Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wastage Unlimited!!!

In reply to Pakistan's 223, India was cruising along at 147 for one and looked all set to take a big first innings lead. Pakistan needed a miracle but Rahul Dravid looked all set and Sachin Tendulkar was all fit after the back injury at Chennai/Kotla which was going to hurt his career for quite sometime in the future to come.

Bang!!!! A scorching Yorker dismantled the timber behind Rahul Dravid. 100,000 people welcomed the little master only to see him getting a golden duck for the first time in his career to a Yorker which was even better than the previous one. A star was born or proved the shine it had shown in his very short career so far was a promising one – Shohaib Akhtar. Indians wondered, like they had done for so many years, on how Pakistan keeps getting timely replacements for their soon to be gone speedsters. Pakistan was proud to see that someone could take the lead once the two W's would go in next few years and by than he would get the traditional training of conventional banana swing, mysterious reverse swing, toe crushing Yorkers and beheading bouncers. For the next couple of ODI series, he was the biggest tormentors for the gentlemen holding willow in their shaking hands.

Pakistan moved to Australia for a tour which was named as Akhtar's bowling speeding bullets by the Chappels, Benauds, Waughs and the rest in Australian media. This is where Akhtar fell in the trap. The repeating adulations for his ability to bowl at rocket speed made him forget that it's a game of taking 20 wickets and not to win numbers showed by equipment called speedometer. The more hype was built around him, faster he tried to bowl and futile the results became. The Australian media succeeded in 'mentally disintegrating' him. Interestingly the talk was of speed and pressure was strategically built around only Akhtar. Pakistan was white washed and Akhtar finished with the figures of 6 wickets for 67.66 a piece in 3 tests.

This was the first occasion when real pressure was built around Akhtar and he succumbed. Things hinted a change after that and with a string if injuries and avoidable incidents, next few years were more of a decline of a career which promised to raise new heights for as long a time as lightening strikes. His brilliance on the ground was displayed here and there. But they and Akhtar's appearances were more and more gaining the reputation of "far & few" and injuries were coming faster than he wanted to bowl.

A combination of age, fitness issues and politics for which Pakistan cricket is famous for ended the careers of two legendary W's. The Samis, the Shabbirs, the Guls kept appearing and disappearing meaning Pakistan could not have the luxury to boast of a fast bowling line up it had become so used to over the years. This also meant Akhtar would enjoy the superstar status, come to bowl when his body and leisure allowed him to, give glimpses of talent he had. In case he did not want to bowl, he would fall down on the ground complaining of an injury in his ribs which even detailed of X-Rays and the rest could not find. Captains did complain with tight lips knowing he still was their best bet. Not that other resources were incompetent at the international level but none of them had the ability to change the match like Akhtar could – ask Australians about the test they played against him in Sri Lanka where they were reduced to 127 odd from 74/1 in just one spell of lightening fast bowling.

If Pakistan was regretting of not utilizing his bowling talent to the fullest, he doubled their regrets by making sure others cannot bowl as well – ask Mohammad Asif.

When he came to India few months back saying this will be his final tour here, I was a bit surprised because he has hardly played as per my memory. He played 48 tests in a career span of close to ten years taking 176 wickets. For a bowler of his ability and talent, this rate of less than 4 wickets per match is much below par performance by any means. Perhaps he had lost his interest in the game much before – may be Rawalpindi 2004 is an example because no bowler would fake an injury and leave the ground given the situation of the match as it was than.

He was seeking an alternate career in Bollywood (La Mohsin Khan) during his last tour to India. Be it his reported (reporters were their at 4:00 AM or so to report this, WOW!!!) topless sprint with always topless Salman Khan at bandstand or a so called affair with the lady who challenged a certain Indian batsman's batting more than Hogg & Lee in Australia or his display of hidden singing talent (???) on some show on TV where his desperation for a Bollywood entry was so brutally exposed when he put aside his self respect to kiss Mahesh Bhatt's never ending forehead.

Anyways, with a ban imposed on him for 5 years, he is unlikely to play international cricket again assuming PCB doesn't lick their own spit once again as they have done so often in the past and call this ban off. I also assume the news not to be the April fool pranks floating around like Tendulkar retiring or Vilas Rao Deshmukh quitting.

Interestingly, he can play in IPL. Now tell me, Dinesh Mongia or JP Yadav is not eligible to play international cricket because they are rebels in BCCI's book which ICC reads. Akhtar is such a disgrace to PCB that they don't consider him to play for Pakistan ever (by the time ban would be over, he would be too old to bowl forget bowling fast) but he can play in IPL. Perhaps PCB/BCCI/ICC haven't read the equality theorem (or something like that, I don't remember the name correctly) where a = b means b = a.

Or may be PCB takes orders from ISI who have strategically planted Akhtar in the dressing room of Knight Riders so that he can do a Mohammad Asif to India's emerging pace sensation Ishant Sharma and we are forced to go back to the biggest potential all-rounder ever Ajit Agarkar's days or relying on another emerging Agarkar in Shantakumaran Sreesanth. If that happens, PCB won't be held responsible because they have already disowned their spoilt brat.

Anyways, if this is the end of Akhtar's career it's really a sad one. It's the end of a bowler who needed nothing in terms of pitch, weather, exceptional fielding or umpires help to send batting orders packing. He had the hostility of Walsh but he lacked his honesty towards the game, he had the guile of Akram but he lacked his grit, he had the curving swing of Younis but he lacked his commitment. But he never needed the poison spitting mouths of Mcgrath or Donald like those three. In his career he just displayed glimpses of his talent but when he did, he looked like a champion and a true crowd puller. You would love to watch him bowl no matter if he is in your side, against you or you are a neutral viewer. He was a classical case of "would have been" and temperament letting down the talent or an ultimate wastage.


Dreamer said...

sad end to a prodigious talent....or is it?

Amit Panhale said...

Walsh wasn't ever known for his hostility.

LoonyTalk said...

Yeah, itz sad if he is forced to retire since he was a perfect entertainer a la Salman Khan who somehow always managed to get out of controversies looking better than before!
Personally, I will always remember him for being the brat who dared to glare Tendulkar even in the midst of consecutive boundaries...