Shoaib Akhtar: Farewell to a superstar

Published: April 18, 2011
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The dignity with which he took retirement is a rarity in Pakistan cricket.

In a touching gesture, the cricketing regions of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have decided to arrange a series of farewell matches for their favourite son Shoaib Akhtar.

Shoaib – who retired from the game during World Cup 2011 – is one of the most exciting players to have ever stepped onto a cricket field. He is a player who drew contrasting opinions, ranging from being an unfit, undisciplined player to an asset who could have contributed more to Pakistan cricket had the administrators handled him wisely.

The fighter

There is no doubt that Shoaib was a temperamental player who regularly got into trouble because of his flare-ups. But having said this, it was the duty of the administrators to ensure that they extracted the best out of this resource.

Unfortunately, the bosses at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were found wanting in their management skills. His frequent injuries – leading to much of the defamation that he received – can be attributed to the fact that unlike his predecessors, Shoaib seldom had the luxury of bowling alongside genuine strike bowlers and hence always had to put in more than his 100 per cent. But he was a fighter; despite encountering a series of fines, bans and injuries, he never gave up and kept fighting his way back into the team.

Shoaib, the misfit

Shoaib’s stats do not warrant him a place among the world’s all time greats but his record of 178 wickets in 46 Tests is not all that bad either. However, it was not the wickets that were his principal contribution. It was the attitude that he brought to the team that made him a larger-than-life figure. Unfortunately, the administration failed to cash in on his star power at a time when the country’s cricket needed it the most. They did not appreciate that the team was a much more marketable one with Shoaib in its ranks.

Perhaps he was a misfit in the Pakistani team of the new millennium, a team of limited appeal and characterised by defensive leadership. He would have been much more acceptable had he played his cricket a decade back in a team known for its intensity.

Dazzling performances

With his frightening pace and vicious swing, during his prime Shoaib Akhtar  was one of the most delightful sights to watch in action. The first time Shoaib came across the great Sachin Tendulkar, he saw his middle stump uprooted with a deadly yorker. His first encounter with the revered Brian Lara was no less enthralling as a fearsome bouncer crashed into the helmet of the left-handed genius.

Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh became his victims on back-to-back deliveries in Brisbane minutes after Shoaib had made a dramatic late match entry in a four-wheel drive vehicle. He lit up the World Cup 1999 with blistering pace and carried Pakistan to the final. His devastating first spell for the Kolkata Knight Riders left the home crowd and the franchise owner Shahrukh Khan in frenzy. He also has the distinction of bowling the fastest recorded delivery in international cricket. Shoaib was a superstar, a showman, a man who loved the attention and the accolades, a bowler who thrived on the big stage.

Shoaib, the warrior

Compared to many of the big names that have represented Pakistan over the years, Shoaib distinguished himself on many counts. Despite his dubious fitness, he never appeared to be someone who would chicken out of key matches; in fact, it possibly goes to his credit that it was always the administration or the selectors who would keep him out of the team.

Also, in a country where any cricketer who has spent half a decade or even less in the national team considers captaincy as his birthright, he is an exception. He is possibly the only high profile Pakistani cricketer of his generation who has never vied for the coveted post. He is also among only a handful of Pakistani cricketers who have stood tall amidst all the corruption scandals that have tarnished the image of Pakistan’s cricket over the last decade or so.

Last but not least, the dignity with which he took retirement is a rarity in Pakistan cricket where even the greats prefer to fade away rather than gracefully calling it a day.

It is a pity that instead of the PCB coming forward, it has been left to the local cricketing bodies to recognise the services of this fast bowling icon; perhaps it is still not late for the PCB to forget about the controversies associated with the enigmatic paceman and celebrate his career for the sheer joy that it brought to millions, the entertainment that he provided to his fans, the star value that he gave to a struggling team and the hope that he gave to a troubled nation.

The ‘Rawalpindi Express’ surely deserves a grand send-off.

