Reviewing Shoib Akhtars Book;"controversially Yours"
Shoib Akhtar is rated the fastest bowler in the world along with Harold Larwood. His autobiography makes interesting reading.
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Shoib Akhtar was a flamboyant character who consistently bowled at over 150 km an hour. In terms of sheer speed, perhaps he was the equivalent of Harold Larwood. At times Shoib clocked 160km an hour and that is certainly some speed to achieve. But what let Shoib down was his temperamental character and physical fitness. Thus on many a tour he would break down, but on his day he was a bowler without peer.
Shoib has now retired from test cricket and his biography “controversially yours” is hitting the stands soon. In this the pace man recounts his life in cricket, how he came up and how he played. He also gives his opinion on his contemporaries, who played along with him or against him. Shoib has written some hard hitting comments and not all of them can be dismissed out of hand.
Of particular interest to Indian readers are his observations on two batting giants Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, the main stay of Indian batting for almost 20 years. Shoib is right when he says that both these men for all their 56,000 runs scored cumulatively have no meaning as they were not match winners. The fact remains that both these men have piled up batting records but in the end result India lost. An example is that Rahul Dravid on this English tour hit 3 centuries yet India lost 04. The less said about Tendulkar the better.
I had the opportunity to witness the Calcutta test between India and Pakistan during the Asian test championship when India was captained by Mohammed Azharuddin. I watched Shoib bowl that day and believe me to the naked eye his ball bowled at full speed was difficult to discern. I remember he ran in bowled a perfect Yorker and clean bowled Dravid. The pace of the ball completely unsighted Dravid who stood dumb founded as his middle stump was knocked back. Tendulkar was next in and believe me he was yorked first ball, bowled by Shoib for zero. He also stood numbed as his wickets fell in a heap. I have not seen such terrific fast bowling ever.
Shoib makes another comment about Tendulkar. He mentions in his book that Sachin had a weakness against the rising ball bowled to him at express pace. He also mentions that he was scared of pace. Perhaps this observation of Shoib is not correct, Sachin was certainly nota good finisher like Bradman, but I suppose he would not be scared of pace.
However in this context it is worth pondering as to what Sanjay Manjreker, no mean bats man himself has to say. When Sachin opted out of the first West Indies tour, Manjreker mentioned that perhaps it was to avoid playing on wickets which were hard, true and fast. He insinuated that he avoided express pace. He opted out of the second tour as well.
Shoib has a no holds barred approach and mentions that Wasim Akram was a selfish man who almost damaged his career. He also criticizes Shoaib Malik as a stooge of the Pakistan cricket board. Shoib has good words for Richards and Brian Lara who he felt was match winners and on their day could single-handedly win a test. I fully agree with him. I remember in one test against Australia the West Indies were 153/8 needing some over 300 runs to win. I wished to close the radio and go away, but my friend suggested that we stay and least hear Brian Lara batting. He was on some 40 odd runs. He was right Lara unleashed a flurry of strokes and he played as one of the greats of the game and West Indies won. What a stupendous victory. I can’t think of any similar innings played by any Indian ever.
Shoib also recounts his experience in the IPL which was not a happy one. He feels Shah Rukh Khan and Lalit Modi mislead him. One may or may not agree with all the observations of Shoib Akhtar, but he was a colorful character and he deserves to have his say. I for one salute him for his sheer pace and makes all of us in the sub continent proud, that this area can also produce express speed merchants. Fast bowling is not a preserve of the West Indies and Australia.