Shoaib Akhtar …. Furious not Fast

Pakistan’s express pace man Shoaib Akhtar said he was no longer interested in bowling faster.

Just imagine if James Dean had said he was giving up screen stardom for slippers, a pipe and an armchair by the fire.

Shoaib is speed. The man, with his powerful, low-centred frame, reeks of the stuff.

If the fastest bowler in the world were to start trying to check his pace and concentrating on line and length instead, he would be denying his very personality.

He would no longer be Shoaib Akhtar. He would be Glenn McGrath. Only with longer hair.

Fortunately for the World Cup and for world cricket, Pakistan’s most exciting player — whatever he maintains — will be hurtling in during the World Cup with the express intent of sending as many stumps and batsmen flying as possible.

The man has been in love with his own flamboyant talents since bursting on to the world scene in the late 1990s, breaking rules almost as often as wickets.

That did not stop him being the biggest draw of the 1999 World Cup, when he took 16 wickets before disappointing in a one-sided final against the Australians.

Much of 2000 and 2001 was obliterated by injury or throwing controversies before Shoaib wrenched his career back on track last year with a string of lavish displays.

In January he took five for 24 in the first test against West Indies and in April a career-best six for 16 in a one-dayer against New Zealand in Karachi, shortly before being timed at 100.04 mph (161 kph) against the same opponents in Lahore.

In May, the New Zealanders suffered again in the first test, when Shoaib rocketed down a spell of four wickets for four runs by clean bowling Matthew Horne, Mark Richardson, Stephen Fleming and Chris Harris with unplayable, in-dipping yorkers.

He finished that day with test-best figures of six for 11 from 8.2 overs.

In June, he helped Pakistan to beat Australia in a one-day series by taking five for 25 in the decider in Brisbane, prompting wicket keeper Rashid Latif to say: “I have kept to Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram at their peak but Shoaib is very,very fast and very difficult to keep to.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting concurred: “We’ve got to find a way to combat that (Shoaib’s pace and swing).”

The Australians had not done so by October, however, when the bowler widely known as the Rawalpindi Express took five wickets in 15 balls — including both Waugh twins for ducks –for figures of five for 21.

With things going so well, it was time for the rogue in Shoaib to make a reappearance, leading to a ball-tampering charge against Zimbabwe in November, followed by late-night partying in South Africa.

The question is, who will suffer most at the hands of the Pakistan paceman when the World Cup comes around — the bowler himself or his opponents?

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