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muddaser
November 30, 2003, 12:09 PM
Shoaib Akhtar

wants a bowling partner with lightning speed

'When you are in form and full rhythm there is no one who can create problems for you and if you are off colour then even the tail-enders overwhelm you.' Shoaib, however, rates West Indian captain Brian Lara as one of the toughest batsmen to get out



By Ghalib Mehmood Bajwa

Pakistan has been a lucky nation as regards the game of cricket as it has enjoyed the services of quality cricketers from the very beginning. In the initial period Hanif Mohammad, Nazar Mohammad, Imtiaz Ahmed, Saeed Ahmed and Waqar Hasan were the pillars of Pakistan's batting while in the bowling department who can forget the quickies Fazal Mahmood, Mahmood Hussain and Khan Mohammad. Afterwards, the greats like Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis performed the pacers' duties for Pakistan during their respective eras.

The awesome Shoaib Akhtar spearheads the present day pace battery of Pakistan with Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed and Umar Gul as the other members of the speed contingent.

Generally, nobody wants to share his monopoly with anyone in any field of life but the fearsome Shoaib Akhtar thinks otherwise. He wants some seamers with blistering speed in his pace attack. That's why he gave his full backing to a 20-year-old right-arm speedster Mohammad Irshad and other pacers in the Pakistan cricket training camp which was held at Lahore a few days ago for the preparation of the New Zealand one-day series.

Shoaib thinks right because Pakistan needs some genuine pacers who could fill the vacuum created by the departure of the great Ws - Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. There should be somebody who could share Pakistan's bowling duties with Shoaib in an effective manner. If Pakistan managed to formulate such a lethal attack then it could maintain its 'threatening impact' on the cricketing opponents.

A few days back, while talking to 'The News on Sunday' (TNS) Shoaib said, "Irshad possesses all the qualities of a genuine fast bowler and every body is impressed with his performance and the way of his bowling at the camp." It is pertinent to mention here that Irshad, with his sheer amount of pace, grabbed the attention of players, officials and the crowd as well at the camp.

"I have not seen a player like Irshad who is so fit and possesses great stamina. Above all he has perfect line and length and control over the ball," Shoaib said in admiration. "If he continues to work hard and get proper guidance there is no doubt he will become a super star in the years to come."

The youngster can prove to be a national asset for Pakistan cricket in the near future. A few things look inevitable on the part of PCB authorities if they want to groom him as a bowling star. They should provide him proper attention and keep him constantly with the senior side. It also looks necessary to keep the young pacer away from cruel 'in and out' policy.

However, the PCB took a wise step by naming Mohammad Irshad in the Pakistan A team which is going to tour India from December 13 to 21 for a triangular event also featuring Sri Lanka. One or two such tours will definitely be helpful for young Irshad until he becomes a regular and reliable pacer of the national team.

It may be recalled here that chief selector Aamer Sohail has also expressed satisfaction over the performance of Mohammad Irshad and said that he had been selected among the 23 national side probables and then in the A team purely on merit.

When asked about his role in encouraging and training young pacers in the national team Shoaib said, "I have no hesitation in giving bowling tips to junior seamers. Even Mohammad Sami consults me for bowling guidance from time to time. I want to give two or three genuine pacers to Pakistan during my playing career. I think it will be an invaluable service for Pakistan cricket.

"Our team will lose very few games in the next 10-12 years due to bowling reasons if I'm able to contribute this service to Pakistan," Shoaib believes. "Pacers Fahad Masood and Abdul Rauf have also a bright future but they need more hard work to prove their mettle," Shoaib predicts.

He also admired young batsmen Taufeeq Umer, Imran Farhat, Asim Kamal and Yasir Hameed. "With a little more effort and consistency they can resolve Pakistan's long time batting problem."

When asked about his fellow striker Mohammad Sami, Shoaib, who completed his 100 Test wickets recently against Bangladesh during his match-winning 10-wicket haul, said: "Sami is an asset for Pakistan. He is a key member of our pace attack and will be the backbone of our bowling in the years to come."

To a query regarding his improved fitness level, Shoaib told, "All credit goes to Dr Tauseef Razzak for my better fitness level and he is responsible if I am able to bowl many lengthy spells without any trouble today." Shoaib while paying tribute to Dr Tauseef said, "His services for Pakistan cricket cannot be ignored. He played the major part in keeping our bowlers Mohammad Sami, Zahid and myself and batsman Taufeeq Umer fit enough to play for Pakistan despite having different kind of injuries. Dr Tauseef can be termed as a real benefactor of Pakistan cricket."

About his future career, the 'Rawalpindi Express' asserted that there was no guarantee for anyone's place in the team and top class performance is the only way to remain in the side. "Definitely I have to follow this formula if I want to be a member of national team in the coming years. I don't want to become a liability for the team and whenever I see this kind of feeling I will say goodbye to cricket without any delay," he stressed.

Shoaib, who enjoys rhythmic running, a smooth follow up, a strong back and shoulders, looks very impressed with Pakistan's academy system. "Majority of the promising bowlers and batsmen are the product of the PCB academies. In the future, there will be no problem of finding a suitable replacement of any player due to an effective academy system. The PCB academies, which are equipped with all modern facilities, are no less than a blessing for Pakistan cricket, and in this regard all credit goes to the fertile brain of Lt-Gen Tauqir Zia," Shoaib continued.

To a query regarding county cricket's negative or positive role in a bowler's career, Shoaib said, "There is nothing wrong with county cricket as far as a bowler's career is concerned. Majority of the bowlers polished their bowling skills in English counties. Usually bowlers do learn how to improve their control on the ball and accuracy level in county cricket," Shoaib explained.

About the growing menace of sledging in modern-day cricket, Shoaib said it is a universal truth that an excess of every thing is bad and same is the case with sledging. "It is against the norms of the game but the fast bowlers should be allowed to express their aggression but that too within limits."

The speed merchant gives a logical answer when asked about a tough batsman to bowl. "When you are in form and full rhythm there is no one who can create problems for you and if you are off colour then even tail-enders overwhelm you." Shoaib, however, rates West Indian captain Brian Lara as a tough batsman to get out.