Deadly duel: It’s Shane vs Sachin
We thought, and subsequently rued, that we had seen the last of it. That only memory and those nostalgic classic DVDs will help us relive those moments that famously compelled the peerless Sir Donald Bradman to realise that, yes, he just might have a parallel in modern day cricket, while forcing similar confession out of Richie Benaud, former Australian captain and leg-spinner.
The sight of Shane Warne slumping disconsolately on his haunches after Sachin Tendulkar had collared him for a "it's gone miles" maximum with effortless ease in the unforgiving dust of Sharjah, or Tendulkar being teased, lulled, deceived and eventually snared by the master leg-spinner in the extravagance of Melbourne Cricket Ground and the cauldron of Chennai has not only enthralled the connoisseurs, but also the commoners.
Tendulkar vs Warne has been more than a mere contest, it has been a battle, a battle of mind as much as of body, of craft as much as of graft, of flair as much as of attrition, of silk as much as of steel; a rivalry lacking the obviousness of the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman one, but none of its intrigue and skill. What has added to its allure is the fact that there has been no outright winner. Surely, Tendulkar has had the edge over his charismatic adversary, but Warne's absence from India's 2004 and 2008 Down Under forays due to a drugs ban and retirement has ensured that the jury is not out just yet on this one.
And even the sporting Gods are keen on another dance. That is why on Monday, they have provided both of them with a chance for a final hurrah, something which was inconceivable even six months back, when IPL was yet to be launched.
In Jaipur, the two talented and driven men will square off once again, but this time in a format their bodies might loathe, but the mind certainly relishes. Two individuals well in their professional dotage, past their prime—Warne is "happily retired" now— full of mutual admiration, eager to land one final, decisive blow.
Warne is certainly roused up for this one, even willing to ignore the call of his "battered" body. After beating Chennai, when asked by this correspondent when he would take a break as he had been playing in every game, Warne said he would sit out the next one. But when told he would be up against Sachin, he promptly changed his stance, saying, "then I'll probably sit out against Mohali!" That comment itself lays bare the desire and his eagerness to get back at a man whom he describes as "his favourite cricketer", and the one who gave him "nightmares". Sachin too was effusive in his praise on Sunday.
"He is a great bowler, it'll be a fantastic challenge. Which I am looking forward to," the Master said. It's been eight years since they last faced-off. High time they duelled again.