Sunday, 17 June 2007

Return of the Rogue

Poor Shoaib Malik must be a tense man. His blue print for a revival in Pakistan’s fortune has been jolted with the selectors bringing back the rogue called Shoaib Akhtar. Malik can’t be blamed if he files an affidavit tomorrow, seeking a rechristening. After all, the Shoaibs are, to borrow the cliché, poles apart.

Under Malik, Pakistan cricket seemed ready to shrug off the baggage of its past and the nightmare of a World Cup, in which they lost personal and collective reputations, apart from their coach.

Akhtar’s return is enough to upset any plan whatsoever. With him in the ranks, no total is enough to defend and in ODIs, he means swelling extras and the risk of slow over-rate, thanks to his spectacular run up. As batsman and fielder, Shoaib means the think-tank would have the additional work to hide him in the batting order or out there in the field.

Akhtar has been an incredibly selfish player, who never hesitated to put his personal goal before team’s interest. Seduced by the speedgun, he refuses to shorten his almost never-ending run-up, throwing team interest out of the window. He is there only to put up a show and throw his varied tantrums. He is like a corn that pains Pakistan cricket in every step and hampers its progress.

A rogue with scant respect for others, Shoaib is not the cricketer any coach would want his wards to idolize. He is so enamoured by the show that he forgot substance. Everything he laid his fingers on, turned a huge mess. His presence is often disturbing and he has, time and again, vitiated dressing room atmosphere.

If Malik’s appointment was a step in the right direction, Pakistani selectors undid the good work the moment they thought about Akhtar’s comeback. Malik has seen his tantrums from close quarter and deep inside, he must have abhorred the idea of sharing the dressing room with a teammate with the mindset of a street urchin.

Even his staunch critic can’t accuse Shoaib of being disciplined and the “Rawalpindi Express” always considered himself larger than team, and occasionally, than the game itself.

Cricket in general and Pakistani cricket in particular will be well off without pretenders like Akhtar. Malik is expected to do a Hercules and clear the Augean’ stable called Pakistan cricket. Going by his potentials and temperament, the youngster would surely give it a best shot. But the mere presence of Akhtar is enough to scuttle any such bid. High time Pakistani selectors realized that Akhtar is not worth his tantrums.

Image: AFP

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