General, Sports

Controversially Yours, says Shoaib A.

I like autobiographies. Especially of cricketers. Good cricketers. Good & Passionate cricketers. Bought a lot of them whilst at university in England. Shoaib Akhtar‘s ‘Controversially Yours‘ is out for purchase now! You can get a copy at Flipkart here. Before proceeding any further, I wish to make one thing very clear – I played a good deal of cricket in India and in England at a pretty competitive level with professional cricketers and I like, respect and admire Pakistan cricket and cricketers immensely. So, this ain’t a Shoaib bashing post! In fact, whatever he chose to mention about others in his autobiography is his personal choice. Personally, every time I used to see him run in, used to set my adrenaline pumping. What a sight it used to be for the eyes – to see the world’s fastest bowler, the ‘Rawalpindi Express‘ run in!

Shoaib, in fact, was the fastest bowler who ever bowled in Test Cricket. I shall never forget his 2 spells – one at Lords in 2006 when he tore through the English side that summer, time and again! And one which is display of ‘fast bowling at its finest‘ – Laxman, Dravid & Sachin – all 3 clean bowled in Eden Gardens in 1999. All 3 unbelievably quick, virtually, impossible to play deliveries.

There is one particular delivery I shall never forget ever. I still remember – my friends at the Uni and myself seeing it over and over again – more than 500 times or so. It was bowled to Marcus Edward Trescothick in the Summer of 2006 at Lords. Let’s look at the delivery closely:

1. Go to clip above, and go to time: 3:10 seconds (as it happens in real action).
2. Pause at 3:15, see the ball coming out from his hands. The seam points to slip cordon. It’s a classic ‘out swinger‘ delivery.
3. 3:16, its still an out swinger.
4. 3:17, its starting to reverse. The seam is starting to straighten as it hits the ground. Trescothick is starting to line up his feet as well to leave the outgoing delivery.
5. 3.18, we see the off stump flying out! And look at Trescothick’s stance – 99.9999% times out of 100, that would have been an out swinger, but it reversed in the very first over.
6. Now see the entire 3:10-3:19 in one piece. You can see the ball reversing from –> release –> out swinger –> reverse –> in swinger –> hits the off stump. It’s virtually impossible to reverse in the first over. How Shoaib did it, is still a mystery!

That’s special! From a very talented man. I don’t care whether you’re a Brit or Aussie or Indian or Paki, if you can’t appreciate the magic in those 2 seconds, nothing to say man!

While studying at Oxford University, I played cricket more than attending classes and incidentally, chasing girls. Played at the ‘Cuppers‘ (which is the knock-out tournament amongst 30 Colleges under Oxford University) and OUICCL i.e. the Oxford University Inter-College Cricket League (which is April – September i.e. 6-month long Round-robin league tournament). Since my own college didn’t have a First XI team (a First XI team is a team which comprises of serious cricketers), I played for St. Hugh’s College for OUICCL (First XI), and Merton College for Cuppers (First XI). Played 2nd XI for Merton as well, and played for a local club against visiting cricket teams on Saturdays. And all this – after appearing for multiple rounds of ‘net practice’ and ‘selection processes’. Unfortunately, my talent failed to blossom in England, and I failed miserably to score a lot of runs throughout the Summer of 2005-2006.

The highest point of my cricketing career came when I was short-listed for ‘nets and trial’ at Balliol College. Balliol is one of the oldest colleges in the world (found 1263), and has one of the best cricketing teams in the world. Legendary English, Indian and Pakistani cricketers have come out of Balliol (Late Mansur Ali Khan, Nawab of Pataudi, one of the finest captains of Indian Cricket, was a Balliol Alumni). After nets in front of the captain, and consecutive meeting, I finally got selected for the Balliol First XI for a ‘warm-up match’ against a visiting team from the nearby Begbroke parish in Oxfordshire county. The Balliol team was awesome – 2 Oxford University Half-blues (for those of you not familiar with the terminology – Half-blues are ones who are soon going to represent Oxford University in cricket, soccer, rowing or rugby. Top Half-blue are chosen and then made ‘Full-blues’ who are then representatives of the University team. Thus, technically, we have: Full Blues –> Half Blues –> First XI –> Second XI). In our team, we had 2 Half-blues, 1 Scottish national player, 5 Australian guys, myself (an Indian), and the rest, local English players. On that fateful day in first week of April 2006, when I made my debut on English soil, it proved disastrous. It had been raining since past few weeks continuously, and it was unbelievably cold as well. We won the toss and elected to bat. I was batting 2 down. We lost 1 wicket in the very first over. 1/1. Then the Scottish chap went it. He was playing for the Under-19 Scottish National side, so had hopes, I wouldn’t need to go in at all. Very next ball, he slashes, and gets caught in the slips. Damn. We were 1/2. I walk in. Shit! The very first ball was quick. Came on to my hips before I could move. Anyhow flicked it off the hips! But no runs. Very second ball, see my stumps flying in the sky! 1/3. Fucking mad – our captain was. Anyways, we lost one more wicket after that, 1/4. Finally, the Half-blues scored some runs and we finally managed to win it eventually owing to an even worse batting collapse from Begbroke. Though we won, but it was a disgrace, since Balliol has one of the strongest cricketing sides in Oxford and whole in England, and 1/4 isn’t a score you would wish to see as a captain. Anyways, the captain was a very nice chap. Called me and said – “Subh, you’re a nice chap! You’re naturally gifted. But not cut out for Balliol. 2 more of our Half-blues would be coming next week. Sorry mate! I can’t guarantee you a place at Balliol. Maybe some day, not this year!” I thanked him wholeheartedly and moved on. Got selected for Merton and played for them that season. Anyways, struggled throughout the summer on deliveries which used to swing a lot in English conditions, so scored a few ducks to begin the season with. Finally during the end of the season scored some good runs. In the 1st pic, I just returned from a match against Exeter College, scoring a duck. That is taken in the Exeter Quad. In the 2nd pic, myself at the Exeter MCR (Middle Common Room). Had a few buddies there, so dropped in from time to time. Was not in a very good mood that day – had scored 3 consecutive ducks in a row!  The 3rd pic is at Exeter MCR as well.

