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Improved Shoaib is a good sign for Pakistan
Until that fateful day in August 2010 when cricket was thrown into turmoil by the News of The World spot-fixing expose, one would have struggled to find a single personality in the game that has inspired so much diatribe, hyperbole or comment than a wonderfully gifted fast bowler by the name of Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan.
To his avid and dedicated fans he is known as the "Rawalpindi Express", denoting his speed and locomotive like determination.
However, to his many critics, the term "Rawalpindi Rickshaw" is more acceptable, signifying their belief in his penchant for a lot of noise and not much substance. Regardless of loyalties, the fact is that his name evokes many shades of emotions and that is what makes Shoaib so special to cricket.
His 13-year career summary reads like a script tailor made for a Bollywood blockbuster.
It starts with our hero, a handsome young tearaway bowler, who charms the cricketing world with his pace and physical prowess. His muscular frame pounds the turf as he delivers thunderbolt after thunderbolt from his marathon run up.
It is replete with villains and romantic interests. It features various ups and downs in his life in the form of unplayable deliveries to a who's who of world batting including Sachin Tendulkar, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, and Jacques Kallis, coupled with doubts over his action, various and potentially career-ending injuries, run ins with authorities, bans for using performance enhancing drugs, tales of "extra curricular" activities and an incident where he is accused of spanking a team-mate with a bat. His admirers and detractors would both agree that he has not delivered to his potential and a little more discipline would have taken him further afield.
It therefore stands to reason that the image of a carefree Shoaib, riding around unfettered on a motorbike in Lahore, defying the world order and old fashioned values, throwing caution to the wind, is one that seems to be agreed upon by all.
His role as Pakistan's premier fast bowler, at least in the one-day game, was intact for most parts of his career - the fact that Pakistan could never produce anyone in the likeness of the former greats was a contributing factor as was the perceived mismanagement of other resources.