Controversial Pakistani speedster Shoaib Akhtar has again found himself in a sticky wicket. The right-arm pace bowler who played 46 test matches for Pakistan has been able to stay in the limelight since his retirement—courtesy his spicy opinions whilst commentating and through his new YouTube channel which has garnered a massive following off late.
It all started with ESPNcricinfo’s twitter post, where players of the past and current era were pitted against each other. Shoaib Akhtar was put in the same bracket as Australian Steve Smith and thus ensued a series of tweets and quips which might have left the Rawalpindi Express with a ‘sour taste’ in his mouth.
Responding to the tweet, Shoaib Akhtar wrote, “Even today, 3 hurting bouncers and I can dismiss @stevesmith49 on the 4th ball. Lol.”
— Shoaib Akhtar (@shoaib100mph) May 11, 2020
The moment the hothead bowler came up with the tweet, netizens got divided over whether Shoaib Akhtar could have pulled such dismissal or not. Many fans voiced their opinion that Shoaib Akhtar was just exaggerating his bowling skills and that Smith—the number one test match batsman would have surely stood his ground against the pacer.
All was fun and games until this point—but when the International Cricket Council (ICC) decided to jump in the fray to take a dig at Shoaib Akhtar, things became a little queasy.
ICC twitter handle mocked Shoaib Akhtar by using the famous Michael Jordan meme-template for his claims that he could have dismissed Steve Smith on the fourth delivery after three “hurting” bouncers.
— ICC (@ICC) May 12, 2020
It was banter from ICC’s side but Shoaib Akhtar took offense at the post and hit out at ICC saying ‘it had thrown neutrality out of the window.’
A symbolic tweet, how ICC has thrown neutrality out of the window.
Basically this is how the state of affairs are run there :) https://t.co/OEoJx30lXt
— Shoaib Akhtar (@shoaib100mph) May 13, 2020
Later, Shoaib Akhtar posted a video to have the final say in the matter or to satiate the bowler’s ego which as cricket experts describe is “really fragile” at times.
— Shoaib Akhtar (@shoaib100mph) May 13, 2020
According to CricViz, a cricket analysis and statistics company “Smith has faced 237 balls that have pitched shorter than 9 meters from his stumps and have been faster than 140 kph. Against those deliveries he has scored 191 runs & only been dismissed once – no batsman in the world since 2006 has a higher average against high pace short balls.”
Smith has faced 237 balls that have pitched shorter than 9 metres from his stumps and have been faster than 140 kph. Against those deliveries he has scored 191 runs & only been dismissed once – no batsman in the world since 2006 has a higher average against high pace short balls.
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) May 13, 2020
The statistics prove that despite his occasional struggle against the body-line bowling, Steve Smith has found a way to keep the scoreboard ticking.
While some might say Shoaib Akhtar bowled in high 140’s and that Smith might have struggled with an additional 10 kmph/- pace- the point is fair but it’s also contentious as to how many balls did Akhtar bowl over 150 clicks on an average.
Smith has been one of the modern greats of the game. His comeback after the “Sandpaper Gate” has been a fairy tale of sorts. Smith amassed 774 runs in the Ashes and helped Australia retain the urn.
The Amazon prime documentary “The Test” showed Steve Smith’s struggle against the vicious body-line bowling of England’s premier pace bowler, Jofra Archer. He was knocked down a couple of times in the series yet he managed to emerge as the best player across the two camps.
Whatever the case may be, comparison is the death of joy. Both have been great players of their age and postulating who will be better than the other is like saying Virat is better than Sachin. You just cannot compare players of two different generations.
Yet, Mr. Shoaib Akhtar got himself embroiled in the controversy. In his heydays, Akhtar was a known loudmouth and has been infamous for his routine run-ins with the opposition players.
The Asia cup duel between Harbhajan Singh and Shoaib Akhtar is still like a memory of yesterday for cricket-lovers. Shoaib Akhtar had a run-in with Harbhajan at the fag end of the second innings and a disgruntled Akhtar was not amused when Harbhajan finished the match with a six whilst quashing Pakistan’s hope to reach the final of the event.
The former pacer needs to relax a bit as social media trolls tend to feed on such engagement. Who knows if Shoaib Akhtar might have kept his injuries in check and not retired in 2011, we might have seen both players going hard against each other. But such is the beauty of the game of cricket- it’s a story of ifs and buts.