Shoaib Akhtar – A fan’s perspective!
August 15, 2011
Little did anyone know about this bowler who had only taken 2 wickets on his test debut in the November of 1997 against West Indies at Rawalpindi,playing from Pakistani side. He was set to make his debut in 1996 against India in Sahara cup, but was dropped from the squad on the grounds of poor disciplinary behavior. Thus we can say that from the inception of his career controversies shrouded him. But wait! That is too soon to judge a player of the caliber of Shoaib. Injuries and controversies did slow his career and him down, but could not break him, his pace, his determination and his love for his country.
His first breathtaking performance came in the summer of 1998 when he destroyed a formidable South African batting line up in which he dismissed Jaque Kallis, AC Hudson, Mark Boucher, Lance Klusener and PS de Villiers. But the Rawalpindi Express set its journey with full throttle in the Asian Test champonship in 1999 in Kolkata where the pacer dismissed Dravid and legendary Tendulker on two sensational successive in-swinging yorkers. From thereon he was the star for Pakistan and was very critical in the world cup of 1999 in England. Especially in the semi final against New Zealand his fiery spell is still savored by cricket lovers.
Then came the first call on his action and a subsequent season filled with injuries and controversies. Missed most of the 2000 and 2001 season but got clear for action from ICC for the last time. Then came 2002 which was a glorious year for Akhtar, as he proved to be a bolt not only for Kiwis but also for the World Champions Kangaroos. Aah and also he bowled the first ball ever to touch 100 mph. But again he was involved in another ball tampering controversy.
2003-2007 proved mixed years for him as all other seniors and the superstar were dropped after the dismal performance of the National side in the World Cup of 2003. He got banned for tampering the ball again, got banned for abusing on the field to Paul Adams, involved in night club controversy and rapport with Inzimam and Bob Woolmer eroded, performed at peak in series against England, was tested positive for using a banned steroid Nandrolone and got banned again for some time, dropped from the 30-man squad for World Cup 2007 for being unfit (for which he would have been thankful after the abysmal performance of the team) and hit fellow cricketer Muhammad Asif with a bat for which and a couple of other things he got a 13 match ban and a fine of USD57000.
From 2008 onwards it is a rocky career that Shoaib followed. He landed with a five year ban with PCB,which was later repealed and faced a demotion in the Central Contract of PCB,which also was later paid for by PCB when he was selected back in the top category in the new Contract under the new management. He was further embarrased by PCB when the officials disclosed his skin problems in the public. He then made a comeback and did a good job to be selected for the 2011 World Cup. His spell in the World Cup against Sri Lanka was crucial to lead Pakistan to victory.But then, he was declared unfit after a dismal performance against New Zealand and despite the pressure of his fans and his own will, he was not played against India and his career also ended in a way he would have never wanted.
Despite all the controversies and injuries he always proved to be an asset to the Team Pakistan. People judge him by the no of controversies that he got involved in, but he was that Stallion which very people knew to handle. When you are the Fastest and most feared bowler of your time, you are treated differently. Many former captains had opined that if Shoaib was treated in a less strict but normal manner he would have been a much better performer. He, indeed, is a legend who will always be missed by cricket lovers on the field. An era that could have shone much brighter and a legacy that fast bowlers will always want to inherit.