Syed Mustafa

Syed Mustafa

An MBA from the Institute of Business Administration who currently works at Engro.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • bvindh

    Shoaib’s only problem was that he was always an attention seeking diva……apart from being a steroid abuser, being prone to (physically) attacking own team mates and having genital warts that is.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Fast blower are like that I guess ..attention seekers if one remember Dennis “The menace” Lilly as well. I think Shoiab did play good cricket as well. I remember him for his wickets of TENDULKAR AND DRAVID in Eden garden Calcutta wicket uprooted Gavaskar say it ten thousand miles an hour and Calcutta silenced. His fastest spells in south Africa and Australia. His helmet crashing bouncers to Gary Kirsten and rib breaking balls to Saurav, Lara and many other who feared them the most.

    Shoaib Akhtar was flamboyant but not a bad mouth or Arrogant like Dennis Lilly. When he saw Gary and Lara stuck by his ball he rushed to them and transform from a furious blower to any ordinary sportsman on the field.

    Shoiab annoyingly bowled far to many no balls and wide to other team advantage but when he struck wicket and bats also broke along with opposite team’s morale.

    Indians were terrified of him as i remember Joke singh Buddhoo asking with the strutter “I ggguess the bbig question is, Rameez Is the sshhoib Akhtar playingg?

    Great blower all in all and Pakistani side did miss him in the match against India this wc and will miss him as he has left the stage. Recommend

  • Ehsan

    It would have been good if he had applied himself and played for the team and nation in mind… but he was more interested in everything else… steroids, indiscipline, warts, ball tampering, ipl money…. well the list can go on.
    But many of these things he could have easily done with out.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    @bvindh
    even with all that, the indians could never learn to play him.. he was a champion on the field!Recommend

  • http://hhkt.wordpress.com Speed Akhtar

    @bvindh:
    coming from a person whose country with a Population of 115 crores couldn’t Produce a SINGLE Genuine FAST bowler! I can understand! :)Recommend

  • Usman

    Thank God, someone speaks for the great fast bowler…
    He was threat for every batsman. He was one of the crowd puller and a bowler every team dreams of…
    God bless Shoaib & his supporters…. and May God bless Pakistan fighters like him…Recommend

  • Majid

    Shoaib Akhtar remains one of the most special and dedicated sportsmen to serve Pakistan. To set the records straight, Shoaib Akhtar has never had his name attached to any match-fixing controversy. Let alone match-fixing, he did not even opt for the unofficial ICL, a league where Razzaq, Inzamam, Yousuf, Imran Farhat and others all went. Thinking Shoaib wouldn’t have been offered millions to play in ICL, is a bit naive. As far as his personal life (women) is concerned, how would anyone rate Imran Khan and Wasim Akram in achievements in that department?
    And finally drugs: Mushtaq Ahmed and Wasim Akram were apparently caught with cannabis on a beach in West Indies in 1993, and Miandad had to intervene to get them released.
    I think Wasim Akram (remember 2000 Justice Qayyum report and 1996 World Cup Quarter Final) was a far more corrupted character than Shoaib Akhtar, but somehow we just love to adore Akram. Recommend

  • http://hhkt.wordpress.com Speed Akhtar

    In an Interview earlier in his career the lady asked : “Do you see ‘Fear’ in the Eyes of a batsman when you’re running towards him” ? Akhtar Replied : “YES , EVERY TIME I BOWL , I can see That Fear RIGHT In the Eyes of EVERY batsman ,NO ONE! NO ONE In this World Likes the Ball Coming RIGHT ON HIS FACE” – That is Shoaib Akhtar For You.
    Hes the SUPERSTAR!
    Love You Shoaib Akhtar!!
    Love You With All my heart!Recommend

  • Anoop

    @Pakistani:

    We have played him well and at the biggest of the stages. Dont you remember Sachin hoisting him for Six over 3rd man? We won comfortably against Pakistan in World Cup 2003 and Shoaib was playing alright.Recommend

