There has been the most arresting rivalry in world cricket during the 90s, and long after two of the greatest ever batsmen have bid adieu to limited overs cricket, Sachin Tendulkar versus Brian Lara still generates awe and opinion.
The most recent to join the debate is flamboyant Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi, who has rated the West Indian great above Tendulkar and Aussie Ricky Ponting.
“Lara was the best batsman I have seen in my entire career spanning 16 years better. Personally I found him to be a class above the two other greats of this era, Tendulkar and (Ricky) Pointing,” Afridi said in an interview.
“He was the most difficult batsman I have bowled to in every format of the game. He could play and hit boundaries at will. Especially against the spinners he produced boundaries out of the hat, a superb player and I enjoyed watching him bat,” Afridi said while talking about the greatest players of his era.
Afridi said there were times when he felt that Lara could play blindfolded.
“At times, I felt he was so good at playing spin he could even bat well against them blindfolded. Tendulkar and Pointing are also greats but I thought Lara was a cut above them,” he said. Talking about the greatest bowlers of his time, Afridi praised Australian, Glenn McGrath and compatriot Mohammad Asif who could swing the new ball both ways at will.
“They were the only bowlers who I felt knew when they were going to bowl inswing or outswing and that is a big quality in any bowler,” he explained. Afridi also talked about his comeback and a resurgence in his career.
“Now whenever I get out, I talk to myself and I curse myself for not finishing off a match if I am batting. It has helped me a lot this self assessment therapy,” he said. Afridi admitted he didn’t think much about his batting after getting out or didn’t do enough post-examination.
“But now when I am batting I am eager to finish off matches myself. I keep on talking to myself and even if I get out, I keep on analysing myself.”
The flamboyant all-rounder said he was keen to keep on playing for Pakistan but with self-respect.
“I have seen the fate of some of our former greats and how they went out. I don’t want to go through that phase. I can say this safely I will know when the time is right for me to go. Right now the time is good for me and I can carry on performing in Twenty20 and ODI cricket,” he said.
Afridi conceded that in the past he had made mistakes in his career but insisted he never compromised on self-respect.
“I am that sort of a person if I feel I am not wanted or I don’t get along with someone I will not play. I couldn’t get along with Waqar Younis when he was captain so I decided not to play and stepped aside.”
He also described Misbah-ul-Haq as a good captain who was a good planner.
“He is an excellent planner but unfortunately not everything you plan is executed all the time. And one can’t expect him to treat other players like schoolchildren,” he said. (windiescricket)