Tendulkar v Murali a farewell battle to cherish
MUMBAI - Legends Sachin Tendulkar and Muttiah Muralitharan face-off in a mouth-watering duel for the last time when India and Sri Lanka clash in the World Cup final on Saturday.
The contest between the world's leading batsman and highest wicket-taker in their final appearance in cricket's showpiece event will add spice to the big game at the Wankhede stadium. Muralitharan, who turns 39 next month, will leave international cricket after the World Cup with more Test (800) and one-day (534 so far) wickets than any bowler in history.
Tendulkar's batting skills have not diminished even as he celebrates his 38th birthday next month, but he is unlikely to make a record seventh World Cup appearance in 2015.
A World Cup title has eluded the Indian star despite being the sport's most successful batsman with a record 32,785 runs and 99 centuries in Test and one-day cricket.
Muralitharan tasted World Cup glory in his maiden appearance in 1996 when Arjuna Ranatunga's men stunned Australia in the final in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
The ageing superstars have led from the front in this tournament to carry their teams into the final. Tendulkar's 464 runs in eight matches are just three behind Sri Lankan Tillakaratne Dilshan's record tally of 467, while the wily Muralitharan has claimed 15 wickets despite battling injuries.
Muralitharan has soldiered on bravely over the past six weeks despite being afflicted by hamstring and groin injuries, a side strain and a troublesome knee. An appreciative Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara said winning the World Cup for Muralitharan has motivated his team.
"Murali is a legend to bowl virtually on one leg and still get wickets," the captain said.
"He is the icon of Sri Lanka, on and off the field, a fantastic human being and a great team man."
The off-spinner is the only player from either side to enjoy a World Cup triumph. Tendulkar was 10 years old when India won the tournament under Kapil Dev in 1983, while five of his current team-mates -- Ravichandran Ashwin, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla and Munaf Patel -- were not even born.India's South African coach Gary Kirsten, who played against Tendulkar in the 1990, regards the batting star as his hero and the "backbone" of the team.