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Why single Akhtar out?

October 06, 2011

Pakistan cricket has been groped in further controversy since Shoaib Akhtar’s aptly titled “Controversially Yours” was launched almost two weeks ago. Before its official launch in Mumbai and Bangalore, journalists managed to pick out certain portions of the book and flash them as breaking news on various media outlets across India. Pakistani media, as always, was quick to jump onto these bits and pieces of information and, before anyone knew it, there were talk shows on Akhtar’s statements, in Pakistan, and across the border.

Many former cricketers were against these statements and said that this wasn’t the time to release a book like this as the relations between the two countries were getting better. Allegedly, Akhtar had called Tendulkar a ‘coward’, Akram a guy ‘who threatened to walk away’ if Akhtar played his first test, Dravid ‘not a match winner’ and so on.

I, and many other followers, had only one question then – did any of you, who’re audaciously running their mouth against Akhtar, read the book? The answer was, and probably still is, a simple no.

The Indian media picked a line and conveniently dropped the rest of the paragraph in all those cases. They chose to focus on the negatives in his book – and I can say that because I’ve read the book. They completely forgot to mention how much credit Akhtar gave to Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj and Kohli for changing the face of Indian cricket. They didn’t tell us how much he has praised Ganguly in his book. Above all, they ignored Akhtar’s affection for the Indian public as he repeatedly says, in his book that after Pakistan, he got the most amount of love from India. Of course, who cares about the positives, right?

I understand that, in these times, controversial news sells and who better to use than Akhtar to rake in some extra money, right? What I don’t understand is Pakistani media’s obsession with picking up news from another channel and, without clarification or direct quotes from the individual in question, go on and insult him. Drop your heads in shame, really!

Akhtar has, at no point in the book, said that Tendulkar was scared of his bowling. He says that Tendulkar was handicapped by his tennis elbow and was ‘uncomfortable’ facing Akhtar. If you’re an expert, and like to run your mouth at every instance, please watch the highlights of the match he is talking about on YouTube. Tendulkar was visibly ‘uncomfortable’ – unless getting hit on the head means something else. He then goes on to praise Tendulkar as one of the greatest to have played the game.

Media reported that he didn’t think Tendulkar and Dravid were match-winners but they didn’t report, and I am assuming the reporter got lazy, that Akhtar in the next couple of paragraphs explains how Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj and Kohli are great for Indian cricket and, with them, Tendulkar and Dravid have learnt a lesson or two and started winning games.

He says in his book that Akram threatened to walk out of the test Shoaib was going to play in because ‘he probably didn’t want to change a winning combination’. Is that too hard to report? Oh I forgot, reporting the latter wouldn’t sell in the media. He also talks about infighting and how the team didn’t get along closer to the 2003 World Cup. Who here is surprised? Wasn’t this public knowledge that there was drama in the team that led to a disastrous campaign in 2003? Most cricket pundits are now being naïve and playing the ‘oh-we-did-not-know-about-fights-within-the-team’ or ‘dressing-room-stories-should-stay-in-the-dressing-room’ cards. Come on, it was well-documented in the media then and everyone in the country knows about this – why single Akhtar out?

You can hate Akhtar for how controversial he has been but you can’t deny that the guy was a special talent and has won Pakistan many accolades. Sure, there have been controversies but I suggest you read his book before jumping the gun and calling him all sorts of colorful names.

The Pakistan Cricket Board is at fault in the way Akhtar was treated. And isn’t an autobiography about a person’s point of view? If Matthew Hayden airs his views, it’s okay. If Javed Miandad talks about infighting and revolts by players back in the early 1990’s, it’s okay. But if Shoaib Akhtar does it, it’s blasphemy? Let’s give the guy a break.

Fast bowlers are crazy and they’re a rare breed. Give Akhtar credit for being one of the few players who have never been alleged of match/spot fixing, despite being an out-and-out game changer. He is a passionate guy and loves his country so whoever thinks he’s brought shame to Pakistan to sell a few copies of his book and make an extra million or two – please don’t buy the book and stop judging him because he has done more for the country than anyone of us ever will.

A cricket enthusiast who practices accounting on the side. Based in Ottawa but firmly believes that he'll lead the PCB one day.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.