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Friday, March 18, 2011

"Want to build a hospital like Imran"

Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar tells ESPN-STAR Sports he wants to do an Imran Khan.
By Soumitra Bose in Colombo
Shoaib Akhtar has been a much sought after man ever since he announced his retirement from cricket on Thursday. He seems to have taken a big load off his chest and was in great mood when he spoke to ESPN-STAR Sports in an exclusive interview at the Hilton in Colombo on Friday evening. A 15-minute chat actually extended to an hour! Excerpts:
You have called your retirement as your first death?
Yes, absolutely. I am surrounded by some sort of emptiness and sadness. For 20 years, I have fought to play cricket. I fought injuries, I fought against so many things. Now I have decided to leave something I loved. It hurts.
How have you planned your life beyond cricket?
My real life begins now, the life away from the spotlight. There are so many things that I want to do now. I want to leave my mark on the common man. I want to build a hospital in Islamabad... somewhere in the remote hills where no one can imagine. I will lay the first brink and then God will help me do the rest.
You mean Shoaib Akhtar will do an Imran Khan?
Yes, something like that. What Imran has done is unimaginable. People call him a cricketer-turned-politician, but I call him a revolutionary, a visionary. When you step in his cancer hospital, you get the feel of what he has done. I want to emulate him.
You must have missed Imran Khan as a cricketer?
Yes, of course. He was like a father figure. I have missed him badly. If he would have been there, I would have become a better bowler and a better person, may be.
You were quite an anti-establishment man?
The system made me quite an anti-establishment fellow. Ever since I started playing cricket, I was told that I wasn't good enough. Whether at the club level or national or international level, I was told I was never good enough. That made me more determined. My system refused to swim with the tide. I was exactly the opposite. In spite of this, I have played cricket with my head held high. No one say I have compromised myself when playing for Pakistan. Have you ever seen that I been linked with match fixing?
You have had five knee operations and yet made a comeback to the World Cup squad. That's amazing.
There have been days when five syringes would be inserted on each of my knees to draw out fluid. I would scream with pain because my knees would be swollen like melons and I would feel that someone was ripping off my thigh muscles. But next day, I would go there and fire the ball at close to 150 kmph or more. That's Shoaib Akhtar for you. There were two Shoaib Akhtars in me. One that told me to ‘give up cricket' and the other one that said ‘conquer the odds'. The second one always prevailed. It's because of this today I am playing the World Cup.
You never mentioned Sachin Tendulkar as one of the toughest batsmen to bowl to.
Yes, that's true. But that doesn't mean I have no respect for Sachin. He is a legend and will always remain as one. But Sachin would never scare me. Guys like Gilchrist and Lara would scare the hell out of me. Gilchrist would simply take me on. Lara was class apart. In fact, I would be so attracted to his persona that I wouldn't know where to bowl...His body-language was just too cool!

Pakistan to juggle top order

Shahid Afridi all but confirmed that Pakistan would shuffle their top order for the clash against Australia in Colombo on Saturday.
Although he was inevitably asked a number of questions about Shoaib Akhtar, he was noncommital over the fast bowler's position within the side as he prepares for retirement.
Akhtar seems unlikely to play again unless there is an injury to one of Pakistan's fast bowlers, having been dropped for the game against Zimbabwe on Monday.
While Afridi refused to say outright whether Akhtar would carry drinks - as Akhtar himself has promised to do if his services are no longer required - he hinted that Pakistan are happy with the bowling attack that played in the victory over Zimbabwe.
"As far as future matches are concerned, if he fits into the combination, we will play him. At the moment, the combination looks good," said Afridi.
One consideration, given Australia's apparent weakness against spin, would be to bring in Saeed Ajmal.
The offspinner is yet to play in the World Cup, but Afridi insisted that picking him would upset the balance of the side, and said that with himself, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan have enough spin bowlers at their disposal.
"I think you can't take chances from both sides. If we give Saeed Ajmal a chance, it will mean our batting will be restricted to No 6 or 7. And I think we have a great combination right now. There is no real need to change it now," said Afridi.
However with Umar Akmal fit to take up his place in the team, it looks likely that Ahmed Shehzad will be forced to make way after a poor run of form that's seen him score just 51 runs in five innings at the World Cup.
Although Afridi wouldn't confirm that Shehzad was set for the chop, he did suggest there may be a change in the opening pair and said of Asad Shafiq: "He did well so he should be in, shouldn't he? Definitely he will play the next game."
Shafiq scored 78 not out against Zimbabwe to guide Pakistan to a comfortable victory, and is now set to come in at No 3 after Mohammad Haffez and Kamran Akmal, who must be pleased to see Akhtar's forthcoming retirement dominating the glare of the media.
On the topic of Akhtar's retirement, Afridi said: "I think he took the right decision. It was his own decision. Because of his bowling Pakistan have won quite a few matches. He has set a good example because in Pakistan normally the selector kicks you out, you don't leave yourself. I think he has taken his fitness into consideration."
As for Pakistan's opponents, Afridi knows that his side face a tough battle. Australia are the only team in the tournament who have not yet been beaten although they are also the first to acknowledge that they're yet to be properly tested.
Top spot will be up for grabs on Saturday, which should mean an easier quarter-final clash, although as Ricky Ponting pointed out the best sides have to be beaten at some stage if a World Cup is to be won.
"They are a very professional side and they know how to use these conditions as well. They are very strong mentally and physically," Afridi said of the Aussies.
"But we know our strength as well, we know how to tackle and deal with these guys, so we are well-prepared. We've made some plans against them and you will see tomorrow in the game we will do something new."

