Kumar Sangakkara is one of the finest batsmen I've played against: Shoaib Akhtar

Sangakkara talked about his feeling while facing Shoaib for the first time.

Kumar Sangakkara
Kumar Sangakkara. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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Shoaib Akhtar was renowned as the world’s fastest bowler during his heydays in the late ’90s and early 2000s. On 27th April in 2000, he became the first bowler in the world to cross the 100mph speed barrier. This was commemorated by Wisden with a tweet with an article about Shoaib by ex-Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara, to which Shoaib has responded with utter humility.

With his furious pace and open-chested unorthodox action after a long, long run-up from the boundary rope, Shoaib would inflict fear in the mind of every batsman who faced him. He would regularly bowl in the 90mph zone, and on 27th April 2000, he broke the 100 mph barrier when bowling to Craig McMillan in an ODI against New Zealand at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Shoaib’s delivery clocked in at 100.04 mph (161.0 kmph), beating the previous record of the fastest-ever ball by Australian Jeff Thompson in 1975 (99.8 mph).

It was a hitherto unbelievable feat, and created a buzz in the cricketing world, showing bowlers it was possible. The Rawalpindi Express has gone further to better his record, bowling a 100.23 mph (161.3 kmph) snorter to England’s Nick Knight in the 2003 World Cup. While Australians Brett Lee and Shaun Tait have since broken the 100 mph barrier, Shoaib’s record for fastest ball ever remains intact.

Ex-Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara in his “Titans of Cricket” series about the Pakistani pacer reminisces his initial feelings about facing Akhtar the speed demon. Sangakkara recalls thinking “What have I gotten myself into?” the first time he saw Shoaib up close from the non-striker’s end in the article. The candour in Sangakkara’s words reflects his mindset on facing Akhtar and his appreciation of the Pakistani speedster.

That the two share a mutual appreciation was further underlined by the way Shoaib responded to the tweet. Akhtar appreciated Sangakkara’s article on him, and called the former wicketkeeper-batsman one of the finest batsmen he bowled to and ‘a thorough gentleman’. The Sri Lanka is known to be a great persona off the field and on it, and Akhtar’s tweet further confirms that perception, while speaking volumes about the camaraderie shared by the two.

Here’s the Tweet:

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