Osman Samiuddin
Sportswriter at the National

Shoaib Akhtar retires

It's the colour we remember, Shoaib

Over 13 years Shoaib Akhtar played too few Tests, had too many injuries, got into too much trouble but left behind indelible memories

Osman Samiuddin

March 17, 2011

Comments: 62 | Text size: A | A

Shoaib Akhtar erupts after Kamran Akmal dropped Ross Taylor behind the stumps, New Zealand v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup, Pallekele, March 8, 2011
Even the World Cup, his swansong, has not been without incident for Shoaib Akhtar © Associated Press

Eventually we all get old and the bad times matter less. The last year of Shoaib Akhtar's career has held this one truth of life in it. There have been the usual disciplinary scrapes till the very end. In this World Cup alone, he has been the single biggest contributor to the team kitty of fines; usually for harmless breaches of curfew but also once for a scrap with Kamran Akmal after the Ross Taylor drops.

But something about Shoaib over the last year or so has somehow placed him in a different light. Maybe it's because he has been in the spotlight less than he once used to be. It has been good for him. Maturity might not be the right word; an expansion of the mind is probably a better way of putting it. With no other cricketer in the current side can you have, for example, a conversation about the troubles that ail Pakistan the country, not the cricket. There are some moments when he veers into spheres inhabited by cranks, but many reasoned ones also, words and thoughts of a man who has travelled the world and taken it in, not kept it out as so many of Pakistan's players have.

He was never a monster really, though it wasn't either simply that he was misunderstood. His private life should always have remained his private life but he retains the self-obsession of most celebrities, which make precisely that a difficult balance to achieve. He speaks regularly of how difficult it is for him to live a regular life in Pakistan. He probably doesn't want it any other way.

Perhaps he has just come to terms with not being able to do what he used to, not being who he once was. Even the run-up was shortened last year in the Asia Cup, in his most improbable comeback ever, something he would have considered an affront to his masculinity just two years ago. He even told a tale recently of offering advice to Mohammad Amir two years ago on how to cope with what was about to happen to his life. Amir didn't take it up apparently and who would've blamed him: Shoaib Akhtar, the role model for adjusting to celebrity, doesn't quite work.

But if you look now at what Amir has done and scour through the worst episodes of Shoaib's life, you can only be reminded of what the noted Pakistani writer Nadeem Farooq Paracha pointed out once. Corruption in Pakistan cricket has tainted all kinds of men including some who cloak it with great righteousness and morality. It is not the least of Shoaib's achievements that for everything he has done, he has never done this, as he pointed out repeatedly in his farewell. An obsessive, clingy patriotism drove him in this regard and it still does.

This is all necessary to record because increasingly the man Shoaib is at least as, if not more, compelling than the cricketer Shoaib. The story of his cricket is well-formed, but hollow. Surgeons across the world are richer for him, as are lawyers, but not spectators and his teams, who didn't get enough. Over 13 years he has only 46 Tests to show, missing almost as many as he played. He was a fabulous sight and a fine bowler, much smarter and better rounded than the image he himself created and encouraged, of the fastest bowler on the planet.

He will be missed as a cricketer, but equally as man, as character, as the very colour that cricket, and professional sport, needs because eventually, when we get old, it's the colour we remember.

There was nothing sustained about it, peaks occurring suddenly and randomly so that the memories are bright still: Kolkata, the 1999 World Cup, Colombo against the Australians, the 2005-06 England series to name a few. They are just not as plentiful.

If we weren't satisfied, he said he was, "with a few exceptions." Who are we to disagree with that? Only he knows what he has gone through to get to where he is at, and as a life all told, he is right to consider it successful. He spoke so honestly and touchingly of how playing for Pakistan was such a dream, of how cricket changes a young man's life entirely in Pakistan - "we learn swimming, driving, anything you name it we learn from there [cricket]" - that you are reminded how much a single Test, let alone a 13-year career, means. Everything else "was written in my life and it had to happen."

His body has now given up. Yet in the last year he has put together the second-longest unbroken sequence of ODI appearances of his career. That has come from nothing but spirit, because each over takes more out of him. He hasn't bowled badly at all, the brain taking over fully; as in life, so too in cricket. He may or may not play again and it will be a shame if that 28-run over of tired full tosses is the last one he bowls.

