Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do it Shoaib!

Dear Shoaib,

I still remember your debut test about 12 years ago when Wasim Akram drafted you as part of a 4-man pace attack to take on the West Indies at your home ground in Rawal Pindi. You impressed everyone with your pace, and for once there was a pacer in Pakistan's ranks that outshone both Wasim and Waqar.

From there you went to South Africa and at Durban, in only your 3rd test, you took your first 5 wicket haul and helped Pakistan to their first ever test victory on South African soil. I still remember Kallis, Hudson, Boucher, and Klusener loosing their stumps to your blistering yorkers.

A sensation had arrived and you went on to prove that to us in many ways.

You rocked Kolkata blowing away Dravid and Sachin off consecutive deliveries giving Sachin the first golden duck of his career.

Then I had the pleasure of watching you live in action for the first time as you mesmerized the Sharjah crowd with your opening spells against England and India. Knight, Stewart, Thorpe, Ganguly, Azharuddin, Jadeja had no answer to your pace.

You went on to continue that awesome display in the 1999 World Cup, leading Pakistan into the final and ending the competition as one of the highest wicket takers. For me, your wicket of Steve Waugh stands out as one of your best from those days.

Later in the year you continued to impress in Australia in both the tests and ODIs. You had Steve Waugh a number of times. As you did Ponting and Gilchrist. You conquered the best down under.

You returned to Sharjah and in one of your best ever bowling displays removed Boucher, Benkenstein and Klusener in one over to give Pakistan a famous unlikely victory over South Africa. I still remember your figures of 3-9 of only 4 overs from that match.

Then the Kiwis bore the brunt of your force.

They had no answer to your pace as you blew them away in New Zealand, in Sharjah, and in Pakistan. Multiple 5 wicket hauls against the hapless kiwis and the Rawal Pindi express continued to march on despite chucking and ball tampering controversies.

I was there in Lahore when you bowled that 101.6 mile per hour delivery. I don't remember who the batsman was but from the Imran Khan Stand, I watched the speedometer go above a 100 and you officially became the first man to cross the 100 mph barrier.

You were the star Shoaib.

You were Pakistan's star.

It was Australia's turn again, when in Melbourne, in the enclosed stadium, your effort enabled Pakistan to an unlikely ODI series win against the world champions in their own back yard.

In what I reckon ranks among your best ever bowling displays you single handedly dismantled the Aussies, picking them up one after the other. Ponting, Martyn, Lehmann, Bevan, none survived in front of you.

You repeated that effort in a test soon after in Colombo when your 4 over spell almost won the match for Pakistan. Ponting, both the Waughs, Gilchrist, and Warne, all went within 4 overs of fiery bowling.

I was in awe.

The Aussies were in awe.

You were among the best pacement in the world.

It didn't stop there.

You went on to conquer Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, New Zealand before returning to Australia again where you lit up Perth and Melbourne with amazing bowling displays and more 5 wicket hauls. Ponting and Lehmann still had no answer to you, and this time you dominated Hayden as well.

You brushed aside injuries and questions regarding your fitness and showed the world that you were still a force to reckon with when you took on the English at home.

Wickets came in abundance on dead Pakistan pitches and you ended that series with a magnificent 5 wicket haul in Lahore leading Pakistan to a 2-0 test win, after which, the Ashes winning captain declared your 17 wickets as the difference between the two sides.

You were on top of the world.

You were Pakistan's hero.

But then tragedy struck.

You got injured. Your knees gave way. Your career was threatened and doctors said that you may never play again.

You went through surgery.

I didn't know if you would ever play again. But I hoped that you would. And you did.

Against all odds you regained your fitness and joined the Pakistan team in England in the summer, and as always you blew away the opposition in the ODIs. You were back in full force, at full pace, and those yorkers were still alive. Strauss, Collingwood, Bell, and others all saw yet again what Shoaib Akhtar was all about.

Pakistan still loved you.

You were still at the top.

When another tragedy struck.

You tested positive for a banned substance. Nandronolone was found in your urine sample and you faced a ban. The world suspected that you had taken injections to speed your recovery from career threatining injuries. You got banned for 2 years.

But I knew you would be back.

Pakistan could not lose its star.

We were still behind you.

I was still behind you.

The ban, as expected, just or not, was overturned and you were back.

You returned once again and yet another time led Pakistan to a test victory in South Africa as De Villiers, Amla, Kallis, Pollock fell victim to your pace.

This return though was also short lived as you got injured, argued with Pakistan's late coach, and returned home.

You missed the world cup due to injury, though I knew it was probably because of that substance in your blood. Everyone thought it was over for you, but I knew you will come back.

And come back you did.

