19 Facts about Shoaib Akhtar: The need for speed

Shoaib Akhtar
Shoaib Akhtar. (© Getty Images)

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One of the most fearsome and mercurial pace bowlers of the modern era, and perhaps the fastest bowler in the history of cricket, Shoaib Akhtar believed in terrorizing batsmen with pace. He was seriously quick and before you could watch the ball you were done and dusted. His Yorkers had the strength to damage your feet while the bouncers were sure to invite some ice packs after the match. With his flamboyant attitude and off the field demeanour, the ‘Rawalpindi Express’ will always be remembered as one of the most popular faces of contemporary cricket. On his birthday we list 20 interesting facts you need to know about the speed king.

1. Birth:

Akhtar was born in a small town Morgha near Rawalpindi on the 13th of August 1975, Punjab in Pakistan. His father was a plant operator at the Attock Refinery.

2. Nickname:

Akhtar is fondly referred to as the Rawalpindi Express. He is also sometimes referred to as Tiger and Don.

3. The Fastest of em’ all:

The former Pakistani pacer bowled the officially recorded fastest delivery in cricket against England in the 2003 World Cup, which clocked in at 161.3 km/h (100.2 mph) in speed.

4. The wolf among the sheep:

During his school days, Shoaib used to run the 100-meter races. He was a very good sprinter. That’s how he got his pace doing a fast 35-meter run-up.

5. The ‘thousand girlfriends’ of Akhtar:

In his words, “I have thousands of girlfriends although I suppose I should just call them friends. I think they are little more than fans. It’s absolute madness in Pakistan. If I go out all the women rush towards me in order to have a chat, they grab me and at times even tear off my clothes”, don’t be surprised at such self-certification. That is Shoaib Akhtar for you.

6. Timber! :

If there is one moment that would best describe Akhtar, then it has to be his spell in the Asian Test Championship match against India at a jam-packed Eden Gardens at Kolkata in 1999. He removed Rahul Dravid with a peach of an in-swinging yorker and won his first battle with Sachin Tendulkar, disturbing his timber for a golden duck to silence the capacity crowd.

7. The Lego house:

His childhood was spent in a “one-room semi-pucca house,” where the roof needed to be under constant maintenance. Shoaib later wrote in his autobiography ‘Controversially Yours’: “I remember feeling cold and bewildered — roofs were not supposed to fall, they were supposed to protect us!”

8. The tough part:

Shoaib’s parents did not come from rich families. His grandfather had actually given away Hameeda (Shoaib’s mother) to a childless English couple for adoption.

9. The need for speed:

Even as a teenager, Shoaib was fascinated with motorbikes, and, of course, speed. He used to scare people, driving his motorcycle at incredible speeds.

10. The humble assassin:

While most eye-witnesses agree to the fact that Shoaib was the fastest bowler of his generation, the speedster himself has a different opinion. While lamenting about how Pakistan Cricket Board does not take sufficient care of its bowlers, he wrote in his autobiography: “Mohammad Zahid is the quickest bowler the world has ever seen.”

11. Ban from cricket:

On 1 April 2008, Akhtar was banned for 5 years for publicly criticizing the Pakistan Cricket Board. In October 2008, the Lahore High Court in Pakistan suspended the five-year ban.

12. Sticking it to the Poms:

Playing in a three-Test home series against England, in 2005 he made a series of impressive bowling performances. Akhtar emerged as the highest wicket-taker of the series with 17 wickets. Akhtar has played for three English county cricket clubs, namely Somerset in 2001, Durham in 2003 and 2004 and Worcestershire in 2005.

13. Tussle with Waqar:

After a poor performance in the 2003 Cricket World Cup, he got involved in a verbal conflict with former Pakistan captain and fast bowler Waqar Younis.

14. Ball tampering controversy:

In a triangular series in 2003 held in Sri Lanka, he was caught ball tampering making him the second player in cricket to be banned on ball tampering charges.

15. Tussle with the PCB:

He was sent back from the 2005 Australia tour with a hamstring injury amid rumors of indiscipline, lack of commitment and attitude complaints. He was subsequently fined by the Pakistan Cricket Board for avoiding a late night curfew.

16. The failed drug Test:

On 16 October 2006, Akhtar was suspended by the PCB, along with Mohammad Asif after they tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance nandrolone. They were consequently pulled out from the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy.

17. Indiscipline:

In August 2007, Akhtar was reported to have used foul language against Pakistan Cricket Board protesting the imposing of fine of Rs. 300,000 for indiscipline during the national camp in Karachi.

18. More violation:

On 1 April 2008, Akhtar was banned for five years for violating the players’ code of conduct. The ban extended to all cricket for and in Pakistan. On 4 September 2008, Akhtar was sent home by British immigration officials after landing at Heathrow airport without a valid working visa.

19. The World Record he’d be proud of:

Akhtar holds the World record in ODIs for remaining not out in 12 successive innings.