Shoaib Akhtar blames Pakistan's self-centred captains for failing to cultivate his talent
In a recent interview with Harsha Bhogle, retired fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar claimed that his career never reached the heights that it could have because he never played under a Pakistan captain who was endowed with the required vision to manage his talents. He also revealed an episode in his younger days when four senior Pakistan players had threatened to beat him up because they felt insecure by his presence.
Akhtar said, “The Pakistan team captain himself used to be a headache because he did not know how to handle me. Pakistan has seen a lot paindu (defined as someone who speaks Pubjabi and has a bad English accent) captains coming in. I always say if I had played under Imran Khan, who was a selfless person, I would have been a different person. He knew how to make a star.”
Shoaib Akhtar’s glittering but colourful international career was played under several Pakistan captains – Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Aamer Sohail, Rashid Latif, Moin Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq.
Akhtar still holds the record for having bowled the fastest ball in international cricket at 161.3 kmph.
Pakistan players never played for each other: Akhtar
Akhtar also talked about an ugly incident on a tour of Australia, when four unnamed senior players tried to bully him because he had stolen their spotlight.
“We landed in Australia and all the media was huddling around me. During a Test in Brisbane, four seniors came into my room to beat me up saying ‘what do you think of yourself?’. I said you can try to beat me up, but I will give it back to you. They later apologised to me and said that they were really jealous of me. Even today they tell me ‘we are sorry but we were very insecure because of you.’
“Pakistan team never won or lost in the ground, they always won or lost in the dressing room. We never played for each other,” lamented the 39-year-old.
Afridi and Waqar did not let me play in 2011: Akhtar
Akhtar also revealed that he had been severely disappointed with the lack of ambition shown by his team, specifically on two occasions – when Pakistan lost to India in the 2011 World Cup semi final, and when the team’s batting collapsed like a house of cards in the 1999 World Cup final.
“In 2011, I fought with Shahid Afrid and Waqar Younis saying that I want to play this semi-final. It’s a 10-over match. If we dismiss Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar inside the initial overs, the team will go down easily. The pressure is on them. We are playing against them at their home, it is such a big occasion, it’s against Pakistan. We got nothing to lose. But they didn’t let me play citing the reason that I am unfit.
“I went in and bowled six overs with my complete run-up in anger.” Akhtar had been dropped after he had gone for 70 runs in 9 overs for 1 wicket in the previous match; his replacement Wahab Riaz took five wickets against India.
Akhtar said, “Pakistan’s batting let us down in the 1999 World Cup and second time such a disappointment came was in 2011. We were being served the World Cup on a plate. We had to go out there fight bravely and just win. Even if we lost, no one was going to shoot us.”
On the match-fixing scandal in which he found himself in the earliest days of his international career, Akhtar said, “There was a time when in 1997 I did not know who I was running with or playing with. I never knew who was playing for Pakistan and who against it.”