Kamran to open vs Australia: Boom Boom Afridi

Wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran Akmal would open the innings for Pakistan in the crucial Group A match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 against Australia on Saturday replacing Ahmad Shehzad.

This was revealed by Pakistan captain Shahid Khan Afridi while talking to a press conference in Colombo after team’s practice session on Friday.
Talking about the team combination, the Boom Boom Afridi said that only the opening combination would be changed in the match against Australia as the team management is not in favour of disturbing the winning combination.
Pakistan’s only sports channel’s team of journalists kept claiming that Ahmad Shehzad will open against Australia but TSE had already reported that Umar Akmal would replace the out-of-form opening batsman.
Afridi said, “Umar Akmal is fit enough to play now and there is every chance that he might be part of the playing eleven against Australia”.
When asked about fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar’s decision to retire from international cricket, skipper Afridi said that the Rawalpindi Express took the right decision as he knows himself very well and is aware exactly if he can play easily or not.
He further elaborated that whether Shoaib is in the team or not it doesn’t make any difference and even he was retired in the mid of the mega event it wouldn’t have hurt Pakistan.
Talking about any chances of seeing Shoaib in action in the remaining matches of the World Cup, Shahid Afridi said that if he was needed in the playing eleven then we will see.
“If Akhtar has called it a day in favour of team then I would welcome it and he knows his position the best”, he said adding, Akhtar is enjoying whether he is playing or not”.
Talking about Abdul Razzaq’s role in the team, Shahid Afridi said that Razzak is doing great no matter he plays as a tail ender or in the top order.
When asked about how he rated Aussies, Afridi said, Australians are quite professional and they know how to play and beat their opposition but Pakistan team is strong enough to pose them serious challenge.
“Conditions in the sub-continent heavily suit us and our style of cricket and we can beat them as all guys are very well prepared and looking forward to this match”, Afridi said.
“This match is very important for us and we know how strong their batting and bowling techniques are, but we have potential to beat them”, he stated.
“I can see my team playing in the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011”, he concluded.

Inzamam urges Pakistan not to forget Woolmer

 Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq Friday urged his country’s World Cup squad not to forget their late English coach Bob Woolmer if they go on to win the tournament.
Woolmer died in mysterious circumstances in the team hotel in Jamaica at the 2007 World Cup, a day after Pakistan lost to Ireland in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, a defeat that sent Pakistan crashing out.
Woolmer’s death was initially treated as murder and Pakistani players faced intense interrogation until the police said Woolmer died of natural causes.
Inzamam, Pakistan’s then-captain, said the current squad must remember Woolmer, who died on March 18, 2007.
“I think Woolmer made a big contribution to Pakistan cricket and if this team wins the tournament they should also remember Woolmer,” said Inzamam, who retired from one-day internationals after the 2007 World Cup.
“We prepared very well for the 2007 event, but sadly we exited after the first round but there was no doubt about our preparations and Woolmer’s hard work ahead of the tournament,” said Inzamam.
The Pakistan Cricket Board named their national cricket academy in Lahore after Woolmer, who played for England and also coached South Africa.
Inzamam said Woolmer was a great coach who brought innovation into the game.
“Now when I see coaches using laptops, I remember Woolmer who was the first to use this innovation. At that time people laughed at his using laptops but now it’s a must for all coaches,” said Inzamam.
Pakistan, who have already qualified for the last eight of the World Cup, have one more group match left, against Australia on Saturday. The quarter-finals start on March 23.

