Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Shoaib Akhtar...

Shoaib Akhtar,

He is a former fast bowler for Pakistan, and to date has the record for the fastest delivery to be bowled. His record breaking delivery was clocked at 161.3 km/h (100.2 mph), and was bowled during an ODI against England.

His blistering pace and accuracy had many batsmen in a flurry, and his searing yorkers sent many stumps flying. That's not to say he wasn't a colourful character, I guess that's what made Shoaib who he was. He had been involved in several controversies during his career. One example being embroiled in a drug scandal after testing positive for a banned substance, however the ban imposed on him was lifted on court appeal.

He was banned on the 1st of April for five years for publicly criticizing the Pakistan Cricket Board, however in October 2008, the Lahore High Court suspended the five year ban and Akhtar was selected in the 15-man squad for the Twenty20 Quadrangular Tournament in Canada.

His most significant performance was in India in 1999 when he captured eight wickets in the Asian Test championship match at Calcutta, including getting the two stars of Indian cricket off successive deliveries, the two batsmen were Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

In a career which had never got fully going, some would say he never produced his full potential, when it seemed he had got his career going with some top performances, it would then end with controversy.

He performed badly during the 2003 Cricket World Cup and was therefore dropped from the Pakistan squad, but was later selected again for the 2004 Test march series against New Zealand, but struggled in a losing Test series against India in 2004. And his participation in the series ended once again in controversey when he left the field citing an injury, which had Inzamam-ul-Haq suspicious of him and his commitment to the team. As a result his relationship with Inzamam and Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer deteriorated.

In 2005 he regained his place in the side, playing in a three Test home series against England. His impressive use of slower deliveries completely fooled the English batsmen, and he took an impressive 17 wickets in the series.

On the 16th of October, Akhtar was suspended by the Pakistan Cricket Board, along with Mohammed Asif after the pair had tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance called nandrolone, and both were removed from the ICC Champions Trophy in 2006, despite both of them maintaining their innocence they failed to convince the committee of their innocence. Akhtar was later given a two year ban and Asif was given a one year ban.

Then on the 5th of December 2006, Akhtar and Asif were acquitted by the tribunal appointed to review their appeals against the ban they had been given.

Akhtar wasn't far from more controversy when an officer assigned to the Pakistan team in India during November 2006, Anil Kaul, alleged that Akhtar had slapped Bob Woolmer following a fight over what music was to be played on the team bus, both Akhtar and Woolmer strongly denied these allegations.

On the 29th of October 2007, Akhtar made a return to cricket from his 13 match ban and performed well, he took 4-43 against South Africa in the fifth and deciding One Day International series in Lahore, and went on to be selected for the 16-man squad for the 2007 tour of India.

Akhtar had also managed to participate in the famous Indian Premier League, he made a return to cricket playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders against Delhi Daredevils. They were defending quite a low total of 133, and Akhtar took four top order wickets which helped restrict Delhi to 110, and he finished with figures of 4-11 from only three overs.

His career would take a further hit when Akhtar was withdrawn from the 15-man squad for the 2009 World T20 World Cup, with a very strange and revealing statement, that he had been withdrawn because he had been diagnoses with genital viral warts.

Many had believed that Akhtar was indeed finished with International cricket, he had put on weight and was getting on in years but Akhtar did what he did best, he surprised everyone and made a return to International cricket.

In May 2010, he was named in a list of 35 probables for the Asia Cup, and on the 15th of June 2010, Akhtar did indeed make his return against Sri Lanka in the first match of the Asia Cup, and he finished with figures of 3-28.

He would later be selected for the Twenty20 series against Australia but the selectors did not risk him playing in the Test squad, as it would put him in danger of picking up an injury, but was selected for the Twenty20 series against England in September 2010.

In the Twenty20 against England he bowled an impressive spell and returned with figures of 2-23, and continued to bowl well in the ODI series in the absence of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, who were suspended by the ICC amid allegations of spot-fixing. Though had was of a more mature age then when he had started, one thing was clear, he had not lost any of his pace, he had shown a lack of match fitness but the pace that had warmed so many people over the years was still there for all to see.

His performances had him selected for the tour of New Zealand and his started off well with 3 wickets in the first of two Twenty20 Internationals against New Zealand.

He was also selected for the 15-man squad for the 2011 cricket World Cup, and he also had announced the news we all had expected but didn't want to hear, the news that he would retire from International cricket at the end of the World Cup.

On the 16th of June 2011, Akhtar had decided to pull out of the Sri Lankan Premier League due to personal reasons, Akhtar said that his parents are old and he wanted to spend time with them, and he had no desire to step back onto the cricket field again but if a youngster needed his help, he would visit from time to time to help but no more of this game, he had spent 18 years in cricket and wanted to spend time exploring other parts of the world, and get involved in charity work.

There is a battle on the cricket field between Pakistan and India, but Akhtar was one of the few that would be mentioned by Indian cricket enthusiasts.

Many would believe that Akhtar never fully fulfilled his potential in cricket, but while he was there he showed the world what he was able to do, his pace was his weapon of choice, his exceedingly long run ups, his arms sometimes stretched out before the release of the ball, his battle with his discipline and his battle for speed with Brett Lee and Shaun Tait made him the one to watch, it also made him someone you loved to hate. Will we ever see someone like him again I don't know, because he left a mold that's very hard to fill. He was indeed a flawed character but don't we all have flaws, maybe that's why we all liked him so much.

So I wish The Rawalpindi Express, all the best, and thanks for the memories...

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