Sunday, February 27, 2011


Pakistan manged to pull off a win against Sri Lanka in a Group A match played out at Colombo. Filled with moments of brilliance and utter madness, this match lived up to its pre-match hype of being a "big game".

Shahid Afridi got 4 wickets for Pakistan and deservedly got the Man of the Match award for his performance. He is also now the current leading wicket-taker of the tournament with 9 wickets at the end of the first week of the World Cup. But this blog post is not about Shahid Afridi.

Shoaib Akhtar. His career has been a bit like this match, except that there have been a lot of controversies as well. He has been brilliant at times... and completely and inexplicably mad at other times. His career has seen more ups and downs that you'd normally associate with even a span as long as his in the international cricket fraternity.

I was never a fan of Shoaib Akhtar. I did enjoy watching him play because he was a performer... sometimes bad and sometimes good! But never been a fan of his, and I don't think I ever will be. There's something about all pace bowlers and leg spinners that's attracted me always... and Shoaib's bowling has just been one of that!

But his performance against Sri Lanka was something else. If there is a word I could pick to describe what I felt about his performance against Sri Lanka, it was RESPECT. A mellowed version of his past self, Shoaib Akhtar 2.0 has been as impressive as I have ever seen him. He does not come in sprinting during his run up, bowl a 100 mph yorker that uproots 2 stumps, and then go off for wild celebrations allowing his teammates to chase him. No, he is a changed man now... and by the looks of it, changed for the better!

With growing age and increasing maturity, men start realising their weaknesses and limitations. Some men cannot cope up with this realisation and wither away, while some men face them and alter their game accordingly.

Since India's tour of England 2007, this has been the aspect of Sachin Tendulkar that has been the most pleasing to watch. He bats more within himself, seems more human, and yet reaches inhuman heights. On the other end of the spectrum has been Ricky Ponting. He was unable to come to terms with the fact that he was (for some time, at least) having troubles with his pull shots and hook shots... yet continued playing them and falling to them. It was sad to see him in that phase. However, on his last Test tour of India in October 2010, it was pleasing to see the application and the fight he showed against his biggest perceived weakness... facing quality spin bowling. There were two knocks, where both the times he scored 77, that I have immense respect for. That is what you want to see from a legendary fighter!

And the kind of performances that he has put up in recent times is what you want to see from a bowler like Shoaib Akhtar. Sweating profusely, walking with a slight limp, and yet giving his heart and soul into his role for the team! He bowled with intelligence that only comes with experience... and did not lose patience when he did not have wickets to show for his efforts in the first spell.

It is no wonder that the captain showed faith in him when Sri Lanka's best batsmen, Sangakkara and Jayawardene, were batting together. Not for long, said Shoaib, and sent Jayawardene back with a wonderful length ball that jagged back in to hit the top of middle. Just when you wondered that he is looking too tired to be able to continue this spell, he would come back again... and never let the batsmen off the hook. Like the Pakistani batsmen had shown respect to Muralitharan earlier in the day, the Sri Lankan batsmen had no choice but to show respect to the bowling of Shoaib Akhtar.

Not for the output, but for its sheer quality and execution, this one was a performance for which I would truly and honestly remark, "Take a bow!"


Govind Raj said...

Even I feel his time has come. I am now really really scared of Pakistan. In spite of ordinary fielding, in spite of lack of experience in batting [except for 2], in spite of comical running between wickets and in spite of Kakmal, they can win.

Imagine what they can do with a little more focus !

Anonymous said...

Rightly said S Akhtar V2.0 was more impressive. Plus I agree with Govind above as well

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