I nearly killed Brian Lara once. I bowled three balls at him, and ended up knocking him out. Before the first one, he actually said to me: “are you going to kill me?” I said, “why would I kill you? You’re my favourite batsman.” Then the third delivery hit him and knocked him unconscious.
I had to wait seven years until I saw him again, to shake his hand. I still wish I had the chance to play against him again.
I probably should have debuted earlier. In 1994 when my knees could handle four more years. I started pretty late, in ’97 – ’98. If I’d began earlier, I would have got five good years out of it. I would have easily gotten 300 wickets and then lingered on with my injuries. In ’96, my knees, legs, back and shoulders were all gone and then I started getting rejected.
Doctors gave me two years when I was playing -because of my bad knees, so I thought I just needed to run in and leave my mark as the fastest bowler ever. I used to push myself and tell myself I was capable of tolerating the pain as much as the next person but it only creates deformities.
Now, I can’t even walk straight at times. I have seen people in my situation ending up disabled. Many of the fast bowlers I know from back in the day are struggling with injuries. Today, the medical teams comes in with the correct guidance from day one.
The quality of fast bowling has deteriorated over the years and isn’t as good as it used to be in the 90s. There are too many restrictions, excessive Twenty20 cricket and overall pressure on fast bowlers. I want more emphasis on test cricket and a relaxation of the rules, because fast bowlers are expected to behave in a certain manner. The art is dying because of strict restriction. It’s a dying art.
You can’t expect bowlers to be lovey-dovey, when your heart is beating at 185-190bpms – you have to be aggressive It’s the fast bowlers job to be mean, to let the person they’re up against know they’re inferior and not as smart as the bowler.
Getting in people’s faces is unreasonable though. It’s disrespectful. There needs to be a method to show “controlled madness”.
But I do like to see Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Stuart Broad running in. I like the new England team, I’m fine with the aggression they show, and they’ve won a few test matches with it.
Rahul Dravid was the toughest batsman to play against. Ricky Ponting, Gilchrist and Justin Langer were all brutal, but the mental battle was the important thing for me. And Dravid would both mentally and physically tire me out. He had all the answers to my questions.
Wasim Akram, Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne – these are people that come around once in a 100 years. They’re out of the human league.
The one left-hand batsmen that always impressed me was England’s Marcus Trescothick. He was a match-winner when he was on a roll.
Batsmen have the most difficult job. They’re either up against a good team in good form or having to be around 10 team members of the opposing side. You have to keep a straight face and avoid being friendly with those around you.
My secondary sport was football. Many talented cricketers are talented footballers and hockey players because they are genetically manufactured that way. They can play almost any sport. I haven’t begun golf yet but I plan on starting soon.
There’s a huge market for cricket for cricket here, and with Sprite Cricket Stars we’ve established a platform for people to play and help themselves financially. There’s 200 teams competing this time around and the players all have the chance of winning cash prizes. The objective was to connect all the different communities, from Bangladeshis, Nepalese and Pakistanis, you name it. And now they have the opportunity to play with me, at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium and Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium.
Oh, and I want to say… (regarding the Pakistani match fixing scandal) I believe Mohammed Amir has served his punishment and deserves a second chance. The cricketing world needs an apology from the cricketers involved and the best possibly apology would those players winning the Cricket World Cup.
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Esquire was speaking to Shoaib Akhtar ahead of the Sprite Cricket Stars Finals, taking place on on Dec 4, to find out more, go to http://www.spritecricketstars.com/legacy.php