Former Pakistan batsman Basit Ali on Sunday named Brian Lara as the best batsman in the world, just a day after Australian paceman Glenn McGrath rated the West Indies legend a rung higher than Sachin Tendulkar.
Basit, a minefield of unrealised talent, had little doubt that Lara deserved the highest pedestal among contemporary batsmen.
"He [Lara] is above Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. He is right up there. His consistency and penchant for big scores is phenomenal and unmatched by anyone," said Basit, who bid adieu to the game in 1996 when he was just 26.
He felt that Lara still has it in him to inspire the Caribbeans to put up a big fight in the World Cup to be played on their home turf in March-April next.
"I have no doubt that despite limited resources at his disposal, he can lift the West Indies to great performances in the World Cup with his own charisma and batting skills," Basit said.
The former Test player met Lara when the West Indian captain was in Karachi during the recent tour of Pakistan.
"I still follow cricket matches. It is my first love. Lara is a good friend and it was good to hear him talk about his team and the coming World Cup," Basit said.
He, however, did not seem too confident about the chances of sub-continental teams and their star players at the quadrennial extravaganza.
"I fear for the worst. You may see lot of careers ending on a sad note. I don't want to take names but certainly my assessment this time is that the Asian teams will find it tough going despite all the talk about pitches being slow and similar to pitches in our part of the world."
Basit said Asian teams are not paying enough attention to specialist players nowadays.
"Unfortunately, people have become very generous while using the term all-rounder for someone," he felt.
Basit, who played 19 Tests and 50 one-dayers for Pakistan, said his greatest regret was not playing a Test match against India.
"I just got to play three one-dayers against them in Sharjah. I would have loved the challenge of facing them in Test cricket."
In the three matches against India, Basit had scores of 75 not out, 57 and 32.
He, however, has no regret about walking away from the game when he did.
Basit, along with wicketkeeper Rashid Latif rocked the cricket world when on the tour of South Africa and Zimbabwe in 1994, they announced their retirements at the height of the match-fixing scandal.
"The unfortunate aspect is fingers were pointed at me. But I don't regret the past. Whatever happened had to happen. I went out at the right time. I was not enjoying my cricket," Basit said.
"It is the past now. It was unfortunate. But in a way a lot of good things came out of that scandal. Things are different now," he added.
"It was a painful period of my life physically and mentally. But God also helped me come through it," said Basit, whose retirement was described by Javed Miandad as one of the biggest losses for Pakistan cricket.