He will be missed as a cricketer, but equally as man, as character, as the very colour that cricket, and professional sport, needs because eventually, when we get old, it's the colour we remember.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (March 20, 2011, 1:22 GMT)

O Shoaibyyyyy...........i am gona miss you man.........i was thinking to face you soon in some cricket but good for me.......coz i don wan someone to blow my face.....as you could evryone knws.......Love you man......well i play for middlessex U19....hopefully might catch you in some training or coatching...

Posted by sAm2sAm on (March 19, 2011, 2:55 GMT)

Dear Osman, excellent piece to read. A charming adieu to a truly colorful and historical cricketer in PK's cricket.

Shoaib Akhtar will always be remembered as a "bad boy" of cricket who loved his country. I think last of the true aggressive fast bowlers of 70's, 80's and 90's era. Now we have seamers, swingers, but we might never have fast bowlers, who can make batsmen heart skip a beat or two when they charge in, who can break the poor wooden stumps in two, who can hit the toes and make batsmen kiss the ground. RESPECT is th word that comes to mind when i think of Shoaib's retirement.

Posted by   on (March 19, 2011, 2:08 GMT)

The most enjoyable bolwer of the decade!!! Shoaib Akhtar , you were the best. Good luck and God speed in everything that you choose to do after retirement from International cricket.

Posted by dr_salman on (March 18, 2011, 20:22 GMT)

he ll be missed...keep aside all the controversies...he was bold, brave, aggressive, honest n straightforward...n not a hypocrite atleast !! its the color that ll be remembered !!

Posted by sheffieldstars on (March 18, 2011, 20:12 GMT)

shoaib always rocked lahore and london

miss u mate


Posted by sillygenius on (March 18, 2011, 20:10 GMT)

Wonderful cricketer and a wonderful person as well... We need crickters who has heart like shoaib has... fearless cricketer... Love you boss...

Posted by   on (March 18, 2011, 13:50 GMT)

It was a beautiful tribute to Shoaib. He will be missed. I hope we all remember him for everything he was. A super rockstar of a fast bowler who could destroy any batsman in the world. Shoaib Akhter was a piece of art.

Posted by adlus on (March 18, 2011, 10:09 GMT)

Dear Osman, you wax eloquent every time. It's a pleasure to read your articles.

Posted by indianxpres on (March 18, 2011, 8:28 GMT)

He is one of fastest we have seen from pak. his inswinging york deliveries is delight to watch. He is a match winner. we will remember it for long time Shoib..

Posted by   on (March 18, 2011, 7:58 GMT)

Beautifully written.. Osman Samiuddin you sure know how to put colour into writing..

Posted by Danish28 on (March 18, 2011, 7:40 GMT)

Allah Hafiz to Shoaib. We are hoping for super performance from shoaib in matches against Austarlia and in quarter final most probably against India. I beliwve that he is such kind of bowler, when he wishes and play with real mean no one can stay against him. We required your full toss slow balls yourker that you introduce in 2005-6 vs England. Your celebration after taken wickets will be remiain in our mind and most of youngester will copy it in your respect. We have all the good wishes for you and request for the best from your side in remaining world cup maches. M. Danish Ayub

Posted by GREATBHATTI on (March 18, 2011, 6:28 GMT)

Shoaib Akhtar:::: there are tears in my eYes after reading thiS... wiLL miss u Shoaib,, u are such a entertaining player that whether u perform or didn't i wanted to see u in team in every match.. i didnot see matches of Pakistan with Canada and Zimbabwe because Shoaib was not there .. GooD lucK Shoaib....

Posted by masoodifahim on (March 18, 2011, 6:08 GMT)

i luv u shoib, players like u take ages to emerge....GOD Bless u. u r the proud of pakistan and world criket and u will b missed like anything. luv u dear.

Posted by Haxin on (March 18, 2011, 5:52 GMT)

For all his faults, it is to his great credit, as Osman points out that, Shoaib remained untainted by match-fixing. One can't but help wonder what might have been, if his career hadn't been plagued by fitness problems.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2011, 5:22 GMT)

I Love U Shoaib.....You are the true legend :)

Posted by YoYoyoma on (March 18, 2011, 5:19 GMT)

Perfect ,"Rang De Basanti" tribute for him.

