Inzamam-ul-Haq not surprised by Harbhajan Singh's claims of Shoaib Akhtar 'bashing' him and Yuvraj Singh
India and Pakistan may be arch-rivals on the field but off it, many players from both sets of teams enjoy a cordial relationship with each other. Former speedster Shoaib Akhtar is one of the best examples as he has shown with the comradery he shares with Indian batting legends Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, despite many fierce encounters during their playing days.
So when Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh recently spoke about an incident where the speedster allegedly ‘bashed’ himself and Yuvraj Singh in a hotel room during India’s tour of Pakistan in 2004, eyebrows were raised.
Adding fuel to the fire was former Pakistan skipper and present PCB chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq’s comments that he was not surprised by Harbhajan’s claims as Akhtar often underestimated his own strength thus causing pain to others unknowingly.
“Shoaib was always very muscular and strong”, Inzamam said. “Even hugging him or shaking hands with him could be painful for other players.”
Though Harbhajan said that he still maintained a good relationship with Akhtar, the incident took him by surprise.
“Shoaib used to sit with us, eat with us. But maybe since he was too close to us, he used to take us for granted,” Harbhajan had said, as reported by the Tribune. “He challenged me once to hit a six and when I managed to hit one, he was shocked. He then bowled two consecutive bouncers which I evaded. However, after the game, we sat together as if nothing had happened.”
Talking about the incident in the hotel, Harbhajan didn’t sound too pleased by the aggressive approach shown by Akhtar.
“Shoaib once threatened me he would come to my room and beat me,” said Harbhajan. “I told him ‘come, let’s see who beats whom’. I was really scared. He is a great hulk. He once bashed me and Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh) inside a room. Since he was heavy, it was difficult to catch him.”
With the incident threatening to snowball into a controversy, Akhtar has now come out and revealed his version of the story in which he admits to having had a physical tug with the Indian duo, but only in a friendly manner.
“I think he has made a big deal of it,” he said. “Yes, it did happen during 2004 when we were playing a Test in Rawalpindi, but it was nothing serious and all fun.
“Basically, we were horsing around and doing some arm wrestling and that is all, but no, Harbhajan and Yuvraj are my younger brothers, there is no question of beating them up,” he said. The duo got along well with me and we used to have dinner together. We have been good friends so how can I beat them.”