International cricket has arguably never witnessed a waste of such magnitude. Shoaib Akhtar, the Rawalpindi Express, took the world by storm when he made his debut in 1997. He was quick and lethal and even had an attitude to go about with his fear inducing bowling. When we discuss the quality of legendary batsmen like Tendulkar or Lara we do mention their respective records on difficult pitches against good bowling attacks. In the same way Shoaib deserves praise for his performances against good batting teams like Australia and India.
That Shoaib has been banned will not come across as much of a surprise to most cricket fans. What is more surprising is the duration of the actual ban, which is 5 years. Why such an elaborate ban, this time for merely speaking out against certain policies of the PCB? Nasim Ashraf has justified the imposition of this duration by asserting that Shoaib was on probation and hence had to warrant extra care to not offend.
In all likelihood, Shoaib has never been respected or adhered to authority. He has always projected himself as a daredevil who only lives for the moment and who is his own master. In the crazy and topsy turvy world of Pakistan cricket, anything can happen. We might see Shoaib’s ban being overturned or the duration of the ban being reduced. But the attention grabbing matter is not actually the ban itself, but the frustration and ridiculousness of the proceedings as a whole. Pakistan cricket has produced lots of talented players who have wasted their potential. One might say that even looking at things from an unbiased point of view, a fit and in form Shoaib Akhtar is quicker and more lethal than a fit and in form Brett Lee. But the tragedy is that whereas Lee is in the prime of his career, spearheading Australia’s fearsome pace attack, Shoaib is almost like a forgotten entity, a “has been” whose suicidal attitude has been the reason for many frustrations and disappointments suffered by the PCB and Pakistani fans.
What is even more ludicrous is whether this ban, which effectively prevents Shoaib from playing for Pakistan for 5 years, actually makes any material difference. We have seen so less of Shoaib that now we all have learned to disregard him from our recent and prospective playing XI’s. Would Shoaib have turned over a new leaf and concentrated so much on his fitness and attitude that he would have actually represented Pakistan in the near future, say for instance, in the forthcoming Asia Cup? The answer probably is a “no”.
The PCB is definitely to be blamed and we have all vented our frustrations out on the PCB on copious occasions. But the fact is, that Nasim Ashraf was right today when he said that no one is above the game. This is something Shoaib has still not understood. The fact also is that the PCB, like every other powerful organisation in Pakistan, features rampant corruption, abuse of power, friction between responsible administrators and morally bankrupt managers who are more interested in inexorably holding on to their positions of power without actually serving the game and the Pakistani public. And saddening as its sounds, the fact is also that PCB is not the richest cricket board in the world and in terms of techniques of man management and coaching (amongst other things) does not compare with the clout and resources of Cricket Australia or England Cricket Board. The cricketers who have brought fame and glory to the country like Imran Khan, Miandad, Wasim and Waqar etc were all natural talents who benefited little if anything from the resources or management PCB could bestow upon them. All of these players had problems with attitude and discipline. But unlike Shoaib they all had remarkably long careers, and all of them considered serving the country and the game of cricket above everything else.
In conclusion, Shoaib Akhtar has been an enormous waste of potential. His stubbornness and innate refusal to acknowledge his attitude problem has constantly shamed him and his country. The fact that despite being one of the most talented bowlers the world has ever seen, he has represented Pakistan so little, has brought incalculable despair to his fans. Once a hero, a role model and icon for every young male in Pakistan, Shoaib is now perceived as a villain, as someone who is almost like a traitor to the country. Perhaps the most potent indication of Shoaib’s suicidal, devastating stubbornness, is his statement today to the press where he has refused to acknowledge that he lacks commitment, where he has said that he was “deeply hurt” by his demotion in the central contracts category although he earlier stated otherwise, saying that it does not matter to him whether he is contracted by the PCB or not as he is uninterested in the money, and also where he has blamed some “vested interest” for this ban. This shows us that he has still not learned his lesson and he will probably never learn his lesson. But it shouldn’t matter anyway, because we probably won’t see him representing Pakistan again!
BANNING SHOAIB AKHTAR IS NOT JUSTICE………….By Javed A Khan
The Rawalpindi Express started shunting in the backyards of the Rawalpindi railway station and appeared for public (made his debut) on November 29, 1997 and that was against the West Indies.
On his debut, he did not impress many, nor anyone raised an eyebrow or expressed the expression of an Express Train to give him that nickname. His run up was definitely a very long one, longer than that of a goods train. But, he presented his real credentials to the world when he clean bowled Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid with two consecutive deliveries at the Eden Gardens. A star is born, he shot to stardom.
It was from that occasion this express train started to fly like a plane. But, no one knew whether it was a plane or a bird? His star status inflated his huge ego like a hot air balloon and started drifting. His only ambition was to hit the deck hard generate pace and to break the 100 mph barrier and join the supersonic club, that was too ambitious and meaningless.
Had he remained focused on the line and length rather than sheer speed, he would have been a different bowler. Right from the beginning he considered himself above all the past heroes like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younus, he openly challenged all, and self proclaimed himself to be the best bowler Pakistan has ever produced.
His bowling speed and his big mouthing drew a lot of attention from the media and some of the stories were hyped up and spiced up to make it look more juicy, he didn’t realize that it could do more harm than any good. As the media was hyping up his stories others were focusing on his hyper-extension and his bowling action. He was called a chucker and had to go through the process of clearing himself from the bio-mechanic experts in Australia.
That was not the ending. But, just the beginning of his other problems and injuries. All fast bowlers go through this phase of injuries and stress and injuries related to stress. But, Shoaib was more prone to injuries than stress and mainly it was because of his long run up and he vowed not to shorten his run up, by saying how can a Jumbo Jet fly if it doesn’t run? With his low stamina and burnt up energy level he wasn’t a jumbo jet but, a mere glider. Some say that his slower ones and indippers were to cover his lack of stamina and speed.
To compensate for the lost level of energies in his system he breached the law and took Nandrolone which resulted in a two year ban and not him alone, he pulled and dragged Mohammad Asif’s leg along in that drug scandal. He had problems with Bob Woolmer and Inzamam and then he had problems with Mohammad Asif and Shahid Afridi, he had problems with the selectors and the media.
Most importantly what he did not realize is he had a problem within himself. He lost his focus in the game long time ago and he was always involved in controversies and conflicts and remained a rogue on foreign tours by not adhering to the rules and on disciplinary grounds he was even sent back and suspended. Now, he is banned for 5 years.
Despite all what he did, I don’t think the PCB did the right thing in banning him for 5 years and on what charges? Showing indiscipline? What did he do? He reacted in front of the media that he is unhappy with the PCB for demoting him or reducing the amount of his central contract. Is that a crime? At the time of raising his voice in public about his demotion, he was not even on the PCB’s pay-roll (central contracts) but, lesser retainer basis, the offer he did not accept.
Secondly, what kind of democracy is practiced in Pakistan and in particular in the cricket world that a player is not allowed to speak against any injustice?
In Pakistan, the two ex- Prime Ministers and their families were sent in exile on charges of murder and corruption. After 8 years they are back again to rule the country. And who brought them back? The people of Pakistan! Now, there is all the possibility that the new government will intervene in Shoaib’s case and he will come back. And, it is time Nasim Ashraf will take a one way ticket to the US.