The furious speedster, Shoaib Akhtar, born on 13 August, 1975 is considered to be the deadliest bowler in this era. The ‘Rawalpindi Express’ along with the ‘Sultan of Swing’, Wasim Akram and the ‘Toe-crusher’ Waqar Younis made the most fearsome trio in bowling unit in the world of cricket.
Shoaib is also known for some unnecessary activities on and off the field.Also makes it to the one of the most controversial cricketers of modern times.Starting from fights with teammates to sledging and abusing others was the highlight of his career. Faced ban many a times due to these in his cricketing career.
Let’s have a look at some of the mind-blowing facts about the Rawalpindi Express.
1. Shoaib was not born with a silver spoon; his childhood was spent in a “one-room semi-puccahouse,” where the roof needed to be under constant maintenance. Shoaib later wrote in his autobiography Controversially Yours: “I remember feeling cold and bewildered — roofs were not supposed to fall, they were supposed to protect us!” The roof did collapse one night, leaving the family taking desperate measures to protect themselves from rain.
2. As a teenager, you gotta say Shoaib was in love with motorbikes, and, of course, speed. He used to scare people, driving his motorcycle at banging speeds. Things, however, reached a new level when he got expelled for driving itthroughthe college Principal’s room when the Principal was present. On apologising, the punishment came down drastically to a three-day suspension. It was not the last time that a ban on Shoaib would be reduced drastically.
3. Shoaib returned home late one night and was scolded. Shoaib took things a level further when he ran away from home in his mid-teens after being scolded by his elder brother Shahid (the most level-headed of the siblings). He spent the night at adarga, where he was given food; he also had long conversations about Islam (he was rather enlightened for a boy of his age, as has been mentioned above), which he “could talk about for hours, even at that age”.
4. Shoaib was selected for Pakistan A on their England tour of 1996. Agha Akbar, the coach, was a fitness fanatic who used to bang the players heads together to prove his own strength. It was not until the boys complained to the authorities that Akbar stopped his habit.
Akbar’s other fetish was to insist everyone shave before every match, which was almost pointless — given that the boys had minimal facial hair. They hatched up a plan, and — quite expectedly — Shoaib was the one selected to execute it: a duplicate key was made for Akbar’s room; the others kept an eye when Akbar was out as Shoaib entered his room and smuggled his shaving kit.
When Akbar emerged with a “bushy green stubble” next morning the boys did not let the opportunity go; Shoaib, as expected, was the first to comment: “Sir, you haven’t shaved today. That’s unfair! You force us to shave every morning. Double standards, Sir!” Unfortunately, news regarding the identity of the culprit got out, and Shoaib was fined a hefty £55.
5. Shoaib was selected in the squad for the inaugural Sahara Cup in 1996. However, he was dropped from the squad — obviously, on disciplinary grounds —before the tour started, or rather, before he had made his international debut. He had to work his way back to the Pakistan A team next season.
6. Shoaib’s favourite singers are Kumar Shanu and Lata Mangeshkar and actor- Amitabh Bacchan. He revealed that the grounds he loved to play were MCG and Eden Gardens.
7. Shoaib had been a sensation by the time he made the tour to Zimbabwe in 1998. A group of schoolchildren bunked classes to watch him bowl (and hit Murray Goodwin on his head), and though they were dished out a generous caning next day, they felt it was completely worth it. Among the group was a certain Vusimuzi Sibanda.
8. Shoaib had made an impact, but was not a superstar when he landed in India in 1998-99. He was left out of the Test at Kotla (that Pakistan lost), following which a row had broken out between Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. It got so bitter that Waqar had to be sent home. As a result Shoaib became a certainty for the Test at Eden Gardens.
He saw the Indian batsmen having “knocks” at the nets at Eden Gardens and moved across to meet Sachin Tendulkar, and the two got talking:
Shoaib: Do you know me?
Shoaib: You will, soon enough.
