The Rawalpindi Express
It wasn't just blinding pace and an infinitely long run-up that made Shoaib Akhtar stand out. In an international career that spanned 14 years and was often interrupted by bans, petty squabbles and run-ins with authority, Akhtar mostly flattered to deceive – except in constantly outdoing himself in the controversies department.
Born on August 13 in Rawalpindi in 1975, and the rightful inheritor of a proud fast bowling legacy, his initiation into Test cricket was characteristically eye-catching, when he bowled Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar off successive yorkers in the Asian Test Championship. A successful World Cup in England followed, but it was soon clear that Akhtar’s enduring claim to fame would, unfortunately and eventually, rest on the manifestations of his colorful personality.
His evolution into a wisened quick, with a deceptively dangerous slower ball, coincided with Pakistan’s defeat of England in their home Test series in 2005-06.
But the force of internal workings stole the show again: allegations of an unlawful action and ball-tampering, whispers of exchanging blows with a teammate, grave injuries, irreconcilable issues with Pakistan’s board and, finally, charges of doping brought to closure the career of one of cricket’s most enigmatic servants.
Tests: Matches 46, Wickets 178, Average 25.6, 5WI 12, 10WI 2, Best bowling 6/11; ODI: M 163, W 247, Avg 24.97, 5WI 4, BB 6/16; T20: M 15, W 19, Avg 22.73, BB 3/38.
A look at the man through some memorable quotes - by him as well as on him. [CYCSPL]
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