Dravid my biggest nightmare: Shoaib Akhtar
Shoaib Akhtar who turned 40 recently spoke to Wisden India about his career, toughest batsmen he has bowled to and the state of Pakistani cricket. The Rawalpindi Express, who terrorised most batsmen around the world, consistently clocked up speeds of over 150 kmph.
On being asked about his toughest opponents, Akhtar remarked that facing Rahul Dravid was nightmarish for him.
After more than 15 years, he recalls the moment when he dismissed both Sachin and Dravid in the 1999 Kolkata Test.
"I follow my instinct always, but you should be aware of what the batsman is going to do. And I knew that Sachin would offer me a shot. Thank you very much, he offered me a gap, and I got through it. I knew I would have to beat him not just with pace but with swing too.”
"But yes, Sachin made me a star! So I'm thankful to him. He's a great batsman, without a doubt. He can play better than anyone else. When he got going, he was a nightmare. But the biggest nightmare I ever faced was Rahul Dravid. He used to bore me. He was the first batsman who could intimidate me, in terms of when he walked in; I knew I would have to field for at least two sessions more.”
Akhtar added that, “The only guy who could stop him was Wasim (Akram), I had no ability to do that. I think in Test matches he was the toughest I bowled to. Sachin was a brutal force. When he got going, he made sure he scored runs. But Dravid killed you mentally. And physically he tired you. He was like Muhammad Ali; he would tire you out and then knock you down."
A fiery bowler who picked up 178 wickets in 46 Tests, he could have gone on to become one of the world’s highest wicket takers, had he been on good terms with his team management.
He had his share of controversies too, the most recent being his autobiography, in which he lambasted the Pakistan Cricket Board officials and fellow players. He had some harsh words for captain Misbah-ul-Haq in his autobiography for not being able to lead the team from the front.
Talking about the Pakistani Board he says, "There are 70-80-year-olds sitting there and running the show. Since I've opened my eyes I'm seeing the same guys in the board and they are still there. Why does Pakistan cricket suffer? Because of the people running the show. They are not good enough.”
The fast bowler admitted that Pakistan has not been able to produce another leader after Imran Khan.
“If we had a second Imran Khan, we would have been world beaters. This was a guy who was selfless and he was a leader. Simply put, we never had a leader in my generation. And we're still searching for one.” Akhtar said.
"I wish we had an honest leader, so that Razzak, Saqlain, Shahid, Azhar, me - all of them could have become the best cricketers they could be,” Akhtar rued.
When asked whether he would help the Pakistani Cricket board from within Shoaib said, "Look, whenever they want, I'll do it voluntarily. I don't need money to fix my country. I'll make a living through some sources, but if they ever ask me, I would, without a question.”
There were some moments when The Wall and Pindi Express crashed into each other and other players had to intervene.