Truth be told, my English Summer of 2006 left me heart-broken. I bowled exceptionally well, got a few wickets, fielded brilliantly as well (took around 20 catches, a few run outs, never missed a catch or slipped a four), but my batting failed miserably. Averaged under 10 for the first few months, and when the season finished, I had managed to bring it up to 15. I played cricket in England in 2006 – and that was the last time I played competitive cricket, and yes, it really left me sad. Like most good sub-continent players, my feet never used to move, relying heavily on natural-hand-to-eye co-ordination; and it failed miserably under English conditions, with the ball moving from the very first over and against quality pace. And that too – I was a natural opener, made it worse. 😦 Yes, was a let down. 😦

This brings me back to my relations with Pakistan cricketers. Many of them have studied at Oxford. Imran being one of them. I’m probably one of the greatest Imran Khan fans alive! But Pakistan has always produced legendary Asian tigers from time to time – Majid Khan (Cambridge University Full Blue), Javed Burki (Oxford University Full Blue), Hanif Mohammad, Wasim Bari, Imran Khan (Oxford University Full Blue), Abdul Kardar (Oxford University Full Blue), Zaheer AbbasJaved Miandad, Sarfraz Nawaz, and recently Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Shoaib should and could have been added to this great list of immensely talented and God-gifted players had he been more polite on & off the field, have had ‘self-discipline’ in life and was more focused on the job in hand. Instead he chose the path of self-destruction, which made him remain as ‘one of the good fast bowlers from Pakistan’ instead of ‘one of the greatest ever’ that he could have been.

I still remember watching Shoaib bowl in England in 2006 (at Lords). He was unbelievably quick. Raw pace at its finest. Made me nostalgic of some immensely quick bowlers from Pakistan whom I faced at Oxford. They all had one thing in commonlong run ups, quick, zippy action, and undisciplined. Thus, once you get used to the line, you can tear them down. Shoaib should have had got such great mentors if he wished to. Imran, Wasim, Waqar and others. Instead he made enemies all around. This plus his health which couldn’t take his long run ups for long, made him bow out.

Now comes his autobiography. Haven’t read it, so technically, am not entitled to comment anything on the quality of the contents in it. But as I receive from media tidbits, to say – Sachin was afraid of him, is a mistake. And then he comes back saying, “he never said that“. And calling ‘SRK’ and ‘Lalit Modi’ cheats – well, am sure they deserved it. Their friendship was based on ‘monetary transactions in IPL’ and once the revenues where not in as expected, they called it off. Thus, its natural for Shoaib to call SRK a cheat, and for SRK to call him a fool back.

As for Sachin not being a finisher – well, we don’t need Shoaib to say that. Even a kid who follows cricket knows that. Sachin is technically a sound player, but far from stylish and quality stroke-maker of the likes of Brian Lara and Saeed Anwar. Personally, I rate these 2 above Sachin. Another player who probably is the Mr. Finisher, i.e. Michael Bevan of Australia. Sachin, yes, is a great player, but definitely NOT a match winner. I never ever saw him play under control in Australia and in England. Always struggled against pace and swing.

So technically, don’t care what Shah Rukh Khan says about Shoaib. SRK can go and fucking play cricket with his wife on bed; I don’t think he is entitled to make comments on Shoaib. I lost 2 of my friends, one of them very close who died while playing cricket. One got hit on the temple (he wasn’t wearing a helmet which is very common in England), and one got hit on the chin, and both died very next day due to internal brain hemorrhage. It takes a lot of fucking balls to go out there and play some shots. I think SRK thinks – life is a movie where you can take retakes all life long! A real Indian douche bag!

Anyways, I look forward reading this one soon. Flipkart, can I get a complimentary copy, please? 🙂

A wonderful clip to sum up Shoaib’s efforts. Wish he had more discipline in life. He could have become one of the greatest fast bowlers on earth.

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