World cricket will be poorer with Shoaib Akhtar calling it quits after the World Cup © Getty Images
World cricket will be poorer with Shoaib Akhtar calling it quits after the World Cup © Getty Images


By Faisal Caesar


Modern cricket will lose one of its controversial and compelling cricket heroes sometime during the 2011 World Cup. Shoaib Akhtar made his decision known on Thursday that he intends to bid adieu to international cricket at the of Pakistan’s campaign in the ongoing World Cup.


The news is not stunning, but most certainly sad as Shoaib brought some much color and flamboyance with his ability to generate heat on the field and off it.  Yes, Shoaib is past his very best – a spent force. But the “Rawalpindi Express” will be missed.


Shoaib caught my attention in 1998 in the second Test against South Africa at Durban where his pace completely destroyed the Proteas batting line-up that eventually paved the way for a memorable win.


He got lost thereafter but bounced back with a bang at Kolkata where his express pace left the Indian God clueless and broke “The Wall” to pieces. The then 23-year-old’s furious pace saw the launch of the fearsome Shoaib Akhtar on the international arena.


His trademark celebration like an aeroplane on the runway was a sight at the pomp of his career. Shoaib was a showboat and he made no apologies about it. The sight of Shoaib at the start of a very long run-up and ending in a blur was one of the unforgettable sights of the modern cricket era. There was an air of excitement and expectation when Shoaib was at the top of his bowling mark. The thrill lingered long after the flat-footed, dark-eyed, silky-haired dasher finished his follow-through.


The world will never forget his devastation against England on a flat Lahore track in 2005 in the third Test where he whipped the cream of English batting with a fiery spell.


In an era when the world lacked fast men who could send shivers down the batsmen’s spine, Shoaib was a Ferrari among the quicks. Shoaib refused to go defensive when he came across the flat tracks of the subcontinent. He believed he could pack enough punch and venom in his deliveries to rattle the furniture.


Shoaib had it in him to be ranked among the greatest fast bowlers of all time. But he was a rebel without a pause who could neither rein his temperament nor his anger. His recklessness and his fragile fitness often let him and his fans down. The game of cricket and Pakistan cricket suffered as a result.


Shoaib will be missed – even by those who hated him. The aeroplane will soon land one last time, before it disappears into the hangar – forever.


(Faisal Caesar is a doctor by profession whose dream of becoming a cricketer remained a dream. But his passion is very much alive and he translates that passion in writing about the game)