You went to India and played all the tests. You looked like the only bowler Pakistan had and your single minded and single handed effort showed but lacked the support. You were still the bowler we loved. Fitness concerns were there but you battled all criticism and all concerns and fought.

But then yet another tragedy.

You fell out with the authorities.

It seemed as if Pakistan did not want you anymore as the PCB banned you and the players did not give you any support. It was hardly any wrong doing at your part but you still suffered. Yet again your career came to a stand still and no one knew if you would come back.

But I knew this was not the end. This could not be the end.

Yet again, as always, come back you did. This time in gold and black for the Knight Riders, and as always in your first game, you dismantled Sehwag, Gambhir, De Villiers, and Tiwary and you made me proud.

You were still the star and you still had it in you. I knew you were not going to go down without a fight.

You fought on the field and off it as well. You appeared in domestic games and showed that you were fit enough to play for Pakistan. You fought the battles in court and proved that the PCB was wrong.

You made the return in Pakistan colors again and you came down to Abu Dhabi.

I saw you bowl with good pace in the nets. I saw you bowl of a full run before the start of the matches. But you did not play a single game. Maybe you weren't fit enough but I believed that soon you will be.

My belief came true two days ago when I saw you in the starting XI for the match against Sri Lanka. Pakistan's star was back. But you were not the same.

You were not the same Shoaib. You lacked the pace. The batsmen picked you up with ease. You didn't even bowl your full quota of overs. You did not look the same pacer that had created fear among the best batsmen around the world.

This morning, I did not think that you would play. But you were there again. In the XI and on the field with the new ball in hand. But yet again the pace wasn't there. It was even lower than yesterday. In the field you seemed lost. You looked tired. You looked jaded. You could not chase balls, you could not bowl fast, you could not bowl.

You are not the star you once were and despite all your comebacks against all odds you are not the same Shoaib Akhtar that we have known and loved over the years. Your body has given way and you cannot bowl at the same pace you used to.

And with the one thing you cherished gone, I believe its time that you let the game go as well.

Let Pakistan go Shoaib.

I beg of you.

Do it now, before it gets too late. Before your captain, your coach, and your supporters lose faith in you.

Make the call before they do.

Put your hand up and hang up your boots Shoaib.

Don't let them kick you out because then it will leave me hoping for another one of your comebacks.

You need to make this decision for yourself.

I won't have it any other way.

Pakistan won't have it any other way.

Make your pitch on this post...

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17 Pitched:

  1. Anonymous said...

    I'm of the opinion that if Shoaib had been punished for his drug taking and other indiscretions then he would have become a better man and cricketer.

    After Warne's 12 month ban he returned fitter and hungrier than before because he found out the hard way that although a superb player he wasn't immune to justice.

    Shoaib thinks he can get away with anything and unfortunately he has. He could have been held in the same regard as McGrath, Donald, Lille, Akram and Waqar but unfortunately he will be remembered more as a man that mostly wasted his God-given talent.

  2. straight point said...

    ...along with asif...(to carry on from nesta)

  3. Unknown said...

    Touching article Q, almost brought a tear to my eye. Thought I would finally post after lurking around your sight for months. This is Nasir btw.

  4. Gaurav Sethi said...

    Q, that was very moving - gotta see whether it moves Shoiab too, outta the team.

    Thru this piece, couldn't help at the many mentions of four over spells - esp in ODIs.

    We've discussed Shoiab before. And I'll say it again, he needed to let go more than a year back. Even though on that last Ind tour he was the only Pak bowling threat, he was still only a four over threat. Times the spell would be 2-3 overs. And he would only go all-out in the first over.

    That IPL game vs Devils, was a four over threat too.

    Bet it's tough to see yr hero go, but it'll be tougher to see him not go.
    cheers and well said.

  5. Gaurav Sethi said...

    nesta, shoaib wouldn't have been shoaib without his misdemeanours. it was meant to be a short, fleeting career, a burnout, not a fadeaway.

  6. Abdul said...

    The Pakistan – Sri Lanka series is rather poor regarding quality so far and that’s simply just a fact as the pitches in the subcontinent are flat as a pancake just to emphasise the point that I much prefer watching cricket action from Australia, England, Southafrica etc. Nevertheless we are thankful to the Mahela’s men for coming along and touring following the crisis and reluctance from other sides in the last 18 months especially. The series is evenly poised at 1-1 setting up the Gadaffi stadium on Saturday for a grand finale in a winner takes all affair. Pakistan delivered brilliance on Tuesday with a convincing 8 wicket victory but let loose 24 hours later losing by a humiliating margin in a miserable defeat to disappoint all. This is an ideal example of how inconsistent and unpredictable Pakistan are from delivering brilliance to failing miserably. Typical Pakistan!

