Their understated rivalry is the stuff of legend, but Sachin’s late-career acceleration has taken him ahead of Brian Lara.Two greats of the game, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara; their names will forever be linked because of their career-long battle to establish a reputation for being the best batsman of their,Their understated rivalry is the stuff of legend, but Sachin’s late-career acceleration has taken him ahead of Brian Lara.Two greats of the game, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara; their names will forever be linked because of their career-long battle to establish a reputation for being the best batsman of their generation. Two elegant willow-wielders with a prodigious talent for scoring runs and playing entertaining cricket. Not so widely recognised but an equally worthy achievement is the fact that both conquered one of the more difficult aspects of their craft.In Lara’s case he regained the world record 10 years after originally setting the high-water mark for batting excellence, something that was thought to be akin to breaking the four-minute mile.In Tendulkar’s case he’s never held the world Test record but he’s achieved something that’s extremely difficult; he’s gained a second wind in a career that is now sprinting toward the finish line when it appeared to be approaching the tape at a measured gait.These are rare achievements because as a batsman ages it’s generally accepted it becomes more difficult to score quickly for long periods. As the aging process takes hold a player is physically less capable and mentally tends to become more conservative. Thus maintaining an exceptional run rate for long periods on all but the odd occasion is beyond the capacity of even a champion as he ages.Tendulkar is yet to make a triple century in atest like (From left to right) Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Len Hutton and Sir Garfield Sobersand Brian Lara did in their early 20s but he has gained a second wind which may well put him in a league of his own.To grasp how exceptional Lara’s feat was, look at the players who held the world Test record prior to him. In the cases of Sir Donald Bradman (21), Sir Len Hutton (22) and Sir Garfield Sobers (21) they all claimed the record while in their early 20s, as indeed Lara did at 24 the first time.However, Lara was able to reach the pinnacle a second time at age 34, something none of his illustrious predecessors came close to achieving. Only Bradman ever attained triple figures again and he did it the second time while still reasonably young at age 25. To put Tendulkar’s feat into context, consider that at age 21 Bradman maintained a scoring rate of 3.70 runs per over in the 1930 series in England but by the 1948 tour this had regressed to 2.77.advertisement”In a country where the star performer is worshipped, Tendulkar’s playing feats are all that’s required for him to attain deity status.”Chappell, who captained Australia between 1971 and 1975, is a renowned television commentator and columnist Tendulkar with Warne after India pulled off a victory against Australia at Sharjah in 1998.Despite the appearance that Tendulkar had become more conservative as he aged, his run rate is almost identical for the first and second half of his career, with an overall mark of 3.27 per over. However, since he passed Lara’s world record aggregate, the fast-car loving master batsman has slipped into overdrive and scored his runs at 3.43 runs per over. Even if you ignore the runs scored against lowly Bangladesh, he’s still substantially ahead of his overall career run rate in this “second wind” phase.And the same pattern is evident when he bats in ODIs. If you use his startlingly dominant 175 against Australia as a turning point, he’s more than 1.5 runs per over above his career figure in his next eight innings. Now that’s a small sample size but as the most capped Test player of all time it’s no mean feat to display Ferrari like acceleration for one match, never mind eight.Also included in his sudden jet propulsion phase is his record breaking 200 against South Africa. To reach the double-century mark in 50 overs you have to not only hit boundaries regularly but also run many sprints. Tendulkar’s record-breaking innings was an exceptional physical feat at age 36, as well as a wonderful display of skill.This is what is so admirable about the latter day performances of these two Master batsmen; they maintained not only their skill level but also the mental desire to be dominant. What has brought about Sachin Tendulkar’s resurgence?The fast-pace of the IPL may have contributed. Tendulkar was the leading run scorer in the 2010 tournament at the highly acceptable rate of eight runs per over. What’s even more impressive, Tendulkar did it in relative safety by scoring more than 50 per cent of his runs in fours.advertisementTendulkar’s run rate is almost identical for the first and second half of his career, with an overall 3.27 per over. Since he passed Lara’s world record aggregate, the master batsman