Sachin Tendulkar has pipped Brian Lara as Shane Warne's greatest cricketer. Warne, who released the last ten names of his 50 greatest cricketers, said it was a "close call" to choose between Tendulkar and Lara, but rates the Indian ahead because of his 'mental toughness'. "I place him (Tendulkar) very slightly ahead of Lara because I found him slightly tougher mentally. It is such a close call," Warne writes in the The Times. Strangely, no Australian features in Warne's top three -- Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Curtly Ambrose.
While Australians Allan Border and Glenn McGrath are ranked fourth and fifth respectively, Wasim Akram, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ricky Ponting, Mark Taylor and Ian Healy make the rest of the top 10 in that order.
For Warne, Tendulkar remained an unsolved riddle throughout his playing career, and even admitted once that the Indian gives him nightmares.
"You have to watch India in India truly to appreciate the pressure that Sachin Tendulkar is under every time he bats. Outside grounds, people wait until he goes in before paying to enter. They seem to want a wicket to fall even though it is their own side that will suffer.
"This is cricket as Sachin has known it since the age of 16. He grew up under incredible weight of expectation and never buckled once not under poor umpiring decisions or anything else," Warne said.
Time and again Australia have been a mute spectator to Tendulkar's prowess and Test cricket's highest wicket-taker recalled those moments.
"Like Lara, he has scored runs all over the world. I have seen him run down the pitch and hit Glenn McGrath over the top for six, and I have seen him hit me for six against the spin going around the wicket. I have been lucky to get to know him off the field as well. He is quiet and humble. A great player and a great man."
As for Lara, Warne says, "Whether you played with him or against him, you were in awe of Brian Charles Lara. I loved his strut, his swagger and his ability to hit four after four with his high backlift and incredible placement.
"At times I felt as though we could bowl 100mph or spin it 14 feet and he still would not get out. His number 3, Curtly Ambrose breathed fire in the hearts of Australians.
"He could take your head off if he wanted, and he did have that nasty streak. I don't remember him ever giving me a half-volley or anybody else for that matter.
"He turned a game and the series in Perth in 1992-93 with a spell of seven wickets for one run. Early in my career, I watched in amazement at his brilliance," he writes.
Among other Indians who features in Warne's list are Aniul Kumble (13), Rahul Dravid (14), Kapil Dev (40), Ravi Shastri (42), Dilip Vengsarkar (46).