When leading lights of the game meet for a round-table discussion on 'The Modern Batsman', words are not minced. Ian Chappell, Ravi Shastri and Tony Greig were unanimous in rating Brian Lara, not Sachin Tendulkar, as the current generation's best batsman.
The discussion, hosted by cricket magazine and Web site Cricinfo on Saturday, was moderated by former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar. John Wright (former New Zealand captain and India coach) was also on the panel.
Chappell rated Lara above Tendulkar because of his ability to dominate the game, with a proviso that he needed to keep his head cool, while Greig rated him as a great batsman on the basis of his natural talent.
Shastri too picked Lara over Tendulkar. "If you look at Lara, he has dominated attacks more often than not," Shastri said. "Tendulkar had his period between 1997-1999 where he dominated attacks, especially his knocks against Australia. But Lara has done it more often."
Wright preferred to take the middle path, naming Lara, Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting as his favourites. No discussion on batsmen is complete without a word on pitches. With the low scores and wickets for the Champions Trophy already generating some sharp debate, they were bound to be discussed here too. "These wickets are a bit different," Wright said. "Generally even 300 isn't a safe score on wickets in India. But this time the conditions are different."
Chappell believed bowler friendly pitches had evened out the contest between bat and ball. "The pitches here showed an even contest between bat and ball," he said. "They also brought out the tactical battles in cricket. A couple of pitches, though, have been far too much in favour of the bowlers."
Asked what lessons Indian batsmen had learned from the Champions Trophy, Wright said, "You have to make batsmen understand that there is a challenge of playing on different wickets. Some players handle conditions better." He remembered how Virender Sehwag was the most consistent batsmen during the tour to New Zealand.
Shastri spoke about the need to perform in all conditions. "They must have the ability to adapt. There is no point in being tigers at home." Asked about what bowlers could do to keep up with the game, Greig said: "Bowlers are focussing too much on reverse swing," he said.