Rawalpindi Express runs out of steam
A shadow of the tearaway who once terrified batsmen, as well as
cricket administrators worldwide, Shoaib Akhtar's career ended meekly,
denied the headline farewell he cherished.
The 35-year-old, out of form and out of shape, was deemed surplus to
requirements after being clobbered for 70 in nine overs against New
Zealand at the World Cup.
That mauling prompted him to announce he'd retire after the
tournament, but one last shot at India in the semi-finals beckoned if
only skipper Shahid Afridi and coach Waqar Younis could be tempted to
take the gamble.
They resisted and their caution was rewarded when Wahab Riaz,
Shoaib's junior by 10 years, took a career-best five wickets to keep
Pakistan in the game.
"We wanted Shoaib Akhtar to play but he was struggling," Afridi
explained after Wednesday's 29-run defeat to their arch-rivals.
"We could not play someone who is at 50 percent or 60 percent of peak
fitness. Riaz played in his place and you have seen his performance."
Shoaib had already admitted that time had caught up with him, opting to
jump before he was pushed in an emotional retirement speech earlier in
the tournament in Sri Lanka.
"Mentally I wanted to go on forever but I have decided to make way
for the youngsters," he said.
"I have no regrets. I made lots of friends but some people have
misunderstood me. It was an honour to have played with Wasim Akram and
Waqar Younis. I never imagined I would play for Pakistan. It was my
greatest moment." Shoaib, who made his international debut in 1997, took
178 wickets in 46 Tests, the last of which was against India at
Bangalore in 2007.
He ended his career three wickets short of 250 in 163 one-day
internationals and took 19 wickets in 15 Twenty20 internationals.
Shoaib, known as the Rawalpindi Express during his tearaway days as
one of Test cricket's most feared if unpredictable talents, once cracked
the 100mph barrier at the 2003 World Cup. His career will always be
remembered for a series of fitness problems and discipline violations
that put the brakes on achieving his true potential.