20 September, 2014 / Ziqa'ad 24, 1435
His numbers barely do justice to his talent, but his career was as exhilarating as it gets- Photo by AFP
His numbers barely do justice to his talent, but his career was as exhilarating as it gets- Photo by AFP

Shoaib Akhtar. Fastest bowler ever, doping charges, hit team mate with a bat, ball tampering. Those are just some words that come to mind when you think of Akhtar. Surprisingly, they don’t even tell half the story of his 14-year-old career.

Shoaib, also known as the Rawalpindi Express, was the last genuine fast bowler Pakistan produced in the past two decades. He is a man that fit the role in all aspects, pace as well as attitude. His numbers barely do justice to his talent, but his career was as exhilarating as it gets.

Today, on his 38th birthday, a trip down Shoaib Akhtar’s career seems fitting. The highlights of his career were highlights any cricketer would dream of, the lows, well they were another story.

Akhtar fit into the role Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis vacated, perfectly. He was fast. He was lethal. And he made sure everyone knew that. In the words of the South African great Allan Donald, "he was intimidating. He was very intimidating. I would actually say that out of the three of them (Wasim, Waqar), Shoaib Akhtar was the most intimidating bowler."

Akhtar made evident his rocky personality even before his international debut. He was dropped out of Pakistan’s Sahara Cup squad in 1996 on account of indiscipline. The next year, while touring with Pakistan A, the manager cited him for indiscipline too. His attitude coupled with his injury prone body set the pattern for a career beset by highs and lows. Let’s do Shoaib a birthday favour, though and not focus on the lows. Today we mention his highs, and not the doping ones.

Pak v Aus Brisbane 3rd ODI 19 June 2002

On this day, Shoaib Akhtar was firing on all cylinders. He picked up his first wicket in his first over, hitting Ricky Ponting’s middle stump with an inswinger, hurtling in at over 151 kph. In his next over, he dismissed Darren Lehmann who was beaten for pace by a ball aimed at his leg stump leaving Australia at 52/4. A pacy short ball accounted for Damien Martyn next who couldn’t keep his shot down, handing Saeed Anwar an easy catch at third man. Shoaib’s figures at this point were three overs, three for six with one maiden. In his fifth over, a fast outswinger got Michael Bevan’s outside edge which Rashid Latif collected to leave Australia tottering at 84 for six, chasing 257. When Shoaib returned for his second spell of the match, he picked up a wicket with his first ball- a toe crushing yorker to Jason Gillespie catching him plumb infront of middle stump. Shoaib ended with figures of 8-1-25-5.

Pak v New Zealand Karachi 1st ODI 21st April 2002

On a flat Karachi wicket, the only way to pick up wickets is with pace. Shoaib Akhtar did just that. Here again, he picked up his first wicket in his first over, bowling a fast bouncer to Craig McMillan who pulled it, and got a top edge straight to mid wicket. In the very next over, Akhtar uprooted Jacob Oram’s off stump with a fast yorker to leave New Zealand at 76/5. His third over got him his third wicket, another short ball leaving debutant Robbie Hart in a tangle, gloving it to the keeper. Akhtar’s fourth wicket literally broke the off stump of Andre Adams as he tried to move away and hit Akhtar but was beaten for pace. The next two batsmen were also bowled by Akhtar, who ended with figures of 9-1-16-6, completing a ferocious spell.

New Zealand v Pak Wellington 2nd Test 26-30 December 2003

Shoaib Akhtar picked up 11 wickets in this match, destroying New Zealand’s batting order in each innings. In his second over, Akhtar picked up two wickets, shattering Lou Vincent’s stumps and getting Stephen Fleming lbw 4 balls later to leave NZ at 1-2 after three overs. Shoaib then picked up his third wicket in his eight over getting Scott Styris to edge one through to Moin Khan. New Zealand recovered from the weak start to post a total of 366 with Akhtar picking up two of the last four wickets to end with a tally of 5/48. The Rawalpindi express was even more devastating in the second innings, picking up six wickets, three bowled and one lbw to abruptly end New Zealand’s innings at 103 leaving Pakistan 274 to win, which they completed with 7 wickets to spare.

