Cricketers pick their favourites

'Undoubtedly the quickest, the meanest'

Part four: Allan Donald on the most intimidating bowlers he has seen: Shoaib Akhtar, the speed demon

Produced by: Gokul Chakravarthy; Interviewer: Nagraj Gollapudi

June 4, 2013


Shoaib Akhtar

'Undoubtedly the quickest, the meanest'

June 4, 2013

Shoaib Akhtar bowls in the nets, Colombo, March 17, 2011
Shoaib Akhtar: could decimate your stumps © AFP

Shoaib was undoubtedly the quickest, the meanest. The 1999 World Cup - Shoaib Akhtar arrived on the scene. The first game I watched, in my hotel room, where he yorked Adam Gilchrist [Steve Waugh] at 97 miles an hour.

I just thought that this kid is going to be a handful in this World Cup. You've got Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar - comfortably the best three quicks on display in the World Cup in 1999.

Shoaib had an enormously long run-up. Bob Woolmer always used to say that it was a waste of energy. He could easily have come off a shorter run-up. But I think Shoaib's ego was far too big for anybody to tell him any differently, because for him it was a big thing - running that far. Jacques Kallis [would say] that he'd often take guard and wait for Shoaib to turn at the back of his mark and he just wait and waited and waited until the next ball was delivered.

But my goodness he was quick, he was seriously quick. And again, another young Pakistani bowler who could bowl yorkers at will. [There are] not that many batsmen in world cricket who could play the hook shot against him. I think the other two [Wasim and Waqar], you could still at times get hold of them, but Shoaib was skiddy. He wasn't a tall man, so it was a skiddy bouncer and it was very, very quick. You had to know your story with him. You had to choose the right ball to try and play the horizontal shot.

But he had everything. He had presence. He was a mean man. Look, he was absolutely ego-driven, that he was going to run all over you. And I think out of the three, definitely the quickest, not necessarily the most skillful, but not far away.

He had an action that was almost like he was getting ready to throw a javelin, because he sort of turned himself sideways a little bit, and then that slingy action at the end where the ball tailed in. He got 5 for 11 in a spell of 11 overs in Durban in which he blew South Africa away, and it was a Test that they won. He knocked over Lance Klusener and the stumps were everywhere. Thank goodness I faced him in the last ball of his spell. And it was absolutely blown. That, to me, was one of the best balls I've seen.

He hit Gary [Kirsten] hard in Lahore [in 2003]. Gary went for a hook shot and missed it and the ball went straight through. Gary actually spoke about that very recently and [said] it was the dumbest thing he's ever done - trying to hook him on one of the flattest wickets in the world. But that's what Shoaib is capable of doing. He made very great use of the new ball on a flat wicket. And then we all knew what he was capable of doing with the old ball because of the reverse swing.

But he was intimidating. He was very intimidating. I would actually say that out of the three of them, Shoaib Akhtar was the most intimidating bowler.

Posted by   on (June 5, 2013, 21:07 GMT)

At his fastest, an absolute menace for sure, and frankly far more threatening than Lee. Tremendous to watch for anyone who likes bowlers to make even the best batsmen tremble in fear.

The only caveat is that he never really had the stamina for sustained spells of hostility that would have made him a true great of the game.

Posted by shinewindies on (June 5, 2013, 15:01 GMT)

One of the unsung heroes of modern cricket, a true legend who is up there with all time greats of the game, although i am Indian i just loved watching him bowl,

i myself have played some state level cricket in India and during my early days i always tried to bowl like him with a sideways action and a long run up.

According to me Shoaib is way above Steyn leave alone Andersen( just dont go with the records books much) two premier fast bowlers of modern times.

Along with SHOAIB AKHTAR miss people like LEE, BOND, WAQAR and DONALD himself people who were fast with long run ups and at the same time skillful as well. Guess such breed has now gone extinct.

Hope to see sumone soon like them for the sake of Cricket.

Posted by   on (June 5, 2013, 12:35 GMT)

Donald said that Shoaib bowled gilchrist in the 99 world cup of a yorker but that didnt happen. In the group game wasim akram bowled gilly and in the final saqlain got him out. Shoaib was just awesome and he kept the Pakistani tradition of tearaway quicks strong. He lived life to the fullest and had the best attitude to the game.

Posted by rahul.singh on (June 5, 2013, 10:59 GMT)

Most cricket fans would buy a match ticket (i certainly will) to watch Shoab Akthar bowl one over in full steam in any form of cricket....

Posted by mudassarbukhari1975 on (June 5, 2013, 4:59 GMT)

1999 World Cup Shoaib Akhtar is biggest bowler. Shoaib Akhtar is first time played world cup and pakistan team reached Final.Geoff Allot only 1999 world cup top.Other series not play and no performance.

Posted by somethingdifferent on (June 5, 2013, 4:15 GMT)

It is absolutely correct that he was the quickest and most menacing of the three but on the other hand he was the least crafty among the three as well, and tended to waste a lot of deliveries. He had the capability to achieve even greater heights but correctly said that his ego was so big that he would not reduce his run up or improve his fitness to maintain his pace and quality of bowling for longer spells. But perhaps all genuine pace bowlers ( except may be Malcom Marshall or Donald himself) be it Thomson, Holding, Bret Lee and Shoaib did not last that long to achieve the level of success of Hadlee or Lillee or McGrath or Walsh or Kapil Dev.

Posted by david44 on (June 5, 2013, 3:45 GMT)

Simply pace at it's best the way he came running in was just nerve wrecking for any batsman, he was a tough opponent and he owned tendulker on the very first ball that he bowled at him the result was clean bowled

Posted by riz309 on (June 5, 2013, 1:26 GMT)

A genuine fast and aggressive bowler and he loved doing that, he showed the pavilion to tendulker 10 times out of 17 encounters that they had with each other in all formats of the game the bouncer which flatten lara in jamaica (not to degrade tendulker and lara) just to say he loved to compete against the best in business .

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