Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar backed Pakistan and predicted a blockbuster T20 World Cup final against England in Melbourne on Sunday.
Shoaib, who was notorious for intimidating the batsmen with his ferocious pace and toe-crushing Yorkers, holds the record to bowl the fastest delivery in the history of the game.
“Pakistan were down and out right from the beginning. But now they have gathered the pace and made it to the final. I wish they extend their winning momentum and beat England in the final,” said Shoaib, who was speaking on the sidelines of Bazm-e-Urdu, a cultural event which was held in collaboration with Sharjah International Book Festival (SIBF).
“Even if England win the match, I can assure you it will not be an abject surrender by Pakistan. They will give them a tough time. Because Pakistan have a very strong bowling attack. It is going to be blockbuster final,” he added.
Pakistan have a lot of variety in their bowling line-up which features four quicks, a left-arm-spinner and leg spinner. Pace battery is comprised of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Mohamamd Waseem and Naseem Shah. While Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz give captain Babar Azam more options in spin bowling. They can also chip with useful contribution with the bat. It was Nawaz, who took the match away from India at the Asia Cup in Dubai with a quick-fire 20-ball 42.
Pakistan got their campaign off to a faltering start and limped into semis by virtue of South Africa’s loss to Netherland. They defeated New Zealand to make it to the title showdown.
Their situation is very much similar to that of the 1992 World Cup campaign. When they went on to win their maiden world title with a victory against England in 50-over format after a stuttering start.
Shoaib also expressed his surprise on the India’s submission against England in the semi-final. After restricting India to 168, England chased down the target without losing a single wicket with four overs to spare.
“I was surprised to see the way India surrendered against England. They are a very strong team and I was expecting them to play in final.
“They had given up very early in the innings. They should have been more aggressive. Should have tried to intimidate the batsmen with a bouncers and short-pitch deliveries.
“When we used to play and defeat was staring in our eyes, we used to give the batsmen one-two blow on their bodies to instill a fear in them,” he said.
Shoaib, who is also known as Rawalpindi Express, also spoke about meteoric rise to fame and how he became the fastest bowler to have graced the game ever.
“It was long journey. I used to practice and get rejected. But every rejection made me more resolute to achieve my goal. I used to put in more effort.
“I have been waiting for someone from any country be it India, Pakistan, England or Australia to come close to me or break my record. It needs a lot of training, will power and aggression to bowl at 160km/hr,” he elaborated.
Shoaib rated Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting as the best batsmen of his era.
“Sachin and Ponting were the best batsmen I have played against. They were the class apart. I also enjoyed bowling to Muttiah Muralitharan. He was a funny character.”
Shoaib was full of praise for Indian maestro specially. Reminiscing the famous dismissals of Sachin and Rahul Dravid off the consecutive deliveries in a Test match in Kolkata, he explained how he rose to fame after that.
“Sachin was a great batsman. No match. He was very humble as well. I knew if we had to get him out it had to be on the first few balls otherwise he would make us field for the whole day. And then on the next ball, I got Dravid also.
“Sachin played a big role in making me the star that I am. I have a very deep respect for him as player and as a human being. It was media who blew the things out of proportion for some reason,” he apprised.
“I shared fantastic relationship with both Sachin and Shahrukh Khan. Both of them deserve to be where they are,” he stressed.
Shoaib played for Shahrukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League before Pakistani players were banned from playing in the money-spinning league. But the then media had reported some fall-out between the Bollywood king and the Rawalpindi Express.
Commenting on his association with Bazm-e-Urdu, he also revealed his spiritual side and inclination towards Sufism.
“I am different person now. I have completely changed and discovered a different avatar of mine in the last few years. I am an ardent reader and find solace in books as I get a spiritual well-being.
“I can do commentary or become an analyst on any channel. I can take up coaching assignments or go into politics as well but no. I get peace in what I am doing,” he concluded.