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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Greenshirts overlook retiring Akhtar

 In the final buildup towards the World Cup semifinal between Pakistan and India here at the PCA Stadium on Wednesday there was intense speculation on whether Shoaib Akhtar will feature in the match.

“Is Akhtar playing today?” seemed to be the question of the day, at least till the squads were announced after the toss at 2.00 pm today.

The fact that the maverick fast bowler decided to warm up with his teammates ahead of the match only added to the excitement among the local media, especially TV reporters who were constantly sending news back to their respective studios.

But the Pakistan team management’s decided against bringing Akhtar back in the playing eleven. The move has almost confirmed that it’s finally game over the veteran pacer.

Akhtar, 35, had announced that he will retire after the World Cup.

It means that unless Pakistan reach the final and have a change of heart about the mercurial bowler, the last over of Akhtar’s colourful cricket career was the one he bowled against New Zealand at Pallekele (Sri Lanka) earlier this month. Ross Taylor, the New Zealand vice-captain smashed him for 28 runs in that over to effectively end Akhtar’s career. It’s a sad end for a charismatic player, who enthralled millions of fans around the globe with his lightning pace.

Akhtar, according to sources was desperate to play against the Indians but the team management was convinced that he is not fit enough to last his full quota of ten overs. A day before the high-octane match against India, Akhtar voiced his desire to play in it. “This is my last tournament and I want to be remembered as someone who won this semifinal and then the final,” he said in an interview.

“Winning this match and performing well against India, people will remember you all their lifetime and you will be talked about for many centuries. I want to be remembered, I want to do well and I want to give every ounce of what I have left in my body to go out there, provide and deliver.”

Akhtar, who has taken 247 ODI wickets, also spoke on why winning the World Cup is so important for Pakistan. “Pakistan need victory more than any other nation right at this moment.”
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