  • mr chohan

    shoaib akhtar is a legend, its just a shame that the corruptd pcb treated this star very badly & also stooped so low that they put false claims on him too which made him miss many matches. i cant believe such corrupted ppl are in charge of the pcb as pak cricket cannot prosper as the pcb are only good for ruining players careers & not forget kamran akmal for dropping those catches which cut akhtars career short, just like to pay tribute to the fastest bowler ever he has made our nation i thank him for those forever cherishing moments& memories he has given i still watch his wickets on youtube just a delight to watch him bowl take wickets poetry in motion salaam to the legend!!Recommend

  • Haris

    Shoiab Akhter was THE most feared bowler of the decade. Period!Recommend

  • http://facebook ZAHID NAWAB KHAN

    Shoaib Akhter is a great player, Always he play for Pakistan, ut in our country no honour for Heros, we give honour to Stupid Peoples…like politicians, Beaurocrates, Jernals, Dectator…But Shoaib is a Big Player, we always mis himRecommend

  • Expat

    People all around the world love to see someone like Shoaib bowl and I have had the pleasure of watching him a few times, he is surely one of the best fast bowlers of all times. Recommend

  • Arif Z

    He had the chance to become a real hero but almost ended up becoming the opposite with his doping, warts and infighting.
    During his prime time he was one of the fastest bowlers, and only class batsmen like Sachin, Sehwag, Lara, Ponting could play him comfortably.
    If only if he had dedicated more time to cricket than his other activities…Recommend

  • Bumble Bee

    We love you Akhtar! Very comprehensively written. Recommend

  • Fawad

    He is an excellent bowler but much of it has been hype and that hype basically went to his head and destroyed his career. Some of the hype has also helped him while bowling to lesser batsmen, but the likes of Lara,Sachin,Sehwag, Kallis, Ponting etc. have dominated him many times. Sachin and Sehwag in particular played him better than the most and there is no denying that.
    To sum up a very good talent turned into a very good bowler. But the hype and exaggeration stopped him from going further than that. PCB on its part did not help with its strange ways towards him. And they should take some blame as well for destroying his career.Recommend

  • yaarku

    i guess sachin has only one first ball duck in test history and that courtesy shoaib the brat. he needed a captain to handle him like a darling which he never found other than wasim akram…Recommend

  • bvindh

    @Pakistani:
    Indian team never learnt to lick their elbows either, but, that didn’t stop them from being the champions.Recommend

  • bvindh

    @Speed Akhtar:

    “coming from a person whose country with a Population of 115 crores couldn’t Produce a SINGLE Genuine FAST bowler! I can understand! :)”

    — True. But, we Indians are not trained in throwing stones at random strangers from our childhood. May be that’s what gives Pakistanis an advantage.Recommend

  • http://windows7withgoogleinternet Javed Sani.

    Shoaib Akhtar as said by none other than Australian Cricket greatest Captain Ricky Ponting under whom Australian Cricket remained on top for the longest period said that Shoaib Akthar was the Fastest Bowler that he had ever faced This compliment comming from Ricky Ponting explains the short but illustrious carrer of Shoaib Akhtar.Bowlers of his speed and mastery come only once in a century (Aisa Nayab Bowler to saw saloo mein ek bar Janam leta hai) Hats off to Shoaib and I pray that the almighty Allah May shower all his blessings on him until he lives.Ameen.In my eyes he was quite right in absuing and Kicking Kamran Akmal for dropping him not once but twice any bowler would get irrated.The Pakistan Cricket Board should give him a very celebrated send off and play him in a farewell match in front of his crowd that he has delighted for so many years he really deseves it .Hope PCB. understands this.
    Javed Sani,Los Angeles USA.Recommend

