Akhtar: Shooting from the hip.
Shoaib Akhtar is not finished yet. Cricket's perennial problem child, the Rawalpindi Express has launched his autobiography today. Titled Controversially Yours, he takes digs at Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, and also brazenly admits to ball-tampering.
The erstwhile fastest bowler in the world can lay claim to be the only one to dismiss Dravid and Tendulkar with consecutive deliveries — both blazing yorkers — at Eden Gardens in 1999. But despite the two Indians winning several personal contests against him since then, Shoaib still chose to berate them in his book.
He's not the first cricketer to do so. Herschelle Gibbs and Adam Gilchrist recently had been critical of Tendulkar in their books — a technique which instantly stirs up emotions and pumps up sales.
Akhtar claims Dravid and Tendulkar were not match-winners:
"....Vivian Richards, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and the likes of them are great batsmen who dominated with the bat and were truly match-winners. Initially, when I bowled against Sachin, I found these qualities missing. He might have had more runs and records, he lacked the ability to finish the game. I think players like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid weren't exactly match winners to start with, nor did they know the art of finishing the game."
Shoaib also claims the master blaster was scared of him during the Faisalabad Test.
"We would have faced a humbling defeat in the series but for the fact that we reined in Sachin Tendulkar. What went in our favour was that Sachin was suffering from tennis elbow! This severely handicapped the great batsman. We managed to psychologically browbeat him. We bounced the ball at him and were able to unnerve him. I returned to the dressing room that first day with the knowledge that Sachin was not comfortable facing fast and rising ball. He was distinctly uncomfortable against me. That was enough to build on. I bowled (Sachin) a particularly fast ball which he, to my amazement didn't even touch. He walked away! That was the first time, I saw him walk away from me — that, too, on the slow track at Faisalabad. It got my hunting instincts up and in the next match I hit him on the head and he couldn't score after that."
Akhtar, who played for Kolkata Knight Riders briefly, has also accused Shah Rukh Khan and former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi of cheating.
"Shah Rukh and I talked about my not being happy with the money settled on me. Shah Rukh and Modi got me to agree. I should have never listened to Modi and Shah Rukh."
Then there's the bit where he admits Pakistan bowlers tamper with the ball.
Almost all Pakistani fast bowlers have tampered with the ball. I may be the first one to openly admit to it but everybody is doing it. To be honest, every team in the world tampers with the ball. We probably started it but today koi team doodh ki dhooli nahin hain. No team is innocent and virtually every fast bowler does it. That is the only way to survive because the wickets are so slow.
Akhtar, who took 178 wickets in 46 Tests and 247 wickets in 163 ODIs, has been in the eye of several controversies. Doping scandals, fitness problems, chucking problems, genital warts, hitting Mohammad Asif with a bat, allegedly slapping their coach Bob Woolmer, fines, fall-out with team, fall-out with the management, bans, recalls, more bans.
Things came to a head in the 2011 World Cup, where he allegedly had a confrontation with Kamran Akmal. He announced his retirement mid-way, but was immediately dropped from the team. Which is not to say he has been dropped from the headlines.
As for the ball-tampering bits, thanks Shoaib, for confirming what we've suspected throughout.
Former Indian cricketer Vinod Kambli, who shared a world-record 664-run partnership with Tendulkar in school-level cricket, blasted Shoaib Akhtar for claiming Sachin was scared of his bowling.
"Sachin was never scared of Shoaib or anyone. The way he plays his cricket and has scored the highest runs (in Tests and ODIs)...No one is close to him and no one can speak about him like that. He feared only my bowling."
India offie Harbhajan Singh was in no mood to take Shoaib's comments lightly.
"I do not know what Shoaib is up to and what made him say that. If you talk about Sachin Tendulkar, obviously I would say that he is the best cricketer not only in India but anywhere in the world. Rahul Dravid is one of the guys that people would actually stand up and salute for what he had done for Indian cricket. I am sorry to say that I do not agree with Shoaib in what he says in his book. I do not agree with him at all."
Sachin Tendulkar however refused to comment on Akhtar's notes saying "it is below my dignity to react to Shoaib's comment."