Posted by m.a.khokhar on (March 18, 2011, 5:17 GMT)

shoaib will b remembered till the cricket will b played as the dangerous and fastest bowler on planet.. hats off to u Shoaib

Posted by Emancipator007 on (March 18, 2011, 5:15 GMT)

Feeling real bad about this retirement. An extreme pace bowler irrespective of his nationality stirs your senses. Jeff Thomson and Andy Roberts in the 70s. Holding , Marshall, Patterson and Imran at times in the 80s. Donald and Waqar in the 90s and Akthar and Bond in the noughties. And the batsmen facing them fearlessly and with good records against express pace were Gavaskar, Amarnath, (Sandeep Patil briefly), Dean Jones, Aravinda de Silva, V.Richards , Martin Crowe, Gooch, Tendulkar. Atherton did OK but his modest records don't measure up. Wish Dale Steyn takes up the cudgels this decade, and instead of bowling within himself cranks up his pace even more and terrorizes batsmen. Want Amir back..a misdemeanor for a 18 year old. Shoaib was a sight…end of intense, adrenaline-pumping, highly competitive cricket between master batsmen/proficient technicians and express pace bowlers.

Posted by Ammar_pak on (March 18, 2011, 4:32 GMT)

Shoaib Akhtar will be remembered for his fearsome run up to the wicket.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2011, 3:47 GMT)

God bless You Shoaib .. you are the most exciting and delightful bowler of cricketing history.. we realy feel proud that we have such a precious talent in Pakistan . we will miss you ....there is nothing a better sight in cricket but to watch your bowling....you are spurb amazing and dashing.. the best entertainer whatever we say about you is less . your commitment your passion about cricket and specialy about pakistan is realy admiralbe. hats off to you :))

Posted by tick on (March 18, 2011, 3:41 GMT)


Posted by   on (March 18, 2011, 3:37 GMT)

Out and out fast and never thought otherwise. A good advertisement for fast bowling and epitomized the sheer depth of talent that Pakistan had- for Shoaib Akhtar to take over when Waqar and Wasim hung their boots. I salute his sheer talent!

Posted by tariqksami on (March 18, 2011, 1:46 GMT)

Shoaib Akhtar will be remembered for his fearsome run up to the wicket.

Posted by kaasu on (March 18, 2011, 1:27 GMT)

Well said. S. Akhtar is definitely a legend for Pakistan cricket.

Posted by Zahidsaltin on (March 18, 2011, 0:06 GMT)

Ohh Shoaib don't do this to us. Don't go before letting us have a taste of rattled stupms of your bowling, give us a spell from heaven in this world cup. Something for the new commers to remember. Bring all your energies back and let us see batsmen with fear in their eyes and shaking legs, and some more Lara's kissing the dust. Let the world experience that famous series of aeroplane flights once for last time.

Posted by 114_in_final_Six_overs on (March 18, 2011, 0:03 GMT)

He was good when in mood but last few years have been a drag!

Posted by sabirshah on (March 17, 2011, 23:47 GMT)

no doubt he's been suffered from injuries, back problems and what not! but HE'S THE ONE WHO BOWLED AT 100 MILES/HOUR. now who on the earth can do it???look at the ages when SOMEONE else has done that. He was always at the best LOVE YOU SHOAIB and we'll miss ye

Posted by Guduji71 on (March 17, 2011, 23:09 GMT)

He should be given chance in the last pool match against Australia. I am sure he will give his 200 percent as he would love to leave on highs......

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 22:17 GMT)

Shoaib definitely added color to the game...all that bravado made the game more interesting like say McEnroe did for tennis...Give me a Shoaib any day over a Umar Gul or Munaf Patel....cheers mate thanks for the game

Posted by Rakim on (March 17, 2011, 21:47 GMT)

A great cricketer, He will be always my hero along with types of Wasim, Waqar and Afridi :)

Posted by 1501tamim on (March 17, 2011, 21:44 GMT)

perfect OSMAN, being a fanatic cricket supporter, i feel i will miss THE SHOAIB AKHTER from my TV CRICKET FIELD. but the worldcup isnt over. I believe, being the fighter who he has been all his career, HE DOES HAVE ONE LAST FIGHT TO GLORY LEFT IN HIM. No matter what the bowling scorecard says, HE IS THE LAST VERSION of the CRICKET"S GENUINELY LETHAL & MOST FEARED FAST BOWLER!

