Former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar has recalled how the Kolkata fans ushered him with love when he represented Kolkata Knight Riders in the inaugural edition of IPL. Incidentally, Akhtar was one of the handful Pakistan cricketers to feature in the IPL.
Incidentally, Akhtar had a love-hate relationship with Kolkata. When Pakistan toured India in 1999, Shoaib Akhtar bamboozled India with an outstanding spell in Kolkata.
He cleaned up Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar off consecutive reverse swing deliveries. Shoaib Akhtar played an instrumental role as Pakistan routed India by 46 runs. Speaking to Sportskeeda, Akhtar opened up on his relationship with Kolkata.
“Look, my relationship with Kolkata was a bit weird at first but came close later. It was weird at first because when I dismissed Sachin on the first ball and then was involved in his run-out, Kolkata hated me,” Akhtar said.
“I really liked the way Kolkata responded (during IPL). The whole of Bengal was chanting my name and Shahrukh was dancing. I couldn’t believe this was the same Kolkata who had thrown bricks at me and now love me so much. Eden Gardens is one of my favourite grounds and that formed a bond which is strong till date.”
“I finally felt that I had repaid the loan of Kolkata” – Shoaib Akhtar
Akhtar landed in Kolkata after a ban and midway into the IPL. Despite head coach John Buchanan’s concern, captain Sourav Ganguly pushed Akhtar into the playing XI.
He repaid the trust bulldozing Delhi Daredevils batting. People’s response was so warm that it has left a mark on Akhtar’s mind till date.
“When I returned to Kolkata to play for Shahrukh Khan’s team, people knew that I was coming back from a ban and that I hadn’t trained and I was unfit. Only 132 (134) runs were needed (for the opponent) to win. But I ran-in really hard and stretched myself alot. Everyone saw the effort and I finally felt that I had repaid the loan of Kolkata of that day when I dismissed Sachin and run him out. It developed a strong bond between us.”
Shoaib Akhtar played just three games in the IPL and picked up five wickets at a decent economy rate of 7.71.
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