Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar is celebrating his 41st birthday today. We wish a Happy Birthday to Shoaib Akhtar, the Rawalpindi Express, the fastest bowler of the world.
A fierce bowler in his playing days has now emerged a funny man in his post-retirement life. He refers himself as the ‘right-arm fast blur’.
Akhtar made his Test debut in 1997 and ODI in 1998, he took the world by storm by his lightning fast deliveries in 1999 World Cup which used to often hit the nose, toes , hand and chest of the batsmen.
He broke the nose of former South African opener Gary Kirsten and many other batsmen like Sourav Ganguly and Andrew Strauss were grounded with lightning fast deliveries. Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly’s rib cage was broken and he had to take bed rest. After this injury, Ganguly, an aggressive left-handed batsman, had to change his approach to the fast bowler. Although, Shoaib always maintained that he never targeted batsmen’s body to hurt them.
He was an enigma, but off the field and off-field controversy ruined his career. He was a cricketer who was “more sinned against than sinning”. He was written his autobiography with an accurate title that reflects his own character –“Controversially Yours”.
Akhtar was a bowler who could make any batsman feel intimated against his bowling. In 2002 Pakistan’s tour of Australia tour Ricky Pointing visibly looked shaken against Akhtar in one of his many unplayable spells. With an accurate line and length, the deliveries zoomed past Ponting at a searing pace, so he got bowled after crawling against Akhtar for the couple of overs.
Wicket of Sachin and Dravid in two successive deliveries
Akhtar also got the prized wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in two successive deliveries, but his eyes didn’t show any sign of glint. But why Akhtar recounted the reasons a year ago to an interview to Wisden, he said, “I follow my instinct always, but you should be aware of what the batsman is going to do. And I knew that Sachin would offer me a shot.”
“Thank you very much, he offered me a gap, and I got through it. I knew I would have to beat him not just with pace but with the swing too.
But for Akhtar, Sachin was not the real nightmare of his life, because he and Sachin enjoyed equal success against each other. Sachin was an aggressive batsman and used to offer a shot to Akhtar that was a good sign as Akhtar used to find a gap between leg and bat of Sachin so he loved to go through the defense of Sachin.
But there was a batsman he feared the most It is not India’s Virender Sehwag, who shares a friendly relationship with Akhtar in their post-retirement life.
In Akhtar’s word, it is India’s wall Rahul Dravid. The Rawalpindi express was intimidated by the wall- Rahul Dravid. It is neither physical intimidation nor brutal shot playing. But it was Rahul’s famous skill to leave the ball and drag down the lightning fast deliveries to his toe in Test cricket. Akhtar was frustrated and his frustration steadily had grown into to fear.
“But yes, Sachin made me a star! So I’m thankful to him. He’s a great batsman, without a doubt. He can play better than anyone else. When he got going, he was a nightmare. But the biggest nightmare I ever faced was Rahul Dravid. He used to bore me. He was the first batsman who could intimidate me, in terms of when he walked in, I knew I would have to field for at least two sessions more,” Akhtar stated.
Akhtar was too much frustrated, even during the 2003 World Cup Super SiX match at Cape Town he indulged in an on-pitch spat with Dravid.
The Rawalpindi bowler also said that he had no ability to beat Dravid. The only bowler who could help Pakistan to get rid of Dravid was legendary Wasim Akram.
“The only guy who could stop him was Wasim (Akram), I had no ability to do that. I think in Test matches he was the toughest I bowled to. Sachin was a brutal force. When he got going, he made sure he scored runs. But Dravid killed you mentally. And physically he tired you. He was like Muhammad Ali, he would tire you out and then knock you down.”
In India, there is a notion that Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were the most feared batsman for Shoaib Akhtar as they brutally battered the fast bowler in their days. But the bowler too enjoyed success in his days.
Akhtar in his post-retirement life often admits that legendary Rahul Dravid created a fear in him. People used to love watching Akhtar’s bowling but, his undisciplined life cut short his career. Heis now a cricket commentator.