Pakistan v England Series Lahore Nov/Dec 2005

This was perhaps the pinnacle of Shoaib’s career. In this series, he contributed heavily to Pakistan’s ultimate win at home over England, picking up a total of 17 wickets in the three tests. In the third test, Akhtar’s second ball gave the wicket of Marcus Trescothick in the first over of the match. He followed up with the wickets of Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell, Geraint Jones and Liam Plunkett to end with figures of five for 71 handing Pakistan a huge win by an innings and 100 runs and the series by 2-0. In this tournament, Shoaib Akhtar developed his reputations as a smarter bowler than what he is usually credited for. A lethal yorker, which he always possessed, was now paired with a deceptive, looping slower delivery which tortured the English batsmen all summer long. It is an art Lasith Malinga, the Sri Lankan pacer, has developed since then and it is his claim to fame too.

In all, it can safely be said Shoaib’s returns were far less than what he could have achieved. His injuries, misdemeanors and general attitude led to constant lows followed by his bowling highs. Yet it can also safely be said that he bowled his heart out for his team. With an impossibly long run up, the sight of Akhtar hurtling in was a sight all fans of fast bowling would ache to see again. His trademark aeroplane celebration added to his charisma. He may have let us down with his actions, but he gave us his all. And that is all a fan needs.

One for the memories:


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Comments (30) (Closed)


Pak Cric Fan
Aug 13, 2013 05:41pm

I got to say even with all his off-the-field mishaps; Shoab always gave his 100% whenever he ran up to bowl. He also got most of his wickets against stronger batting sides. Great bowler!

IndianInUS
Aug 13, 2013 07:28pm

He was good, but in my opinion Wasim Akram was still the best.

Amit
Aug 13, 2013 08:29pm

He was talented, but not great like Wasim akram or Imran khan. He was not that disciplined and also fell for the hype created around him as the 'next big thing'. All the best for his birthday.

IK
Aug 13, 2013 08:36pm

Shoaib Akhtar, I cannot express his talent in words as he was the greatest of all-time just like Wasim Akram. We miss you alot.

Tanveer Ahmed Khan
Aug 13, 2013 08:44pm

" the Rawalpindi Express, was the last genuine fast bowler Pakistan produced in the past two decades" ".....it can also safely be said that he bowled his heart out for his team" Great tributes to a passionate cricketer

ahmed
Aug 13, 2013 08:51pm

Shoaib was everything a fast bowler should be. I would take indiscipline over corruption any day in any field of life. Both Afridi and Akhtar have enjoyed their game and played to the spirit just becuase of that.

Dr.Salaria, Aamir Ahmad
Aug 13, 2013 09:23pm

No doubt, he was a great fast bowler who on his day, scared the hell out of the top class batsmen in the world. Who could forget the maiden golden duck he inflicted upon Tendulker while playing in a test match against India on the Indian soil, uprooting his middle stump?

Nevertheless, his off-the-field dubious activities did not bring him good name and reputation in international as well as domestic cricket. It was mainly because of his lack of proper college and or university level education which took its heavy toll on him. In fact that was the main reason that he could not be rated or categorized in the same distinguished tier of top class global fast bowlers of Pakistani origin like Fazel Mahmud, Khan Mohammad, Imran Khan and others.

At the same time, with due respect to Sarfaraz Nawaz, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younus as well as many other similar type of highly talented 'green-shirts' pace bowlers, it merits mention that many neutral, third party and independent cricket scholars, academics and experts also refrain from putting them in the same class and club as that of Imran Khan, Fazel Mahmud and Khan Mohammad. Nevertheless, their on-the-field performance was indeed peerless, highly impressive and at times historic.

M IMRAN
Aug 13, 2013 09:31pm

HE WAS AMAZING TO WATCH

Googly
Aug 13, 2013 10:08pm

Before I say anything else to commend him, I want to wish him Happy Birthday.

He was the bowler I always admired right from the day I initiated hearing him over radio ( the Commentary), then on the television. His aggression, His profuse charm and lethal yorker were absolutely overwhelming and his mere sight was adequate to inflict pain from fear.

I have a wish that we could produce more of bowlers like him. He had immense talent and some discipline problems which deviated him from being as great as WW's though like us all humans he had few short comings. It is a like which I would dedicated to him "That Long Run up to Bowl lethal Yorker at almost 100 MPH , That sound of the Stumps Shattering, That Roar of Passionate Crowd. That Streched Arm Celebration, The Batsmen's eyes fixed at stumps in disbelief".

Umair Khalid
Aug 13, 2013 10:39pm

Gr8 bowler!!! we need another one like him right now!

baqar hasnain
Aug 13, 2013 10:39pm

Thompson was faster than Dennis Lillie. But was he better than Lillie. Roscoe Tanner and Andy Murray were two of the fastest servers in Tennis. Intimidating? You bet. But how many grand slams did they win? Are they considered better tennis players than John McEnroe, Roger Federer, Nadal, etc. Was Shoaib Akhtar intimidating? You bet. But does it make him comparable to Wasim Akram and Imran Khan?

