S is for (S)hoaib Akhtar the Rawalpindi Express who sent shivers down batsmen’s spine – #BlogchatterAtoZ #AtoZChallenge 2019
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia.org
For the letter ‘S’, I had numerous choices. In fact, starting from Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova to Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar I was spoilt for choice. But I was looking for someone who was extremely colourful on and off the field and at the same time controversial. Then, I thought to myself ‘Why not Shoaib Akhtar the bowler who has bowled the fastest delivery ever recorded?’ So for ‘S’, it is going to be Shoaib Akhtar the lethal quickie from Pakistan whom most batsmen are terrified of.
Shoaib Akhtar was born in a small town in Morgah near Rawalpindi in Pakistan. His family belonged to the economically underprivileged Gujjar community. His father Mohammed Akhtar was a night watchman at a petrol station and his mother was Hameeda Awan. She had married Mohammed when she was still in her teens. Shoaib Akhtar is the fourth of Mohammed and Hamida’s five children. Shoaib’s brothers are Shahid, Tahir and Obaid and his younger sister’s name is Shumaila. Shoaib Akhtar married Rubab Khan on 25, June 2014.
Shoaib was a good student and was admitted to the Asghar Mall college. He disrupted his studies for Cricket and after some initial struggle, he began his List A career in the 1993/1994 season and his first-class career in 1994/1995. His excellent play in the List A and first-class matches caught the eye of Majd Khan, who was the chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board at that time. Shoaib went to England as a member of the Pakistan A team and his performance was excellent.
He was rewarded his maiden Test cap against the West Indies in 1997. Akhtar debuted in the 2nd test of the series on his home ground Rawalpindi. His performance was rather modest. He was again included in all three tests played during Pakistan’s tour of South Africa in 1998. The Australians visited Pakistan in 1998 and in the second test played at Peshawar, Akhtar was the spearhead of a depleted Pakistani attack. Mark Taylor scored 334 not out in the Australian first innings in this test. At that point in time after 8 tests and 16 innings, Akhtar had only 18 wickets to his name.
Akhtar started performing impressively only in the year 1999 during the pre-world cup series in India. He performed outstandingly in the bowling department in a match at Sharjah and later in the 1999 Cricket World Cup. He played against Australia in 2002 and achieved a lot of success. His performance in the 2003 Cricket World Cup was poor and he was dropped from the Pakistan squad.
Shoaib Akhtar is known to have bowled the fastest delivery ever recorded in the history of cricket at 161.3 km/h (100.23 mph). He bowled this delivery against England on 22 February 2003 in a World Cup match at Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa. Even though this is the fastest ever recorded delivery, there are many old-timers who consider Australia’s Jeff Thomson to be the fastest ever bowler.
According to Rodney Marsh who used to keep wickets for Jeff Thomson, there were times when he suspected the speeds of Thomson’s deliveries to have reached up to 170 km/h. These were just not recorded as they were bowled in the seventies. And another thing is nowadays the speed of the delivery is recorded as soon as the ball leaves the bowler’s hand but the earlier known mechanisms recorded it when the ball reaches the batsman’s end.
Akhtar was again called back for the 2004 test match series against New Zealand and then the series against India. Pakistan lost the test series against India. During the series with India, there was a controversy when Akhtar left the field citing an injury which caused captain Inzamam-Ul-Haq to suspect his commitment to the team. His relationship with his captain and coach Bob Woolmer soured.
Finally, all suspicions about the injury were dispelled when a panel set up by the Pakistan Cricket Board gave him a clean chit. In 2005, Akhtar shone in a home series against England and regained his reputation as a great fast bowler. He made a series of impressive bowling performances and used slower deliveries so effectively that they proved unplayable for the English batsmen.
In this series, he emerged as the highest wicket-taker with seventeen wickets. Prior to this performance, he had been criticized from all corners about his attitude and commitment. The English captain Michael Vaughn also acknowledged Akhtar’s performance and remarked: “I thought he (Shoaib) was a big difference between the two teams”. In 2006, Akhtar was handed out a two-year ban along with Mohammed Asif who was banned for a year after both were found guilty of using the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone, by a three-man drug tribunal set up by the Pakistan Cricket Board.
Both the players were pulled out of Pakistan’s squad for the Champions Trophy on October 16, the day before their opening game. Akhtar was indicted on for four counts of indiscipline, including hitting his teammate Mohammed Asif with a bat during the earlier tour of South Africa.
Akhtar made his return from the ban on 15, June 2010 taking 3 wickets for 28 runs against SriLanka in the first match of the Asia Cup. Subsequently, he played in T20’s against England. In the meanwhile, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir, Pakistan’s strike bowlers were suspended by ICC for spot-fixing. Akhtar continued to bowl well in ODIs. Though he bowled well, Pakistani coach Waqar Younis felt that the team should not depend overly on Akhtar as he was 35 by that time and was troubled by frequent injuries. Akhtar was selected in the 15-man squad for the 2011 World Cup. During the world cup, he announced that he would retire from international cricket at the end of the world cup.
In September 2011, he released his autobiography “Controversially Yours” in which he famously stated “Sachin Tendulkar Mujh Se Darta Tha”. This was denounced by his own countryman and legendary fast bowler Wasim Akram who had bowled to Sachin Tendulkar in numerous matches. Akhtar also played for the IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders. Akhtar’s career is one that has seen numerous injuries and controversies. He often struggled with wrist and back injuries.
He was caught ball tampering in a triangular series held in SriLanka which led to a ban. He was sent back from Australia in 2005 with a hamstring injury. There were also rumours of attitudinal problems and indiscipline. In February 2006 he was forced to undergo surgery because of a knee injury. He was also accused of slapping Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer following a fight over the music to be played in the team bus during the ICC Champions Trophy.
In spite of all this, he has earned a name as one of the greatest fast bowlers who ever bowled the cricket ball. Coming to statistics, he has played 46 test matches, scored 577 runs with an average of 10.07 and a top score of 47. He has bowled 8,143 balls and taken 178 wickets at an average of 25.69. He has taken 5 wickets in an innings 12 times and he has taken 10 wickets in a match twice. His best bowling figures are 6/11.
In ODI’s he has played 163 matches and scored 394 runs at an average of 8.95 with a highest of 43. He has bowled 7,764 balls and taken 247 wickets at an average of 24.97. He has taken 5 wickets in an innings 4 times and his best bowling figures are 6/16. In T20’s he has played 15 matches and scored 21 runs at an average of 7. He has bowled 318 balls and taken 19 wickets at an average of 22.73. His best figures in T20’s is 3/38.
Many people including Imran Khan believe that if it were not for fitness problems, lack of discipline, and a tendency to be controversial, Shoaib Akhtar would have been one of the greatest fast bowlers the world has ever seen. But unfortunately his errant nature led him astray and he is remembered mainly for the fastest ball ever bowled in cricketing history. A great player who went wayward. I hope you enjoyed reading about Shoaib Akhtar. Tomorrow I will be back with another sporting great.
Tags – #BlogchatterAtoZ 2019 #AtoZChallenge 2019