Shoaib Akhtar bamboozled former Indian coach South African Gary Kirsten as a net bowler who was so impressed by the pace of the 18-year-old that he even agreed to talk to Pakistan’s team management for his inclusion. The incident happened during one of the games in the 1994/1995 Wills Triangular Series played between Pakistan, South Africa and Australia.
Shoaib Akhtar made a career and terrorized batsmen across the world, but it turns out that even before he made his debut for Pakistan, the Rawalpindi Express left an impact on the South African national cricket team during their tour of Pakistan in the early 1990s.
But it was another three or four years before he debuted for Pakistan. Shoaib Akhtar played for the national side from 1997 to 2011 and represented Pakistan in 46 tests,163 one-dayers and 15 T20 Internationals.
The later format was played by him from 2006 to 2010 and in 15 T20Is he picked up 19 wickets. He also picked up 178 test and 247 one day wickets at healthy averages below 26 in all three formats.
Shoaib Akhtar Recalls When He Was Net Bowler Against South Africa As 18 Year Old
The 1994/95 Wills Triangular Series was played between South Africa, Pakistan and Australia and ahead of one of the games, Akhtar recalled how he as an 18-year-old served as one of the net bowlers for the Proteas and immediately left an impression on their players.
“I became a net bowler for the South Africans. So, the South Africans came up to me, I remember very clearly, there is one gentleman called Gary Kirsten, and Jonty Rhodes,” Akhtar said on the Test Match Special podcast. “They said, ‘Would you like to be a good net fast bowler against us?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I can do that for you [and] very soon, you’ll remember me, that I’ll be playing against you guys.’ They said, ‘So, how’s that?’ And I just asked them to face me.”
South African batsman Gary Kirsten played 101 Tests and 185 ODIs in which he scored over 6000 runs besides coaching India from 2008 to 2011. It was during his tenure that India won the world cup for the second time in 2011 after a long hiatus of 28 years. After the World Cup victory, Gary Kirsten also quit as Indian coach and instead took up coaching for South Africa.
Jonty Rhodes also played for South Africa and was known for his acrobatic fielding, representing them in 52 tests and 245 one-dayers.
Shoaib Akhtar Should Have Been In Team As 18 Year Old
One session of pace bowling by Shoaib convinced his potential, but he lost his peak as he was introduced only four years later in 1997 in Tests and 1998 in one-dayers.
“I then bowled a couple of balls at Gary Kirsten and he said, ‘Oh my Lord, you should have been in the team rather than in the nets.’ I asked if I’m capable enough to be a great fast bowler,” Akhtar added. “He said, ‘You must be kidding me. I am going to vouch for you in the Pakistan dressing room that you should play.’ And Pakistan, what they did is play me four years later. So, I lost my peak there.”
In his 14 year career, Shoaib Akhtar was recognized as the fastest bowler ever in history as he delivered world record speed of 100 miles per hour in a pool one day match against England in 2003 World Cup. He was the first bowler to break the 100 mph barrier and was fondly known as Rawalpindi Express as a tribute to his hometown and pace respectively.