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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 12:46 GMT
Who is the greatest?
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport

West Indies cricket supporters have lived through many ups and many downs.

But for more than a quarter of a century they have cheered on two of the most gifted and successful batsmen to have played the game.

At the same time as Sir Viv Richards' remarkable career began to draw to a close, the embryonic skills of Brian Charles Lara were captivating Trindad's scouts.

Lara and Richards played only once in the same West Indian team, in a one-day international at Lord's in 1991.

Sir Viv retired later that summer and now, more than 12 years on, Lara has overtaken Richards as West Indies' highest run-scorer.

But which of them was the best?


Sir Viv took 121 Tests to hit 8,540 runs. Lara passed his total in just 98 at a slightly superior average of 51.96.

Sir Viv had more centuries and more fifties than Lara, whose 375 against England in Antigua in 1994 is the second best score of all time.

Entertainment value

Nobody had a more theatrical entry into the arena than Sir Viv. He used to wait long after the last batsman had returned to the pavilion before sauntering out to the middle.

Chewing gum, he swaggered to the crease - his arms wheeling round in circles.

Lara is no actor in that sense. He is out to the middle with a minimum of fuss.

It is only when he takes his stance with the exaggerated back-lift and the feet planted wide apart that you know he means business.

In terms of shot-making, Sir Viv will always be remembered for treating every form of bowling with disdain.

Spurning a helmet against even the fastest bowlers, he effortlessly hooked anything dug in short and had a wonderful ability to drive balls from outside off stump through midwicket.

Lara, a much shorter man, is ideally built for the pull and cut shots. Light on his feet, he dances down the track to hit huge lofted drives off the spinners.

The opposition verdict

England's Neil Fairbrother was a frequent spectator at backward point in the latter part of Richards' career and the early days of Lara.

He says: "Sir Viv had the biggest aura of any cricketer that I've been on the field with. When he swaggered out to bat it had a deflating effect on the opposition.

"He is the greatest batsman I have played with.

Viv just used to stand up and try to smash it everywhere
Neil Fairbrother

"Lara in his own style can still take any game away from anybody but the swagger of Viv, plus his strength and aggression, put him on a pedestal.

"Whether it was the flick through mid-wicket or the drive through extra-cover, he never took a backward step.

"I remember him batting for Somerset when [West Indies paceman] Patrick Patterson was at Lancashire.

"Pat used to bowl at the speed of sound and Viv just used to stand up and try to smash it everywhere - it was fantastic cricket.

"Lara is different - he plays with grace but still plays shots to every part of the ground and as well as being very forceful he can also nudge and dab the ball about if needed."

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