Former West Indies captain Brian Lara has declared Wasim Akram as the fastest and the best bowler he faced during his illustrious 17-year international career.

The pristine left-hander from the ‘Island of the Humming Bird’, Trinidad was unarguably one of the finest and most elegant looking batsmen of our time who remains one of the four batsmen of history besides Don Bradman, Virendar Sehwag, and Chris Gayle to score two triple centuries in Tests. His unbeaten 400 against England at Antigua in 2003 still remains the highest individual score ever made in a Test innings.

Only recently prior to the first Test of the West Indies against South Africa, Lara was the guest of ‘Right to Care’ HIV Aids charity which is headed by the former Test captain of South Africa Dr Ali Bacher, who also happened to be the head of the United Cricket Board and Director of the World Cup 2003.

Taking this as a golden opportunity that Lara was in town in Johannesburg, Bacher invited him in his programme ‘In Conversation’ on Super Sport TV channel where the batting great disclosed in reply to Bacher’s question as to who he thought was the fastest and the best bowlers he faced.

“I have in mind Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Glenn McGrath, Bret Lee, Alan Donald and Makaya Ntini,” Bacher told him.

Lara immediately responded that it was none other than Pakistan’s Wasim Akram.

“Why would you say that,” Bacher asked. Lara replied, “Oh, he was fast and furious. He bowled over and round the wicket, swung the ball both ways, a master of reverse swing and moreover at times he cut the ball prodigiously. His bouncers were fast and slow too and very aggressive when in full flow and very competitive as well.”

Lara continued: “I never felt in control when facing Wasim because he was always very unpredictable.”

Later, I asked Dr Bacher if he was surprised to hear that even a great batsman like Lara also confirmed the genius of Wasim Akram, as did Kallis in one of his earlier interviews. “No, not really. Wasim we all know was the finest around. All the batsmen of his time respected the guy,” said Bacher. In a similar interview last year Jacques Kallis, when talking to Bacher, had aired similar views when talking of fast bowlers that he faced.

In recent times Sachin Tendulkar, Mark Boucher, and Para-Olympian Oscar Pestorious were also guests of Bacher.

In a career span lasting from 1989 to 2006, Lara who made his Test debut against Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium Lahore, scored 11,912 runs for the West Indies at an average of 53.17 in 130 Tests which also included 34 centuries.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2014

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