Shoaib Akhtar has called the upcoming World Cup his last, claiming it to be the "defining moment" of Pakistan cricket and perhaps of his own career. In a characteristically free-wheeling chat, Shoaib reaffirmed that he wanted to stay fit throughout, and end the tournament with the trophy in hand.
"Is this the twilight of my career? Yes. It is very special, playing in the sub-continent's World Cup," Shoaib said in Dhaka. "I am not sure about how long I'm going to be playing, but I will try to make sure it is full of memories".
"My personal target is to play every match and to leave 45-50 days after winning the World Cup," Shoaib said. "Obviously there's a huge difference between being 26 and 36. I have experience now but at the same time, I'm still bowling very quick, touching 145-150 kph easily." Shoaib used several adjectives to describe the Pakistan team ranging from "dangerous", "the most balanced" and the one having the cause it needs, but what stood out was him using the word "hurt" to describe the side.
"Obviously we are a very hurt side, whatever has happened in the last year or so. Pakistan needs a situation to gather themselves, and playing in India and Sri Lanka in the quarterfinals, that is going to really motivate us. I think the crowds, the situation, what happened to us, whatever the team has been through for the last six-seven months, that will inspire us. We are a very dangerous side but a very hurt side."
"We need to win at any cost, the team needs a situation, and what better situation than the World Cup. I think this is a defining moment for Pakistani cricket.
Shoaib's personal motivation for this tournament comes from proving people wrong, not just about himself, but the team too. "I wish Mohammad Amir was playing right now, I would have retired easily but it is not happening. That's what motivates me to come and play my last World Cup. I want people to realize that still, very honourable people play for our country."
On the field, Shoaib said that Pakistan's ability to swing the new and old ball both ways is their strong point. "The main advantage for us is reverse swing, that's where I think Pakistan team's strength lies. We have the best combination of reverse swing and new-ball fast bowlers. I think we can manage to put it out right," Shoaib said, adding that the slow nature of the wickets might yet hamper the fast bowlers but will assist the batsmen.
Of his possible duel with his old nemesis Sachin Tendulkar, Shoaib confirmed that he hasn't lost sight of the rivalry or of taking the important wickets.
The 2009 World Twenty20 triumph was perfect for the situation at the time in Pakistan, but Shoaib firmly believed that if they can do the job again this time, it could provide the people back home with more than just heroes or a trophy. "Pakistan needs to win this World Cup to bring back cricket to Pakistan, the charm back to the country. People of Pakistan are missing cricket, they are dying to watch players from all over the world playing against Pakistan."