10-16-2006, 05:32 AM
Akhtar Interview Prior to World Cup 1999
Shoaib Akhtar likes the sound of the tag, even if it is not quite accurate. The 23-year-old Pakistani, according to the speed gun, is still three or four miles short of breaking cricket's speed limit. ''I would love to bowl at above 100mph,'' said Shoaib. ''I will sort it out. You will see in the World Cup.''
Akhtar is still a relative unknown on the world stage but an expectant hush will greet his first delivery. His raw pace is enough to take the breath away.
The Rawalpindi strike bowler - who, strangely for a strike bowler, has small, soft hands - has captured the imagination like no other player in the run-up to the World Cup. It is enthralling to imagine how a batsman can possibly react in the one third of a second it takes for the ball to reach him.
Few have bowled quicker. Not Harold Larwood, not Fred Trueman, not Andy Roberts. Even Australia's Jeff Thompson never cracked the magic three-figure mark. His fastest ball in 1975 in Perth was recorded at 99.70 miles per hour.
The West Indians will hope that Akhtar proves as wild as he is inexperienced but it seems unlikely. Akhtar's progress over the past season - including the acquisition of a meanly-disguised slower ball - has been such that the once-irreplacable Waqar Younis is now struggling to get a game for Pakistan.
Akhtar admits Waqar has been the model for his 32-yard run-up. When he tried to cut it down for the one-day game, he found he lost his rhythm. His coach, Sarfraz Nawaz, immediately urged him to go back to his former ways.
He is fast enough to worry the best. In February Sachin Tendulkar, the world's top batsman, looked up in disbelief after Akhtar scattered his stumps in the Asian Test championships in Calcutta. It was the first time the Indian had been dismissed first ball in a Test. ''Yes, he is the fastest,'' Tendulkar said afterwards.
He is also aggressive enough to give anyone a real fright. ''It makes me feel good to be thought of as the world's fastest bowler and I enjoy having people come to watch me for my pace, '' he says. ''I like to see fear in a batsman.''
Ruthlessness is part of the make-up. Or, as former England opener Geoffrey Boycott puts it: ''He likes to knock you over and it doesn't matter whether it's you or the stumps.''
English counties are reportedly queuing up to recruit him. Media reports suggest he has been offered around 120,000 dollars to sign up. Akhtar, however, who has played one season in Ireland, has decided to wait.
A good World Cup will undoubtedly enhance his reputation as well as his value. Akhtar, clearly, is not just fast. He's quick-thinking.
Tendulkar admitting he is the fastest