Anti-climactic end to Shoaib's intriguing career

The fast bowler was reduced to being a 'waterboy' for the World Cup semi-final.


Reuters March 31, 2011

MOHALI: A career that began so promisingly 14 years ago with Shoaib Akhtar refusing to take off his first Pakistan kit for three days, ended with a dressing down on Wednesday when the fast bowler was reduced to being a 'waterboy'.

The man who was nicknamed the "Rawalpindi Express" for his ability to bowl at high speeds had been hoping for one last hurrah in Wednesday's high-octane World Cup semi-final against traditional foes India.

However, Pakistan's defeat by India brought one of the most controversial careers in cricket to a screeching halt.

For Shoaib, there will be no more highs of taking wickets or winning matches for his country. When he wakes up on Thursday, all he will be left with is a sackful of memories.

"The best moment was when I got the first kit for the test match and there was a huge star on my chest," an emotional Shoaib told reporters after announcing his decision to quit two weeks ago.

"I wore that kit and I slept in that kit and I just couldn't believe that I was going to wake up in that kit. I didn't take if off for three days."

Luckily for Shoaib, his 46-test and 163-ODI appearances ensured he received a regular supply of team strips for almost a decade and a half but from Thursday, there will be no more new kits arriving on his doorstep.

But no one can deny the impact, good or bad, he made in the sport.

The 35-year-old made his debut in a test match against West Indies in 1997 and immediately caught everyone's attention as the fastest bowler of his generation.

Considered by many as the heir to Pakistan fast bowling greats Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, Shoaib disappointed most with a career blighted by injuries and controversies stemming from his indiscipline.

His tearaway pace was a threat to many a batsman around the world but his figures failed to justify his immense talent.

He finished with 178 test wickets and 247 ODI scalps – a record he will not be too pleased with.

Ball-tampering allegations, numerous disciplinary issues, hitting team mate Mohammad Asif with a bat in 2007, doping accusations and several other controversies and injuries took the focus away from his often devastating bowling.

 

Angrily stamped team mate

Even at this World Cup, reports emerged Shoaib had angrily kicked his team mate Kamran Akmal after the wicketkeeper had dropped New Zealand's Ross Taylor twice in the space of three deliveries during a group stage match on March 8.

The Pakistan camp played down the clash but that match proved to be Shoaib's last international outing.

He was reduced to carrying drinks to his team mates on the field during the semi-final against India on Wednesday, an end the fast bowler would have despised when he announced his retirement midway through the showpiece event.

"It feels like it's my first death," he told reporters about his decision to quit.

"I have taken this decision after much thought. Pakistan's last match in this World Cup will also be my last."

Shoaib's obsession with pace during his career was often detrimental to the team's cause as he lost control and proved to be expensive on occasions.

His long run-up often put Pakistan at risk of incurring a penalty for their slow over rate and it irked many of his coaches over the years.

On a number of occasions, he was not considered a team man and was rather portrayed as the problem child of Pakistan cricket with a penchant for night life.

But the strongly-built Shoaib at his peak, running in from about 35 yards out with his long hair furling in the wind, was enough to catch the imagination of cricket lovers across the world.

He demonstrated his talent in the series against India in 1999 when he took eight wickets in the Asian Test Championship in Calcutta, bowling Rahul Dravid and then yorking Sachin Tendulkar next ball with two inswinging deliveries.

Shoaib was a huge draw at the 1999 World Cup in England where he finished with 16 wickets as Pakistan reached the final, which they eventually lost to Australia.

But subsequently the dark phase in his career followed and he found himself in and out of the team due to reasons that were not strictly cricketing.

If disciplinary issues were most frequent, the phase in 2006 when he was banned for two years after testing positive for an anabolic steroid -- in an internal drugs test carried out by the Pakistan Cricket Board -- was the most embarrassing.

A three-man appeals tribunal later cleared him of the doping offences but the fast bowler never came back to his best.

 

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COMMENTS (18)

Ayesha | 10 years ago | Reply for me, he will always be a winner because he was a clean guy...never lost for money! and way to go for kicking the corrupt Akmal brothers!
Bilal Salim | 10 years ago | Reply Shoaib was certainly one of the best fast bowlers ever , and I was really hurt after he was dropped in the semi-finals . I wish I could see him bowling for the last time . I just dont understand why people only mention his parties and dances . Why do they fail to notice that HE WAS NEVER FOUND INDULGING IN MATCH FIXING. Given the terrible reputation of our players , it is indeed a magnificent fiat . Our team needs people like him . and whom did he kick ? Asif and Kamran Akmal ? Dont they deserve much worse than that ? The problem with Pakistan Cricket is that those who are clean find it difficult to stay in the team , while players like Akmal have the power to get our best fast bowler dropped from the team. Its time to throw out the dirty fishes from our team.
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