NEW DELHI - With their World Cup semi-final hailed as a diplomatic game-changer, as well as the mother of all cricket battles, India and Pakistan were on Monday just desperate to get the game underway. But in keeping with an occasion mired in sub-plots and off-field distractions, it was the role of Pakistan strike bowler Shoaib Akhtar, destined to miss Wednesday's encounter, who was the centre of discussion in Mohali. The man, nicknamed the Rawalpindi Express before a series of injury and disciplinary problems derailed his career, will retire once the tournament ends.
The 35-year-old was clobbered to all points of the Pallekele ground in Sri Lanka by New Zealand's batsmen in a group match and has been surplus to requirements ever since. Team manager Intikhab Alam hit back at claims that Shoaib was lacking motivation. "Shoaib has been fully involved in match practice, and is available for selection," Alam told the pakpassion website. "He's very much part of the squad and there is no question about his motivation or enthusiasm to play in this important game.”