April 12, 2002

159. 5kph - Shoaib is the fastest

Eddie Smith

"God made me a supreme athlete. I cannot compromise that. I have a mission to cross the 100mph barrier. God gave me that mission. I will break the barrier forever. People say I'll never be the same again, but that's rubbish. I'll prove how good I am. If I can burn brightly for a short time, perhaps 10 years, that will be enough. I don't want to save myself for an extra five years of being ordinary. I want to set records that will never be broken. I want to leave cricket like a king. Pride is important to me. I will only play if I can do so with pride. Would you ask Michael Johnson to run a marathon? He has the muscles for sprinting, it's the same for me. God made me a fast bowler."

Shoaib Akhtar made this statement in an interview with George Dobell for The Cricketer in December of 2000. Today, on the 12th of April 2002, Shoaib has come closer to reaching his "mission" than at any point in his career by bowling a ball with a release speed of 159.5k ph, just 1.4 kph shy of the magical 100 miles-per-hour mark (160.9 kph). Today, once again, Shoaib Akhtar stands alone as the 'Worlds Fastest Bowler'.

A little over a month ago, Shoaib lost his 'crown' to his friend and competitor in the pace race Brett Lee, when Lee set the a benchmark of 157.4 kph. No doubt this hurt the 'Rawlpindi Express' and in the three matches thus far in Sharjah he has been out to prove a point - that he alone is the 'Fastest Bowler in The World' and he will be the first to cross 100 miles-per-hour. Whether he will be the first to break the elusive mark is yet to be seen, but no other bowler bar Jeff Thomson has been recorded bowling as fast in match conditions.

Thommo's world record stands at 160.45 kph and was recorded on equipment which is rated more accurate than that which is in use today. Those high speed cameras would no doubt be in use nowadays except for the time delay in receiving the results. This was the only 'match day' known in which Jeff Thomson's bowling speeds were recorded, but it is generally regarded that he bowled faster still and that he is as fast as any man who held a cricket ball before him or has held one since.

Just imagine watching from about one hundred and fifty feet away as a six-foot Pakistani powerhouse charges towards you like an enraged bull. From seventy feet away you see the whites of his eyes as his stare burns a hole in your chest. Amidst a furious flurry of arms and legs, a leather-covered rock in the guise of a ball is hurled towards you at speeds approaching 160 kph. This is surely the most fearsome sight in world cricket today.

From December 1999 to November 2001, Brett Lee and Shoaib were the only bowlers to surpass 150 kph in international cricket. Yet in the past six months, the world of express bowling has seen unexpected threats arising to challenge this duo.

Nantie Hayward of South Africa was pushing up into the mid-150s (154.4 kph) before his ankle injury. Makhaya Ntini and Shane Bond have thrown their hat into the ring at 151.4kph and 151.2kph respectively and most recently perennial speedster Jason Gillespie has cast off the constant 149kph shackles to enter the express stakes with balls of 151kph and 153.9kph in the 5th and 6th One Day Internationals in South Africa.

This new-found competition and the recent loss of his 'fastest bowler' tag to Lee has no doubt spurred Shoaib on to reach greater heights. In his first two One Day Internationals in Sharjah, Shoaib has recorded the super-fast speeds of 156.2kph and 154.9kph, and to many it has been no surprise that he has wrested back what he truly believes is his own - The title of the 'Fastest Bowler on Earth'. Surely the 100 mph barrier is now within sight.