India vs. Sri Lanka is really Tendulkar vs. Muralitharan

NORMAN DA COSTA, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:04 PM ET

It has dragged on and on. And it just seems like when the first ball in this World Cup was bowled Mumbai was still known as Bombay. Yes, on Saturday — 43 days and 49 matches later — the curtain comes down on one of the longest sporting finals ever played.

Co-hosts India and Sri Lanka will battle it out for cricket’s ultimate prize at the refurbished 33,000-seat Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, a city that changed its name in 1997. In recent times several cities in India have changed their names in an apparent effort to sever all ties with Britain, their colonial masters. Maybe it was for the same reason Constantinople is now Istanbul.

Other newly-baptized World Cup cities include Chennai (formerly Madras), Kolkata (Calcutta) and the country’s hi-tech capital Bangalore, which is now Bengaluru.

All three venues staged some of the finest matches in this enduring tournament and, on Saturday, when that winning run is scored or that last wicket falls, millions of fans around the world will bid farewell to one of the greatest bowlers of all time; others will be seeing the back of another great in World Cup competition.

Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan and India’s Sachin Tendulkar are two who not only dominated but transcended their sport, joining an elite few like basketball’s Michael Jordan, golf’s Tiger Woods and soccer’s Diego Maradona and Pele.

Tendulkar, who was born and raised in Mumbai, has obliterated nearly every batting record and helped India win several Test series, but one piece of silverware missing from his mantelpiece is the coveted World Cup.

He has played in five World Cups and the closest he came to getting his hands on the elusive trophy was in 2003 when India reached the final, only to be denied by Australia. The Little Master turns 38 next month and, luckily for India, he will continue padding up for India in upcoming Test series.

“Can you imagine a fairytale ending with Tendulkar getting a 100 in the final and India wins at Wankhede which is his home ground?” said Haroon Lorgat, the CEO of the International Cricket Council.

A Tendulkar century would be his 100th, a feat considered impossible just a decade ago and, that’s understandable. His closest rival is Australia’s Ricky Ponting at a distant 70 “tons.”

The legendary Muralitharan is bowing out of the sport altogether after a 19-year star-studded career.

He has been often been referred to The “Assassin” or “The Magician” as he amassed the most wickets in Test and one-day matches. Batsmen around the Test-playing nations will breathe a sigh of relief at his departure as few could pick up the off-spinner’s “doosra.” The “other one” is probably the best way to explain this uncanny delivery in English.

The 39-year-old Muralitharan, too, is determined to depart with a bang. In Pallekelle last Tuesday in his final match at home he brought the roof down by taking a wicket with his very last ball in the semifinal win over New Zealand. Plans are already under way to name the ground The Muttiah Muralitharan after the island’s most loved and popular sportsman.

There was a concern Muralitharan would miss the final because of injuries, but coach Trevor Bayliss puts those theories to rest by insisting that those niggles will not hold him back.

Muralitharan vs. Tendulkar?

Two icons vying for the top prize. Muralitharan has a leg up on Tendulkar as he was a member of Sri Lanka’s World Cup winners in 1996.

Co-hosts India and Sri Lanka will battle it out for cricket’s ultimate prize at the refurbished 33,000-seat Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, a city that changed its name in 1997. In recent times several cities in India have changed their names in an apparent effort to sever all ties with Britain, their colonial masters. Maybe it was for the same reason Constantinople is now Istanbul.

Other newly-baptized World Cup cities include Chennai (formerly Madras), Kolkata (Calcutta) and the country’s hi-tech capital Bangalore, which is now Bengaluru.

All three venues staged some of the finest matches in this enduring tournament and, on Saturday, when that winning run is scored or that last wicket falls, millions of fans around the world will bid farewell to one of the greatest bowlers of all time; others will be seeing the back of another great in World Cup competition.

Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan and India’s Sachin Tendulkar are two who not only dominated but transcended their sport, joining an elite few like basketball’s Michael Jordan, golf’s Tiger Woods and soccer’s Diego Maradona and Pele.

Tendulkar, who was born and raised in Mumbai, has obliterated nearly every batting record and helped India win several Test series, but one piece of silverware missing from his mantelpiece is the coveted World Cup.

He has played in five World Cups and the closest he came to getting his hands on the elusive trophy was in 2003 when India reached the final, only to be denied by Australia. The Little Master turns 38 next month and, luckily for India, he will continue padding up for India in upcoming Test series.

“Can you imagine a fairytale ending with Tendulkar getting a 100 in the final and India wins at Wankhede which is his home ground?” said Haroon Lorgat, the CEO of the International Cricket Council.

A Tendulkar century would be his 100th, a feat considered impossible just a decade ago and, that’s understandable. His closest rival is Australia’s Ricky Ponting at a distant 70 “tons.”

The legendary Muralitharan is bowing out of the sport altogether after a 19-year star-studded career.

He has been often been referred to The “Assassin” or “The Magician” as he amassed the most wickets in Test and one-day matches. Batsmen around the Test-playing nations will breathe a sigh of relief at his departure as few could pick up the off-spinner’s “doosra.” The “other one” is probably the best way to explain this uncanny delivery in English.

The 39-year-old Muralitharan, too, is determined to depart with a bang. In Pallekelle last Tuesday in his final match at home he brought the roof down by taking a wicket with his very last ball in the semifinal win over New Zealand. Plans are already under way to name the ground The Muttiah Muralitharan after the island’s most loved and popular sportsman.

There was a concern Muralitharan would miss the final because of injuries, but coach Trevor Bayliss puts those theories to rest by insisting that those niggles will not hold him back.

Muralitharan vs. Tendulkar?

Two icons vying for the top prize. Muralitharan has a leg up on Tendulkar as he was a member of Sri Lanka’s World Cup winners in 1996.


Videos

Photos