Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar believes if he were playing today, India captain Virat Kohli and him would have been friends and enemies at the same time. Full of Praise for Kohli in an ESPNCricinfo video podcast with Sanjay Manjrekar, Akhtar feels he shares a lot of similarities with the Indian stalwart and their hunger to succeed or win on the field is what separates them from the rest. Also Read - 'Leader of Men, Fighter' - Wishes Pour in on Twitter As Sourav Ganguly Turns 48
During the interaction, the 44-year-old speedster said the two ‘would have been the best of friends’ if they had played together. “Virat Kohli and I would have been the best of friends. We both are Punjabi, we both have quite a similar nature,” Akhtar said. Also Read - Sachin Tendulkar Did Find it Difficult to Face Shoaib Akhtar at Times, Says Shahid Afridi
“He seems like he has a lot of heart, and even though, he’s a lot junior to me, I really respect him,” he added. Also Read - Virat Kohli is Being Dragged Into Absurd Allegations: Cornerstone CEO on Conflict of Interest Claims
Despite the similarities, Akhtar also believes the two cricketers ‘would have been the best of enemies’ on the field.
“We would have been the best of friends. But on the field, we would have been the best of enemies,” he said.
“With Virat if you fight, he gets more focused. So to bowl him out, I would try to get him to lose focus. I would try to get into his head. At my extreme pace, I would have instigated him to pull me or play a cut because he doesn’t have these two shots.”
Fondly known as ‘Rawalpindi Express, Akhtar further went on to say that Kohli would have enjoyed a battle against the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shane Warne. “I wish Virat Kohli had played against the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shane Warne. Even Virat would have enjoyed himself,” he said.
Akhtar also lasted sport’s global body – International Cricket Council (ICC) for ‘successfully finishing’ cricket in the last 10 years and brought it down to its knees.
“Can I tell you something bluntly? They (ICC) are finishing the cricket. I am openly saying that in last 10 years, ICC has successfully finished cricket, and I would say job well done guys. Jo socha thaa apne woh kiya (You did what you intended to),” Akhtar said in his inimitable style.
Akhtar feels that the number of bouncers per over should be increased as there are two new balls and only four fielders outside the circle for the better part of an ODI game.
“I have been saying repeatedly that change bouncer rule (one per over). You have two new balls and four fielders outside. Please ask ICC whether in the last 10 years, the quality of cricket has gone up or gone down. Where are those Sachin versus Shoaib contests?”
Speaking about Tendulkar, Akhtar said that he is one with whom he never got aggressive, as there was a lot of respect for the world’s best batsman.
“But yes, I would try to outthink him. Like in the 2006 tour of Pakistan, I knew he had tennis elbow problems and he can’t hook or pull me, so I bowled a barrage of bouncers to keep him quiet,” Akhtar said.