Shoaib Akhtar timeline

A tale of intrigue, injuries and incidents

Osman Samiuddin

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If you wanted to write about Shoaib Akhtar, going by his figures would be among the worst ways to do it. Nine years, 43 Tests, 169 wickets, 133 ODIs, 208 wickets; it's not even a tenth of the story. A few seasons on from his finest performance over a full series, his knees and one ankle were crocked, chit-chat about his action continued, he faced a two-year lay-off after failing a random drugs test (he was later acquitted) but missed the Champions Trophy in 2006 and the World Cup in 2007. This was followed by the infamous dressing-room tiff with Mohammad Asif and comments about the retainership he was handed, leading in March 2008 to a five-year ban on playing cricket for or in Pakistan. His troubles continued when his appeal against the ban was rejected by a three-man appellate tribunal. Cricinfo looks at the troubles, travails, intrigues, injuries, incidents, controversies and scandals of the Rawalpindi Express


A career constantly under the spotlight © Getty Images
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1996 Dropped from the Pakistan squad for the Sahara Cup against India on grounds of indiscipline and poor attitude. His international debut is thus delayed by over a year.

1997 Tours England with Pakistan `A' and makes an impact on and off the field; is cited for indiscipline by the Pakistan manager in the end of tour report. Finally makes his international debut in November in the second Test against West Indies in Rawalpindi.

1998 February brings his first major impact; 5 for 43 in Pakistan's first Test win in South Africa.

1999 The breakthrough year; starts with those two balls in Kolkata and continues through the World Cup, where he ends not only as one of the leading wicket-takers, but also its leading star. Soon after, he signs a contract to play for Nottinghamshire. He ends the year by being called for the first time in his career in Australia by umpires Peter Willey and Darrell Hair and John Reid, the match referee; a pattern for highs followed inevitably and immediately by lows is set.

2000 Bowling action is cleared early in the year but a rib injury forces him to miss the start of the county season. A side strain then forces him out for the rest of the season and then a shoulder injury rules him out of England's visit to Pakistan in the winter. Knee and ankle injuries are also added to the catalogue before the year is out.

2001 Returns in March for his first international outing in ten months against New Zealand. Five wickets suggests he is back but breaks down with a hamstring injury nine balls into the next game...and is called again by umpires Steve Dunne and Doug Cowie. A report from the University of Western Australia concludes his action is the result of "unique physical characteristics." Pakistani officials say the report `clears him'. Misses much of England summer tour due to injury and poor health and is called again in November in Sharjah. Again, he is `cleared' by the University in December.

2002 Hit by a brick from the Dhaka crowd in January, forcing him to miss end of tour. Recovers to destroy New Zealand twice at home, in the process bowling the first-ever 100 mph delivery. Blitzes Australia twice later in the year but is banned for an ODI after throwing a bottle into the crowds in Zimbabwe. Caught ball tampering in first Test, though he escapes punishment. A knee injury rules him out of the Test series against South Africa.

2003 Axed from Pakistan team after a poor World Cup and told by PCB chief Tauqir Zia to clean up his act or be removed from team forever. Recalled in May for a triangular in Sri Lanka and promptly becomes the second player ever to be banned for ball tampering. Appointed vice-captain for Test against South Africa and is served up a lawsuit by a Pakistani citizen for attending a fashion show on a night of religious significance. Banned for one Test and two ODIs for abusing Paul Adams in the first Test. Misses Test in New Zealand with calf and groin injuries but is photographed one day before enjoying a jet-ski ride, much to his management's chagrin. Typically, returns for second Test, helps Pakistan win with a stupendous seven-wicket burst (11 in the match) and gets injured again in the ODI series.

2004 A disappointing series against India ends with a back injury in the final Test. Unable to bowl for the rest of the match, he comes out to bat later, freely smacking boundaries in a 14-ball 28. Inzamam publicly questions the authenticity of the injury. Amid disquiet over his commitment and attitude, Shoaib is called before a medical inquiry which eventually finds his injury to be a genuine one. Returns to the squad where on the tour to Australia at the year's end his true Jekyll and Hyde nature comes out. He fights a lone battle against Australian batsmen in the first two Tests, but in the process is disciplined by match referees (for sending Matthew Hayden on his way) and injures his shoulder at Perth. By the time of the last Test in Sydney, looks physically spent and rumours of disciplinary breaches and problems with the team management emerge.

2005 Starts the year with a hamstring injury and misses most of the VB Series. Hamstring keeps him out of the India tour and fitness problems preclude his inclusion for the tour to the Carribean. On the bright side, he is offered a Bollywood role. Relationship with both Inzamam and Bob Woolmer erodes steadily and his stock is at its lowest ebb when he is verbally maligned by Worcestershire chairman John Elliott for being a disruptive influence. Comes back for the series against England after proving his fitness in a training camp, finishes with 17 wickets, and silences any number of critics with a rehabilitated performance. Ankle injury surfaces in the last Test at Lahore.


Injuries have plagued him throughout his career © AFP
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2006 Questions are raised about his action again, this time, by Greg Chappell after the Faisalabad Test against India. Ankle injury becomes a stress fracture and rules him out of the ODI series. All the while rumours fly about ICC concern over his action although no official action is taken or statement made. Injury forces him to miss the Sri Lanka tour and doctors discover soon after a degenerative knee condition which threatens to end his career. Is due to undergo surgery, the results of which will determine whether or not he can continue playing but speculation about whether it is his action or his injury which have forced him out intensifies.

2006 Banned for two years after testing positive for the banned substance Nandrolone, Shoaib was sent back to Pakistan and missed the Champions Trophy. The verdict, however, was overturned by a three-man tribunal a month later.

2007 Things look bright for the bowler as he is named in a 30-man squad for the World Cup. After not initially being picked for fitness reasons, the selectors have a change of heart and recall him. He makes a successful return against South Africa in the second Test, taking four wickets in the first innings. But a hamstring injury forces him to miss not only the second innings, but also the rest of the tour. A televised spat with Bob Woolmer results in Shoaib being fined by the board. Later, after much deliberation, Shoaib is declared unfit to take part in the World Cup due to injury at the very last minute. Speculation has it that his exclusion was from fear of being dope-tested by the ICC, and that traces of Nandrolone were still present in his body.

2007 A fit-again Shoaib is named in the Asia XI squad to take on an Africa XI but is withdrawn by the Pakistan board after declaring himself unavailable for Pakistan's tour of Abu Dhabi. Shoaib is included in the squad for Scotland and later named in the team for the inaugural ICC World Twenty20. He leaves a training camp in Karachi without permission and is fined at a disciplinary hearing. On appeal, a second hearing suspends the fine and charges and puts Shoaib on a six-week probationary period. A dressing-room spat with Mohammad Asif in South Africa results in Shoaib being sent back home prior to the event.

Shoaib is consequently handed a 13-match ban and a fine of approximately US$57,000 for a number of breaches of discipline. He is also placed on a two-year probationary period during which any disciplinary breaches could result in a life ban.

2008 The board's announcement of new central contracts in January sees Shoaib demoted from the top category to a retainership. He is handed a five-year ban, preventing him from playing for and in Pakistan, after accusing the board of double standards over awarding of the contracts. His troubles continued when a three-man appellate tribunal, in their interim ruling, rejected his appeal against the ban. To add to his agony, the Indian Premier League maintained their position of not allowing him to take part in the tournament. He pushed for a suspension of the ban and earned a reprieve when the Appellate Tribunal decided to suspend his five-year ban for one month till reconvening on June 4. It made him eligible to represent Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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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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