Shoaib also had a bet with Saqlain Mushtaq (a great success on the tour), who had marked out Tendulkar as “his” at Eden Gardens, to which Shoaib responded with “No, he’s mine; you can’t take it because it’s my time now.”
Shoaib was confused when the Eden Gardens crowd erupted as he knocked out Rahul Dravid’s stump. He had never witnessed a 90,000-strong crowd cheer the fall of a mainstay of the home side — but then, Tendulkar was already making his way to the crease. He realised the impact Tendulkar had on the crowd. Saqlain pumped him up by poking him in the ribs and adding: “Wohdekh, aa rahahai prize wicket.” (Look, here comes the prize wicket.)
He kept on praying to God: “Boss, I need this one! I need to get him out with his first delivery.” And he did, and went down in sajda: “Thank you, Boss! Thank you!” “I will remember you now,” Tendulkar said as he walked back to the pavilion.
This was the first time ‘The God of Cricket’ was out for a golden duck.
9. It happened at Brisbane in 1999-2000. As the Pakistan team members got into the coach one by one, Shoaib noticed two children running towards them. The boy was ahead of the girl, and was oblivious to the fact that he was about to be run over by a taxi. Shoaib reacted, diving and rolling out of the way with the boy in his firm grip.
10. Shoaib became the (generally accepted) first bowler to cross the 100-mile barrier during the World Cup 2003 encounter against England at Centurion. Hurled at Nick Knight, the ball seemed yet another from Shoaib’s quiver, but the speedometer clocked 161.3 kph (100.23 mph). When a limited edition of photographs of the delivery was released, there was Knight, getting Shoaib to sign a copy for him.
11. As with Tendulkar, Shoaib’s first encounter with Brian Lara (at Rose Bowl in Champions Trophy 2004) turned out to be eventful. Before bowling, Shoaib had a chat with Lara:
Shoaib: Can I say something to you?
Lara: Please do, but don’t be nasty to me.
Shoaib: No, I won’t. It is an honour for me to bowl to you. I have been waiting for this for so long.
Lara: Thank you very much, how about going easy on me then?
There was a chat between Lara and RamnareshSarwan, during which the latter enquired Lara of the conversation. Lara jokingly said that Shoaib had threatened to kill him. The third ball hit Lara on his head. The great man suffered from concussion and had to be rushed to the hospital.
As Sarwan told the press about the conversation (Lara did not face the press at this stage) Shoaib’s image took a beating again; things did not clear up till Lara came out with the true version of the story.
12. Shoaib’s ability to eat is well-known. As, soon after his knee surgery in 2009, he ate seven pieces of KFC chicken in addition to two burgers while still under the influence of anaesthesia. The body revolted, and he had to throw up. Determined not to lose the battle, he had another meal after another hour.
13. In 2005 Meera, the renowned Pakistani actress, had asked Shoaib whether he was interested in meeting Mahesh Bhatt. Shoaib agreed, and Bhatt flew in when Shoaib was attending a cricket camp in Karachi with a proposal: would he want to act inGangster, the upcoming Bhatt production?
Unfortunately, PCB did not allow him, and threatened him with a ban. Shoaib’s well-wishers did not want him to go for it either if he really wanted to play cricket. Shoaib agreed: he did not want people to get the idea that he was not a serious cricketer.
14. Being a Salman Khan fan is one thing, but fancying himself as a legend is another. While his friends think his eyes tend to bug out of his face, Shoaib is under the impression that his “eyes are nice and big like Salman Khan’s, which isn’t a bad thing because there are many who consider this popular Indian film actor a handsome man.”
15. Shoaib was banned for five years following his assault on Mohammad Asif. However, after Kolkata Knight Riders selected him for the inaugural Indian Premier League, the ban had mysteriously come down to one month. The IPL selection was itself, well, a bit non-trivial: as Shoaib mentions, it apparently involved a lot of coaxing by Lalit Modi.