COLOMBO, March 17: Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar on Thursday decided to hang up his boots from all forms of cricket at the end of the World Cup 2011 and said that playing for his country was the greatest honour and the happiest moment of his life.
Shoaib announced the startling decision at a well-attended press conference held at the R. Premadasa Stadium while his team-mates continued their preparation for Saturday’s Group ‘A’ match against Australia.
The 35-year-old, popularly known as the Rawalpindi Express for his fearsome, quick deliveries, said playing for Pakistan was the greatest joy in his controversy-riddled international career that began on November 1997 in a Test match against the West Indies.
“I have no regrets in saying that playing for Pakistan was the happiest moment in my life. I can’t say for sure whether it was an incident-free career.
I thought it [representing Pakistan] would never come true because I could never ever dream of playing with the same people whom I had always admired. As such, it was a great feeling for me to make debut for the country I love and wanted to contribute for as a player,” said the maverick fast bowler..
Shoaib recalled that when he was undergoing knee surgery for the fourth time a couple of years ago, he had decided then and there that if he got the chance of playing the 2011 World Cup, it would be the last hurrah for him.
“Because there is no stage bigger than the World Cup, if you are ready to make the most difficult decision of one’s life. The unfortunate episode [spot-fixing scandal] made me realise that my country needs me more than ever before. I decided to concentrate on my fitness, get back in the side and try to help Pakistan as much as I can to win the Cup,” revealed Shoaib.
In 46 Test matches, Shoaib has taken 178 wickets while in 163 One-day Internationals he has captured 247 wickets. His performance has been a mixed one in this World Cup as he has taken only three wickets in the three matches that he has played while he was rested for the games against Canada and Zimbabwe. His last over in the 110-run loss to New Zealand went for 28 runs when Ross Taylor hit the paceman for three sixes and two fours.
The temperamental fast bowler described that playing for Pakistan was an honour for which he will remain grateful to the people who gave him the opportunity and believed in him through hard times as well. “It was an honour [playing in the national side] and if I am ever born again, I would strive for the same. But my injuries, the hyper-mobility in the joints deprived from playing in many more Tests than I actually played.
“But whenever I got the chance, even with various niggles in my body and most horrifying days of pain I suffered, I could still never say no to Pakistan and always made myself available.”
Talking of his career, Shoaib said that while he had a few regrets, the thrills derived from the game and the many happy moments in Pakistan cricket helped to put the darker days into shade. “There are no real regrets to be honest, but maybe there were a few. However, I feel happy and a proud to be part of countless Pakistan wins.
“I can’t forget a number of glorious moments that I enjoyed like clean bowling Sachin [Tendulkar] first ball and following it with [Rahul] Dravid’s scalp, helping Pakistan beat South Africa in Durban back in 1996, playing alongside the greatest fast bowling duo of Waqar [Younis] and Wasim Akram and most of all representing Pakistan which I believe is the greatest nation in the world.
“I couldn’t have asked for more. Yes, it was a dream come tru for me,” he recollected as emotions got the better of him momentarily.
About his future plans, Shoaib said the foremost thing on his mind after the World Cup was to spend quality time with his family.
“What I’m going to do next is spend time with my family, particularly my parents because I haven’t been with them regularly for nearly 18 years. I
dearly miss them. I just want to serve my parents because they are definitely getting old and need me in this hour,” he said.
“But I’ll say that I played for Pakistan with honesty and gave my all whatever energy and capacity I had. This is the true picture of my life.