  • yasir

    @bvind why dont you shut up and leave the debate we were not getting personel u a.w thats da problems with india always negative your set the train on fire admit the crime yet walking with full pride shame on u … as far as akhter is concerned he has 72.8% win percentage against losy india so get your fact right you idiod sachin is a great player but he struggled so badly infront of shoabi it took him 4 years to hit akhter a 6 in 2003 world cup that says it all …. and ricky ponting who is a much better player than sachin ever will be said shaoib is the fastest and most fearsome fast bowler he has ever faced just ask ary kristen , lara , kallis , any big player ………. Recommend

  • Obaid

    @bvindh:
    What would you say about Harbajan singh. Is he not thrower.
    Shoaib is legend and will remain legend.Recommend

  • bvindh

    @Obaid:

    “What would you say about Harbajan singh. Is he not thrower.”

    — LOLROFL!!! Sir, I did not say flicking the elbow, I said that Indian team has not learnt how to lick their elbows(no human being can do that. try it for yourself)!!

    Extremely funny because, the moment you find the word elbow in the context of Shoaib, you naturally assumed that I was talking about chucking!!Recommend

  • Obaid

    Hi All,

    I am really thanks to all you people who wrote well deserved comments about Shoaib and admired their services for his country. Shoaib personality has some hidden aspects which people do not know. From his childhood he was flat foot and as per doctors suggestion that he will never be a athlete or good sportsmen but he worked hard in ground’s Gim’s to make his dream possible. Shoaib personly is a very humble person and ready to help needy with hidden hand and strong believe in Allah. As far as cricket is concern he always tried to play Pakistan cricket with pride rather than begging the position in the team. He always victimize by PCB ego ,misunderstood and mishandling. Now he deserves a respectable farewell. HE IS LEGEND PLAYER. God bless him or their fans who have great love for him. Recommend

  • Zubair Khan

    Shoaib Akhtar, A genuine fast bowler, a real one off, he was flamboyant, a star, a match winner, a real lion, he will sorely be missed by Pakistan, he needed an inteligent captain to guide him properly, but neither Inzamam or Waqar could do that.. Will be missed by many cricket lovers, a true gent.Recommend

  • Waqas

    Cricket is a emotion like love , hate , jealousy etc so please don’t bisect it into teams we are not playing a match here . we all are commenting here because SHOAIB AKHTER the worlds fastest bowler has announced his retirement, mind all its not even easy to dream to be the world’s fastest bowler and shoaib is in real a speed star the menace to the superstar batsmen!! what ever his social life is no one should care about it after all he is a human,

    Love you shoaib Akhter …. you are great :)) Recommend

  • Tanveer Arif

    His last over at the world cup in which he was hit badly by Ross Taylor for 28 runs was a horrible siteRecommend

  • Armughan

    Hey Mustafa (T),

    Two things! I never assumed you could be such a fan of Shobi but yes I agree totally with you and secondly you will take up Blog Writing. Way to go brother :)

    … and indeed the article is not about what was or what he did, i think the point we need to ponder upon is what is PCB doing to give remembrance to this great fast bowler! You know lets invite him over to our streets here :)

    … and how many armughan do you know who will say this?Recommend

  • http://saidcanblog.blogspot.com Said Chaudhry

    Alas, there will not be another Shoaib Akhtar. The cricketer, the man, the singer, the dancer, the playboy, the human, the patriot, the genuine fast-bowler. Thanks for being Shoaib Akhtar and giving us those moments of sheer splendour. You will be missed thoroughly by all those who are real fans of cricket, and those who see the game being taken over by countless flat-track bullies. We bereave the slow death of raw pace from international cricket. Best of luck in the future and please don’t go too far away from the game. Recommend

