Shoaib Akhtar’s cricketing goodbye

“Today, I step ahead from the most significant part of my life and walk forward. I have decided to say goodbye. This World Cup is my last and the remaining matches here will be the last few in my international career,” is how Pakistan cricket team’s star bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, announced his retirement on March 17. Akhtar’s illustrious cricket career spanning 18 years has been punctuated with much controversy, yet he remains one of the most loved cricketers around the world. Akhtar exudes confidence and charisma, on the field and off it as well. Even when he is not performing well, there is a certain alacrity about him that makes him so endearing to all his fans. And when he performs to the best of his abilities, Akhtar can overshadow even the best bowlers of the cricketing world. Akhtar idolised Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. His dream was to be a cricketer and finally when he achieved it, like many other cricketing stars today, he could not believe it. When asked about his most memorable moment, Akhtar replied: “The best moment was when I got my first kit for my first Test, which had a big star on my chest. And I wore that kit and slept in it, and I could not believe that I was going to wake up in it. I did not take it off for three days.”

Some people have been of the opinion that Shoaib Akhtar should have retired a few years ago as he continued to lose his fitness and form due to injuries and his lifestyle. Many cricket giants make mistakes, some more than others. Akhtar could have been an even greater bowler had he concentrated more on cricket but it must be said that when Pakistan needed him at crucial times, he did make himself available. Just before this World Cup, two of our best bowlers, Asif and Aamir, were banned due to the spot-fixing scandal. Without Akhtar in the team, our bowling attack in the World Cup would have been average at best but due to his presence, it is arguably one of the best bowling attacks.

Shoaib Akhtar’s decision to retire from cricket is a sober and mature realisation that his day is done and it is time to give youngsters a chance to make an entrance in the Pakistan cricket team. He has achieved much in his career and made life difficult for many a batsman. As Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting said, “[Shoaib] is the fastest bowler that I have ever faced in international cricket.” Cricket enthusiasts will surely miss the Rawalpindi Express in action and he will always be an inspiration for young cricketers.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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