West Indian great and former captain Brian Lara was one batsman who tackled two of the best spinners of any era, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, without too much trouble. Lara says he got very good at playing spin as a result of tennis ball cricket.
“We played with tennis balls, and you can actually chuck the tennis ball,” Lara told The Telegraph. “In softball cricket, you can chuck it into the pitch, turn it a mile. And I felt that was a huge part of understanding how to play spin from an early age. If you were to ask me ‘spin or pace?’ I’ll tell you spin every single day. It just came as something natural.”
Lara, who is taking over as head coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad this season, also talks about his battles with Warne and Muralitharan.
He says during the initial phase of batting against the Sri Lankan during the 2001 series in which he scored 688 runs in six innings he was at sea but slowly but surely figured Muralitharan out.
“What Murali didn’t realise is that for the first 20 minutes of every innings, I really was not reading him. I kept sweeping and getting a single, getting off strike. And then eventually you start getting accustomed to what he was doing with the ball and then eventually he lost a bit of confidence maybe. Murali was harder to face at the beginning of the innings. But as I got better out in the middle, Murali knew he could get the rest of the players out so the field would spread and I’d get a single.”
Warne became a tougher rival to faces as he got better with age and experience, Lara said.
“I read Warnie easily but he became more difficult as he seemed to get better.”
Lara added that he read Warne from the hand rather than the pitch, because the second method would leave it too late to pick the ball.
“A lot of people try to read off the pitch. I think that’s a bit too late. So, I’m trying to understand what’s coming out of the bowler’s hand. I read Warnie quite easily. But what made him great was the fact that he never gave up and he was always going to come out and produce something to confuse you.”