    My analysis from the matches I’ve seen are that Shoiab Akthar is plundering and age is catching up against the paceman. I feel he can no longer become a “matchwinner” in ODI cricket and repeat those heroic performances such as 6-16 and 5-25 as he has in the past and also feel he hasn’t got the mental fitness now to complete his full quota of overs.

    But I feel he still feel he will do well at Test match level, bowling in short fiery bursts and along with Kaneria will be the “strike” bowlers in test cricket but as regards to one day I feel he’s fading away and simply struggling for rhythm and therefore hope Sohial Khan replaces him in the next match or Pakistan stick with 3 seamers.

    Also as I’ve continuously insisted the ICL bans should be lifted and Ijaz Butt did apply some pressure yesterday on the ICC to change their stance and authority but more is required as it’s simply unacceptable that your unable to utilize formidable talent in Nazir ,Yousuf and Rana as there true match winners one can dream of having in there line ups. I also approve of Qadir’s suggestion of having a specialist team for different formats especially T20 cricket with the likes of Rana Naved and Fawad Alam but just a few adjustments between test’s and ODI team.

  7. Anonymous said...

    I think he is fit enough to bowl 10 overs but he has lost his speed, there are bowlers on the bench who can bowl faster than him, his performance in the two games showed that he has no control and accuracy, I am not sure how long it will take him to regain that part of fitness, if better bowlers are sitting on the bench then we should move on.

  8. Damith S. said...

    Akthar is no where near fit enough for international cricket. Anyone can get through 10 overs but thats not what you want from Shaoib, you want 4 massively quick overs that scare the life out of everyone batting, and then to return and do it again, no ones asking him to bowl 10 on the trot but he doesnt have the fitness to bowl at full tilt like he used to. anyone can get fit if they put their mind do it. like nesta said, pcb have failed him by allowing him to come back when he is not fully match fit to do his job - bowl fast. might not to be too late still, if he takes a good 6 months off, gets back into full fitness, there might be a last hurrah for him.

    im enjoying this series, tommo should be a ripper Q

  9. Q said...

    Nesta, I agree with you. If him and Asif has been punished the 1st time we would have had one of the best pace attacks in the world today.

    PCB tends to let their stars get away with anything, which is obviously the wrong way to discipline..

    Warne's example is apt. Sadly, we didn't learn from the Aussies.

  10. Q said...

    Agree SP!

  11. Q said...

    Hey Nasir.. thanks for the comment. It kills me to watch Shoaib, a shadow of his past..

  12. Q said...

    NC that was the special part about him.. he destroyed teams in a matter of a mere 4 overs... thats what he was capable of doing.. thats wat made him special.. thats wat him Shoaib Akhtar.. sadly, he cant do that anymore despite shoaib malik saying today that he's the same pace who destroyed batting line ups in 1 spell.. hope is what we dont want anymore.. hurts to much..

  13. Q said...

    Abdul - thanks for the comment but i dont think the series has been poor so far. I have enjoyed it and look forward to tomorrows match..

    As for your assessment on Shoaib.. i actually think the reverse is true.. if anything i dont think he is fit enough to play test cricket anymore.. hes best for 20-20 where he can go flat out for 4 overs.. maybe even ODIs but no way for tests. Tests require too much fitness which he doesnt have.

    And we all want the ICLs back...

  14. Q said...

    Wasim, he has lost his speed cos of the lack of fitness.. his body hurts, his shoulders hurt, he cant bend his back... he just doesnt have it in him anymore..

  15. Q said...

    Am enjoying the series too Damith. Cant wait for the morning.

    I dont think taking 6 months off will do him any good.. he'll just be older than today, which is worse.

    Even the Walshs and the Ambroses didnt have the pace at 33 and those guys were FIT... without the pace, shoaib is nothing...

  16. Anonymous said...

    ur best post the ones i know off.

    Shoaib now is a poor shadow of what he was when he busted on the scene in Kolkaaata test of 1999 and since then we love to hate him for his bowling those 2 ripping yorkers to the greatest of 2 modern day batsmen.....

    he shud perhaps go and redeem himself and pak cricket...or may be go and talk to Wasim....

  17. karachikhatmal said...

    pervez musharraf - 1999-2008

    Australian Cricket Team - 1999 Hobart - 2008 (Kolkata/MCG?)

    George W Bush - 2000-2008

    Free Market Triumphalism - 2001-2008

    Shoaib Akhtar - 1998 - 200?

    Eras are ending all around us. what is truly scary is that we seem to be entering a frighteningly dark one. for years the world wondered who the next west indies would be.(Ok maybe that was just me) could it be us?

    the world is so scary right now

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