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September 26, 2011

Pakistan cricket

Shoaib feels the heat of his own inferno

Kamran Abbasi
Shoaib Akhtar jumps over a hurdle during a training session , Mohali, World Cup 2011, March 26, 2011
Every man, Shoaib Akhtar included, has a right to make a fool of himself, especially in his autobiography  © Getty Images
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You might not know there is a vogue for autobiographies by comedians. Indeed, you might not know Shoaib Akhtar as a comedian but, almost by accident, he has made the world laugh. Shoaib is a rare cricketer from his joint hyperextensions to his neuronal synapses. His career has been a journey of scandal interrupted by infrequent displays of brilliance. He is a captivating character on the field of play and an infuriating personality off it. He might even have been great had the fates and his own failings not wrecked his career trajectory.

Perhaps that is the fiercest motivation behind his autobiography, 'Controversially Yours'? A rare man damns his own deeds; far more palatable to damn the deeds of others. Shoaib prefers j'accuse to mea culpa.

Shoaib has a point. A more professional cricket board and better team leadership might have guided him more wisely through the scandals that besieged him. The throwing controversy and how it was handled by international umpires and the ICC was not his fault, but much else was. When a man of Bob Woolmer's consummate loyalty and patience despairs of you, you'd be sensible to look inwards for the source of your problems.

Shoaib hasn't looked inwards, he has struck out against the world safe in the knowledge that his cricketing career is over. That is his prerogative, to end on a sour note with former teammates and adversaries. If he doesn't rate Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid higher than Ricky Ponting or Viv Richards then fair enough, plenty of other cricketers would agree with him. Imran Khan, Shoaib's hero, whose more considered autobiography has just been released doesn't think Tendulkar comes close to Richards either.

Did Sachin fear Shoaib? Who knows? It was only Pakistan's madcap fast bowler who stared into the maestro's eyes in the heat of battle. A personal opinion requires neither reprimand nor apology, as reportedly demanded by the BCCI.

Of the rest, nothing seems particularly new, a rerun of old rivalries, intrigues, and badmashies. Capturing the world according to Shoaib is a worthy effort. He is a difficult man to pin down in a verbal joust. Ask him about Sachin and he'll tell you about Brian Lara. He will mumble incoherently in English and end with no greater clarity in Urdu. He will use a torrent of words -- many in common usage, some of his own invention -- in an unpredictable order and manage to say nothing at all.

Shoaib remains an entertainer, a legend in his mind's eye--simply the best, better than the rest. He deserves respect for some of the incredible spells he produced during a tarnished career. He deserves sympathy for the way his cricket board and a succession of captains found it impossible to mentor him. But his career was left unfulfilled by dint of his own misdemeanours as much as, if not more than, by the malice of his enemies.

One of the fascinations of human existence is that we might all experience the same events but we will interpret them in our own, possibly very different ways. That is the power of autobiography. It is one view, a chance at explaining how you saw it without fear or contrition, and Shoaib saw that the world was against him. He also saw an opportunity to grab the limelight, to diss and tell.

In that moment of mad self-promotion, a moment that the media was happy to help sensationalise, the story of Shoaib Akhtar managed to overshadow the greater history of Imran Khan's life in cricket and politics, and the lesser landmark of Waqar Younis coaching Pakistan to a whitewash over Zimbabwe in his farewell series. Unfortunately, Shoaib's achievements take far fewer words to catalogue than his love of controversy. In autobiographies, there is usually no smoke without fire but the heat you feel from the blaze depends on how the central character has read the smoke signals. Shoaib saw an inferno. The marketing team for his publishing house did the rest.

Every man, Shoaib Akhtar included, has a right to make a fool of himself, especially in his autobiography.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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Keywords: Cricket books

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by adnan gilani on (November 22, 2011, 5:34 GMT)

comments on the trial of salman Butt, Asif & Amir i do believe that the whole inquiry was fare enough to catch the culprits, and was done on solid grounds. yet it is a bit harsh to place them in jail as it is a place for thugs, criminals and what not. these cricketers are after all stars which deserve more that that which is to place them in house arrest along-with ban including a huge sum of amount in terms of cash to pay in order to plea. they must be given a better treatment on humanitarian grounds

Posted by kingisking on (November 11, 2011, 18:27 GMT)

absolutely right

Posted by Danish Bawla on (November 11, 2011, 15:47 GMT)

Shoaib never said Sachin was scared of him. Read the books guys. Its a great book. Dont just believe the media and dont form an opinion without reading the book.

Posted by Ranjit P on (November 1, 2011, 19:10 GMT)

Really admire Kamranji's way with words! What characters, each and every Pakistan cricketer..and what great natural cricketing talents! Seems like, the more the chaos in Pak cricketing organisation, more are these precious gems, get unearthed. It is wonderful that at least in writing this book, Shoaib had someone to guide him.

Posted by krishna murty on (October 22, 2011, 15:14 GMT)

Come on Guys. Indians AND Pakistanis AND ALL CRICKET lovers (all over the world,Every man is entitled to his own opinion! I am a fan of Sachin as well of Viv Richards and Dravid. I am also a fan of the two Ws and the West Indian pace battery etc. Sachin is great in his own way as is Shoaib in his own. Why should we get all het up and red around the ears just bcoz of HIS personal opinion? Chill and enjoy BOTH Sachin AND Shoaib's prowess that they had each displayed, at various times and at times against each other.

Posted by Shahid on (October 19, 2011, 15:11 GMT)

Lethal vs Legend. Respect for both but Love for Shoaib. He will be missed by all of us.

Posted by shahzad on (October 18, 2011, 19:27 GMT)

Totally agree with Israr's comments....well said

Posted by Faraz Khan on (October 14, 2011, 2:37 GMT)

Playing a fast bowler like Shaoib specially at his peak is not easy. And, I am sure any batsman must have his heart pounding as Shoaib approaching the bowling crease.

Posted by Talat Hamdany on (October 13, 2011, 13:44 GMT)

I think it was Gavaskar who said that any batsman who says he's not scared when the two Ws are in operation is a liar. Tundulkar please speak.

Posted by Balaji Krishnamurthy on (October 5, 2011, 5:21 GMT)

I always thought seeing Akhtar charging in and bowling was a real sight to see. But he has too high an opinion of himself. It is not wrong to be proud, but hubris is not called for. Shoaib Akhtar was a very good bowler who missed the bus to greatness. I don't understand the way he kept taking potshots at the two W's. In the late 90's Wasim Akram played him ahead of Waqar Younis. He did'nt have the bloody mindedness which characterises a great player, like Akram, Younus, Tendulkar, Dravid etc. Ultimately, Akhtar ended up marginalized by his own team and left a lot of people wondering about what may have been.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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