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 21:22 GMT)

We Will Miss The Express......! what ever you do Shoaib We Love You. Work hard and make this world cup Yours the the NATION.

Posted by Hassan.Farooqi on (March 17, 2011, 20:52 GMT)

If he bowled a 28 run over of tired full tosses, Razzaq bowled a 30 run over. With Kamran Akmal dropping 2 sitters in 3 balls, Shoaib would have been tired when he was 25 years old.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 20:43 GMT)

Top bloke And arguably one of the best pacers the world has ever seen

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 20:33 GMT)

The greatest bowler of all times.... thumbs up for you shoib...and hats off too... we will miss you alwayssssssssssss.......

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 19:36 GMT)

Beautifully written!!!!!..... what a talent, a genuine fast bowler, a match winner and a true crowd puller!!!!!

Posted by yasserrizwan on (March 17, 2011, 19:30 GMT)

Super stuff! Well indeed it was a sad day for me when i read this news in morning. I mean i was aware it's gonna come soon but today ? I grew up idolizing Wasim Akram but Shoaib Inspired me to bowl fast & deadly. Loved his yorkers, probably he was first bowler who took war to heart of Australia and made their batsmen look like players of minnow team. Waugh's, Ponting & Hayden were helpless to him. You 'll be my hero, forever, doesn't matter what world says. God bless you!

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 19:26 GMT)

Akhtar we will miss you, yu have oproved that you are still the world fastest bowler. Long Live akhtar, but your carrer is not finished yet, you have one main goal and that is to destroy sachin and sewag.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 19:14 GMT)

True, that. Shoaib Akhtar brought madness, indiscipline, scandals and all that his ego could muster. But beneath the veneer he also brought genuine speed, and smarts - his ego and wild patriotism often making him more potent than the sum of his skills (which were considerable, by the way). He was the "bad boy" .. an image built on incidents real and imaginary but he was also the poster boy who made fast bowling sexy. And for every immature breach there were also generosity and wisdom seldom associated with most of his ilk. He'd remain an "if only" yet, improbably .. there remain others who wonder "only if" they had half as many headlines in a lifetime, let alone a career.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 19:06 GMT)

the beauty of cricket is The Fast Bowling and he is the fastest ever..

Posted by Dr_SC on (March 17, 2011, 18:52 GMT)

beautiful piece Osman. Couldn't have put it in better words. Thanks for all the memories Shoaib! In the end, we only remember the good.

Posted by ShadyKiller on (March 17, 2011, 18:49 GMT)

I feel sad that he is leaving. He was definitely the most exciting fast bowler to watch. Wish if he had reached his true potential. We would have been counting him among waqar and wasim.

Anyway I feel he has made the right decision. Wish him all the best for his life after cricket.

Posted by shazada_adil on (March 17, 2011, 18:49 GMT)

the undisputed fastest bowler of the world, shoaib will be missed

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 18:42 GMT)

he has been a terror for likes of sachin, ponting, wough....and must we agree with the fact that all great talents have devilish ups and downs....he was a notorious talent who we loved watching.... swinging bazookas to greats...I hope in matches to come we see some shines before it closes for once and all.....

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 18:41 GMT)

his farewell statement brought tears to my eyes...

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 18:37 GMT)

I had tears in my eyes while reading this and all's well that ends well. i so hope he can fight that one last round and bring the Cup home!

Posted by rupinder1 on (March 17, 2011, 18:28 GMT)

i wish shoiab was more commited . it is so sad that with such talent he didnt do justice with it. very sad day for cricket that he is retiring. GOOD LUCK SHOIAB.

Posted by drdestructo on (March 17, 2011, 18:02 GMT)

A fitting tribute; captures what Shoaib was/is about.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 17:47 GMT)

Well written Osman. Very well written. I've always admired Shoaib. He has been the most lethal Pakistani fast bowler of the last decade. Sure he has been involved in a lot of scandals but its what he does on-field that matters.

I hope Pakistan wins this World Cup - not for anyone else or the Pakistani people, but for Shoaib, for this will be a fitting farewell to the fastest bowler in the world.

Posted by s.ashar on (March 17, 2011, 17:43 GMT)

:( I have always been a fan of him for the reasons that he definitely is the finest fastest bowler on earth and his patriotism which is always visible in his words and character.. You will be dearly missed for your aggression, brains with pace, and love you brought to Pakistan Cricket! There has to be an END, but its good to see that it is on a high note.. Your Dream has 4 more matches to go.. Do Your Best and Allah will always bless you.. Good Luck Shoaib Bhai..!!