No conflict between Kamran and Shoaib - Pakistan skipper

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi swatted away suggestions that pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar had come to blows with Kamran Akmal after the wicketkeeper dropped catches off him in their World Cup match against New Zealand.
Media reports in Pakistan said Shoaib had angrily kicked his team mate after Akmal dropped Ross Taylor twice in the space of three deliveries in a Group A match 10 days ago.
Taylor went on to score a whirlwind 131 not out as New Zealand thrashed Pakistan by 110 runs.
"Nothing happened between Shoaib Akhtar and Kamran Akmal. Nothing serious," Afridi told reporters in Colombo before trying to switch the topic of conversation to their final round-robin match against champions Australia on Saturday.
Not satisfied with the skipper's answer, another journalist tried to quiz Afridi further.
"I don't want to give you any breaking news," Afridi added as his final word on the subject.
The 35-year-old Shoaib, who said on Thursday that he would retire from international cricket following the World Cup, was overlooked for Pakistan's last match against Zimbabwe and Afridi refused to confirm whether he would return for Saturday's clash with Australia.
"If we need him we will definitely give him a chance," he said. "I think he is enjoying himself whether he is playing or not.

Pakistan wasted Shoaib Akhtar at World Cup: Sohail

Former Pakistan cricket captain Aamir Sohail has blamed the team management for its failure to get the best out of retiring fast bowlerShoaib Akhtar during the 2011 World Cup.

Shoaib began the tournament with high hopes but was apparently so disappointed with his personal showing that he announced his retirement from international cricket Thursday. But Aamir believes that it wasn't really his fault.

"If he was selected to play in the World Cup then our team management should have devised a plan to use him but it seems like they did not have anything like that. Pakistan failed to get the best out of him," Pakistan's The News daily on Friday quoted Aamir as saying in an interview.

"Remember the 2007 World Cup and the way Glenn McGrath was used as a first change bowler by the Australians and how well he performed. Look at the way Brett Lee is being used by the Aussies in this World Cup.

"It seems like we still think shoaib is 27-years-old and are demanding things from him which are no more possible," he stressed.

Sohail believes that Shoaib, who took 178 Test and 247 ODI wickets, could have achieved much more in his international career.

"When I first met him, the first thing that I noticed was that he was brimming with confidence and passion. It was obvious that he was a fighter. He was just like a wild and untamed horse. Had he been tamed to do the job properly he could have achieved much more.

"Shoaib was one of the best without any doubt because he could turn the game on its head on his own. You could give him the ball and he would make it talk and give his hundred percent all the time."

Aamir said that Shoaib's decision to retire from international cricket didn't really come as a big surprise.

"He could have waited for the World Cup to finish before announcing his retirement. But it wasn't really surprising because we all knew he would (retire) as his fitness is no longer there," Aamir maintained.

Pakistan play their last World Cup Group A match against Australia at the R Premadasa Stadium on Saturday. Both teams have already qualified for the quarterfinals, as have Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

Hussey ready to face Pakistan challenge

Australian middle order batsman Mike Hussey, who also known as Mr. Cricket, has said that he is ready to face the challenge of Pakistan cricket team and especially Saeed Ajmal in Saturday’s clash at Premadasa stadium, Colombo.
Mike Hussey was talking exclusively to The Sports Encounter scribe at the training session of Australian cricket team. Hussey was remembering his historic innings against Pakistan in the semi final of ICC World Twenty20 2010 in West Indies where he single handedly defeated Pakistan and said, “I can’t forget the innings against Pakistan in the semi final when I hit Saeed Ajmal out of the park.”

Hussey also valued the performance of Pakistan cricket team in the World Cup so far and said, “Pakistan cricket team are playing good cricket and they looked solid under the captaincy of Shahid Afridi but we know their weaknesses and we will be able to beat them on Saturday.”
Hussey termed his injury before the start of the World Cup as big disappointment and said, “I got unfit just before the start of the world cup and I was very demoralized with the injury but thanks to God that I am now part of the Aussies team in the mega event.”
Hussey also praised the world’s fastest bowler Shoaib Akhtar and said, “Shoaib is a great bowler and he always ready to give his 100% for his team. His commitment with the game is excellent.”
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