  • Amar

    Shoaib Akhtar will remain the fastest bowler for very long period to come since it is almost impossible to bowl that last extra mile which he could do twice. Stats are misleading since conditions are not compared while calculating stats. It is the fear factor and quality of wickets like that of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara which Shaoib took. By stats Shahid Afridi took most number of wickets in the currently held World cup but it is common knowlegde that he is very very ordinary bowler and people get out to take adavantage of the situtaion to make run and that is the reason he could not take even a single wicket agaist India and the semifinal.The match against Srilanka was won by Shoiab Akhtar by destroying the confidence of Srilankan batsman by taking the crucial wickets of Mahela Jaywardane. Similarly the match against Pakistan in the semifinal was won by Sehwag who destroyed the confidence of Umar Gul who could not bowl therafter.Against New zealand it seems to be conspiracy against Shoaib Akhtar by Afridi and Akmal to drop the catches to demoralise the bowler becuase Afridi must have thought that he himself will get the wickets later and will become the hero but an ordinaly bowler like Afridi can not control the situations all the time. Recommend

  • Rana Asghar

    He was really goodRecommend

  • http://bestwoods.blogspot.com/ Tania Mirza

    your work is very nice, i like your effort Watch Live IPL Seasons 4.Recommend

  • http://www.pkhope.com Maleeha Khan

    we will miss u RawalPindi express :'(Recommend

  • Salman

    @bvindh
    whatever you say you can just produce bowlres like vrv sing, ishant sharma, sreesanth and the list goes on. Gosh they are hard to play, the batsmen trembles when they start their run-up. So better keep your mouth shut when people are talking about fast bowlers cause you don’t know what real fast bowlers are.
    And a great bowler shoaib was wish he could have played more than he did. Pakistan would have been on top of world cricket if he had played more but nevertheless he was magnificent. Recommend

  • sls

    Shoaib had the misfortune of playing under religiously minded captains whose hypocrisy he could not swallow. He is the one Pakistani player people who is readily identified by cricket fans in places like Australia and England, and that is because there are few sights better in the game than a genuine speedster charging in and upsetting the castle. Decades later Wesley Hall is still remembered for that by those who saw him at his peak. Shoaib was not diplomatic and kept getting into trouble but he never fell into the gutter that so many others who seemed clean-cut were inexorably drawn toward.Recommend

  • salar shahid

    Rawalpindi Express rocked……..Down with PCB adminintrationRecommend

  • Hamza

    @Anoop:
    hitting a six over a fast bowler is not a big deal for any batsmen … On the other hand shoaib has done everything with sachin that a fast bowler can do with a batsmen … He bowled him on the very first bowl that he bowled to him, got him out at 75% times they both have faced each other, also in the IPL sachin was no match for him and ofcourse, no one can forget the bowl that struck tendulkar’s head. History proves, he is sachin’s nightmare !!!Recommend

  • Hamza

    and to all those people who critisize shoaib on his off-feild acts … What the hell does it make any difference to you for what he is doing in his personal life … The only thing that matters is his on-feild performance, which has been spledid through out his career.Recommend

  • Anoop

    @Hamza:

    You are not talking sense. He is Tendulkar, the greatest Cricketer of Modern era, perhaps greatest of them all! Shoaib might have got Tendulkar a few times, so did Razzaq, a medium pacer. That doesn’t mean anything. Tendulkar has played Shoaib well during the World Cups, which is very important.

    Form is temporary, Class is permanent. Sachin is averaging more than 60 in both forms of the game against Pakistan, in an era when Shoaib played. Whatever you say is utter rubbish.Recommend

  • Hamza

    Tendulkar is a class act, apart from his century jinx, no one can disagree … but i have given you all the facts about tendulkar vs shoaib, and no matter how much you try you cant disagree with them. You are trying to say that shoaib has not been good enough particularly in world cups, it’s a tournament that comes after every four years. Grow Up, cricket is not all importantly about world cups it’s every game that matters. and for tendulkar vs Pakistan, sachin has been playing for a span of 20-21 years but shoaib has been there for almost 13-14 years, and even in his whole career shoaib has not played a great number of matches for Pakistan vs India. Quit speaking irrelevant, and face the truth.Recommend

  • Syed Sohail Nasir

    Miss U Shoaib.Recommend