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 17:33 GMT)

Very well written. But I am sure that 28-run over won't be his last. :)

Posted by PrasKon on (March 17, 2011, 17:22 GMT)

i dnt think any bowler can lay claim to dismissing Dravid & Sachin off consecutive balls and Waugh brothers and Ponting and Gilchrist in less than 7 balls.. unfortunately such moments were far and few.. still very enjoyable.. he wil always be alive on Youtube..

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 17:17 GMT)

No public displays of false piety about him, no arabic intros, none of that "thanks be to allah" that we see from the ball biters and spot fixers. He was a misfit in the Pakistan side of recent years as "a man who has travelled the world and taken it in" - and if that meant he missed curfews; then good for him. Shoaib was perhaps the last of that dying breed of rock star cricketers who - like lillee and imran and viv, go beyond their talents and records to gave us the colour that makes for a legend. At his peak, he was the greatest sight in cricket, bar none. He will be missed.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 17:17 GMT)

Shoaib's tearing run up was one of the most thrilling sights in cricket. I am from India but I absolutely loved watching him bowl and knock down tough batsmen. We will miss you shoaib.

He might not have played many matches but when he played he was absolutely top class. In the same league as the best bowlers EVER but they have performed at that level for 80-90 and more tests, shoaib managed 46.

And a lovely article Osman. You read it and almost wish that he wins the world cup and has a happy ending. But of course we have our hero also having his last world cup, so I can't wish him luck here :-) . Hope you have a great farewell match shoaib and take 4 or even 5 wickets.

Posted by Rakesh_Sharma on (March 17, 2011, 17:01 GMT)

Shoab Akthar added more color to Cricket than Tendulkar could ever imagine in just 46 Test matches.Most important, he has won more matches for Pakistan than just accumulation mostly irrelevant by Tendulkar.This dispite the fact that Shosb Tendulkar was one generation younger than Tendulkar in Cricket. He provided flair, color etc etc to cricket and left .What about Tendulkar still dragging on trying to do irrelevant accumulation with guys fit enough to be his kids now.

Posted by ICCCWC2011 on (March 17, 2011, 17:00 GMT)

Inshallah Pakistan is going to win the 2011 cricket world cup.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 16:58 GMT)

The Best article on the man that could have been the best bowler that ever played.... but still is the greatest excitement a fan can see on a cricket pitch

Posted by murtii on (March 17, 2011, 16:58 GMT)

Cricket's true rock star!

His run up during his pomp had the incomparable power to leave fans the world over in awe; holding their breath, while he majestically glided across the grass, flying into the crease. The magical drama of his run up then followed by 95 mph in-swinging yorkers that left many a stumps rearranged; while sending shivers down the spines of on-lookers. And then that airplane celebration to neatly sum his personality up in a gesture.

What an entertainer! And now is not the time to remember the reasons why he only played 46 tests. Let us look back and celebrate the greatest entertainer, show-man, crowd pleaser - the greatest rock star of our generation! And let's hope there is another one with his talent and will to entertain somewhere down the road.

Posted by rockon16 on (March 17, 2011, 16:47 GMT)

Shoaid,u will be rememdered by all cricket fans as one of the rarest best fast bowlers in this era,who have had so much expeirence of both the ups & downs and the way how u overcomed your fitness & regained urself for pakisatn cricket....

may pakistan cricket produce more & more great fast bowlers & cricketers & humans...


Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 16:26 GMT)

He is one of the best of them who terrorized 22 yards. He is the star. It was enough for to watch a match if he would play. May Allah bless him.

Posted by Z.Saleem on (March 17, 2011, 15:57 GMT)

Who says Shoaib will not play in the last few matches left for Pakistan team in the WC 2011, off course he will play and will show the world of how good he is still! He did performed badly in that last over as being a bowler myself I can feel how heartbroken and dejected one might feel after a superb spell of bowling where the shit WK (like Akmal) drops the batsman twice in one over! Team Pakistan needs him to be the Strike Fast bowler to get them wickets! Long live Shoaib, and thats not the End of Road of Shobi (the Rock Star)!

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 15:54 GMT)

Beautiful. Well done sir.

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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