previous WC winners (excluding India, ofcourse :-) )

Posted by   on (April 1, 2011, 18:27 GMT)

Couldn't agree with you more. After your biased article against India yesterday, this will restore some faith in your writing.

Apart from being great cricketers, Sachin and Murali have been wonderful persons leading by example in various fronts. Murali's efforts in rebuilding Galle stadium after Tsunami can never be forgotten. Sachin's charity is well known even though not well documented.

You've nailed it by saying "over the years they have become strong symbols of national identity in a way Lara and Warne could never have become".

Hope Murali takes five wickets, Sachin scores a century and India wins the World Cup. Nothing can be more poetic!

Thanks for writing the article.

Posted by Rajwadoo on (April 1, 2011, 18:24 GMT)

Oh no....if Sachin and Murli retire than there will be no legend in the game.......

I think Punter in a legend in his own rights.....but his career is also like a see-saw

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Sambit BalClose
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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