AL
Aug 13, 2013 10:59pm

It didn't matter if he were better than Akram / Younis (discipline or bowling perspective)..... he induced fear like no other. The expression on the batsmen's faces and the way they reacted when they faced Akhtar said it all.

ak
Aug 13, 2013 11:37pm

Sorry to burst the bubble, but very questionable action ....Never thought much of him. Wasim and Waqar were the real magicians

Imran S
Aug 14, 2013 12:00am

Indeed he was a great fast bowler Pakistan has ever produced and probably in international arena. He is one of the finest bowlers Pakistan as had just like as Imran , Wasim & Waqar

aisha
Aug 14, 2013 01:00am

What abt those two deliveries to Dravid and Tendulkar which gave Pakistan its first match in the asian test championship and allowed them to play the finals against SL, which they won.

Critic
Aug 14, 2013 02:08am

@Pak Cric Fan: He gave his 100% only with a view of bowling fast. Did not possess a cricketing brain..Lacked intelligence.

AK
Aug 14, 2013 02:29am

The man is blessed with physical anomoly which he was fortunate to be able to exploit. However, his lack of discpline, physical and verbal, and ill temperment kept him from being one of the all time greats. He is not an example for budding bowlers. It does seem though that some Pakistani batsmen can use his level of confidence.

Having said that, thanks for the entertainment Shoaib Akhter. Have great birthday.

Shaan
Aug 14, 2013 02:35am

Shoaib Akhtar: Chucking, ball tampering, beating team mates, abusing opponents and womanizing are the things which comes to mind.

RATNESH JACHAK
Aug 14, 2013 02:44am

Will Shoheb ever forget his first over against Sachin in WORLD CUP 2003 ?

Aadnan Munir
Aug 14, 2013 04:43am

No Doubt he was the fastest but was not better than Wasim,Waqar and Imran Khan.He wass was only physical aggresive. No disciplane,lack of maturity and lack of wisdom.all the best to him him on this happy occasion.

Sefal Khan
Aug 14, 2013 08:47am

@Tanveer Ahmed Khan:

and he was not a cheat like some others. Love his personality and loved his mesmerising bowling spells. Pakistan will not produce another of his calibre in a hurry.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GREAT MAN

Hyder Ali
Aug 14, 2013 09:42am

Sir,

Shoeb Akhtar was one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time and if he had played under smart manager and captain he would have had a long career.

His aggression and long run up was a treat to watch. The PCB knew he was prone to injuries but they did not manage his work load like sri lanka is managing Malinga and kept on mistreating him both on and off the field.

Regards,

Hyder

Syed
Aug 14, 2013 10:25am

Great talent, but did not do justice to his talent

osman ahmed
Aug 14, 2013 11:55am

Shoaib akhtar was a blessed player, he can still get his name made, I hope he is able to thank Allah and do some good charity work with his fame. He is a kind hearted person and What matters in the end is how he will be remembered after he is gone....He has a lot more to give than just the fast thrilling memories of his awesome spells.....

Muhammad Shoaib
Aug 14, 2013 12:11pm

He Was just.................wordless!

Ali Shah
Aug 14, 2013 12:38pm

He was an awesome sight at full throttle but unfortunately he was a very bad influence on the team. As Geoffrey Boycott said something along these lines on Shoaib's retirement "later on in life when he looks back he will say to himself that it was a special talent that I had and I didn't do justice to it". I wish him well on his birthday.

critic
Aug 14, 2013 01:22pm

@Pak Cric Fan: He was a brainless cricketer.

sikander
Aug 14, 2013 01:39pm

My salute to this great bowler. He had all the passion and winning spirit inside him. God gifted talented person. ALLAH bless you always! Ameen!!!!!!! Have a great birthday!

Rashad
Aug 14, 2013 03:19pm

I think the writer missed out the asian test series in which he clean bowled tendulkar for golden duck! that was i guess the delivery of the decade from him. never has a stadium been silenced in such a fashion. Memories. the current pakistani team is not even a fickle of what it was then! :(

Biggy
Aug 15, 2013 01:22am

@baqar hasnain: no argument that you can't teach pace.. that comes naturally however to your point, Wasim and Imran and even Waqar were on a difference plain field. Shoaib was intimidating, he was fast but what Imran and the Sultans of swing brought on a game to game basis was superb!!