Former Pakistani bowling great Shoaib Akhtar alleged that his all teammates were corrupt and there was huge trust deficit among the players as match fixing overshadowed the cricket in three popular cricket loving countries – Pakistan, India and South Africa from 1997 to 2000.
The controversial speedster recalled many moments of his cricket career.
He recalled the time when match-fixing eroded the self-esteem of cricketers in the Pakistani team.
In the 1990s, Pakistani team was comprised of players like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammed Yousuf and Saeed Anwar. However, fixing reports led to a trust deficit between the Pakistani legends..
While speaking to sports presenter Gaurav Kapur during one of the Breakfasts with Champions episodes, Akhtar said that Shahid Afridi and he used to be upset due to corruption in the Pakistani team.
“I and Shahid Afridi used to say where have we come to. I never trusted anybody in that particular era. All of my teammates were corrupt,” Akhtar casually admitted.
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Akhtar also recalled the reason of his trademark celebration after taking a wicket.
He said that he was always enamoured at the sight of F16 fighter jets since his childhood. and he used ton run behind it whenever it flew over his locality. So, whenever he took wickets he spread his two hands like F-16’s two wings.
But the speedster was upset the way Pakistan cricket portrayed him.
When asked about his bad boy image, an upset Akhtar said, “I was not a bad boy. They (Pakistan team) always portrayed me that way.”
He also alleged that his teammates were insecure about his rising stature in the team. “So, senior players of the team started pointing out about my small mistakes to reduce self-esteem,” the bowler turned commentator said.
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The outspoken bowler also recalled the memory of his trial in Lahore. He had a humble background so it was difficult for his family to arrange money for his Lahore trial. But, the passionate cricketer arranged money from a juice seller and went to Lahore.
However, the trial was not an easy run for Akhtar as he found around 3000 candidates came for the trial. “I was bemused, but when my time came I decided to have a long run up and tried to run fast when I cross Zaheer Abbas.”
Shoaib’s lightening fast delivery caught the eye of Abbas, whom Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had given the task to find out a genuine fast bowler. The young boy requested Abbas for a chance. The legendary batsman gave him the much-needed opportunity and the rest is history.
Unfortunately, Akhtar’s injury-plagued career didn’t last long. He retired in 2011 but he was out of the team for most of the times during his controversy-ridden career. He is also a big fan of former Indian cricketer Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy. He always believed that if former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly was his captain he must have played international cricket for 20 years.
He went on to say, “If he could have played for India he would like to train the Indian seamers.”
But he lamented that that is not possible as these two neighbouring countries never want to be friends. However, he acknowledged that India always ushered him with praise and love him “even though they hated me on the field.”
Meanwhile, Akhtar was asked from whom he felt to learn the tricks of bowling during his career. He said, “Though we have a strong bowling unit I would have learned a lot of things from legendary Australian medium pacer Glenn McGrath.”
Akhtar has played 46 Test and took 178 wickets at an outstanding average of 25.69 and in ODIs; he made 163 appearances for Pakistan and took 247 wickets at an average of 24.97.