has scored his runs at 3.43 runs per over. Australian pacemen Mervhughes and Craig Mc Dermott couldn’t stop the child prodigy from taking the sting out of their attack.In contrast, the youthful and gung-ho Suresh Raina relied less on reaching the boundary and more on clearing it. Boundary hitting is the safer method of scoring quickly because it greatly reduces the risk of being caught when a shot is mistimed. Nevertheless, it requires masterful placement to keep on eluding a battalion of defensive fielders.However, the T20 surge is only partly responsible for Tendulkar’s renaissance. For a while it appeared as though Tendulkar had become consumed with records.The Test aggregate and posting century marks thatwere unattainable in two forms of the game seemed to occupy a prominent place in his mind. It not only adversely affected his style of batting but also his ability to reach the magical three-figure mark. Tendulkar went through an agonising period in 2007 where his conversion rate of 50s to 100s, normally exceptionally high, became that of an average Test match batsman.It was excruciating to watch this once dominant player who had challenged top-class bowlers like Wasim Akram and Glenn Mc-Grath, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, prodding and poking his way towards a coveted century only to fall short in the manner of a nervous Test debutant.He appears more relaxed about his place in history now and his magnificent 175 against Australia was something of a coming out celebration. It’s appropriate that a significant knock against Australia should be a milestone in Tendulkar’s resurgence. Some of the little maestro’s most memorable batting performances have come against Australia; a tribute to a competitive spirit that drives him to excel against the best opposition.Outstanding examples of his dominant performances against Australia include his gladiatorial battle with Warne at Chennai in 1998. With the match in the balance and having been out-foxed by the blonde bamboozler in the first innings, he attacked Warne the moment he came round the wicket. A flurry of boundaries followed, which handed India the initiative and eventually a win in the Test. The same year in Sharjah he spanked the Australians for a better than a run-a-ball century to catapult his team into the final. He then proceeded to repeat the “Aussie bashing” to take India to a glorious win in the final and earn for himself a luxury car in the process.His tormenting of Australia started at a young age. On his first tour Down Under he scored a majestic century at the SCG as a 19-year-old. However, the lasting memory of that tour was Tendulkar scoring a 100 on the bouncy WACA pitch.A four-pronged pace attack that included the highly acclaimed Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes, both bowlers who were, if not twice his size, at least double the weight of the child prodigy, couldn’t stop Tendulkar from punching balls off the back foot to the boundary. Batsmen with a great reputation for playing pace like Viv Richards, struggled first up at the WACA.Andtwo renowned openers in Gordon Greenidge and Graham Gooch never really came to grips with the extra bounce of the Perth pitch.Not Tendulkar; he looked like he’d grown up batting on the rock-hard WACA pitch rather than on the dusty red clay of a Mumbai maidan. For all his incredible achievements with the willow, he may well regard this WACA epic as one of his more satisfying innings when he finally lays down his cudgels and drives off into the sunset.If there’s a criticism of Tendulkar’s career, it’s his lack of influence on the game off the field. He has steadfastly refused to become involved with contentious issues affecting the game. In his defence,when you have to wear a disguise and get your driving kicks at2a.m. to avoid detection, it would be self-defeating to make headline grabbing statements.Nevertheless, it’s a black mark against the big name players, Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag, that India doesn’t have a players association. At a time when they were a highly influential group it would have been appropriate for this elite bunch to take a stand and ensure India had astrong players association. If they had done so and it then became affiliated with FICA it would’ve made the international body so much stronger. Thus armed, FICA would’ve had much more chance of driving a harder bargain with the administrators over such issues as balanced scheduling. As it is, a great opportunity was lost and it’s doubtful the chance will come again soon.Still, in a country where the star performer is worshipped, Tendulkar’s playing feats are all that’s required for him to attain deity status. And his remarkable “second wind” resurgence is also providing a convincing argument for him to be ranked ahead of his great rival Lara.advertisementIn sharjah he spanked the Australians for a better than a run-a-ball century to catapult his team into the final. He then repeated the “Aussie bashing” to take india to a glorious win in the final.