ISLAMABAD: Authorities in Pakistan are planning several farewell extravaganzas for fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar. Sources were quoted as saying Sunday that several regional cricket associations are planning to organise exhibition matches in a bid to give Akhtar, who retired from international cricket during the recently concluded ICC Cricket World Cup, a fitting farewell. The ‘Rawalpindi Express’ appeared a spent force in the Pakistan squad during the World Cup. With his performances below par, Akhtar duly failed to earn a spot in the Pakistan team for the final that was lost to close rivals India.
Reports say Akhtar is still prepared to change his mind and play a swansong match for Pakistan. However, that seems unlikely given that the Pakistan’s team management remains unhappy with the pacer’s attitude during the World Cup. Nevertheless, there are those who value Akhtar’s contributions over the years – particularly at domestic level, with the Rawalpindi region, where Akhtar started his career, especially keen to hold an exhibition match in his honour.
“He has done a great service to Pakistan and deserves a better farewell. We will not let ‘Rawalpindi Express’ retire just like that,” president of Rawalpindi region, Syed Naeem Akhtar, said on Saturday. “We would invite national cricketers in the match to bid farewell to the great fast bowler,” he said while hinting it could be organised on sidelines of the National Twenty20 Tournament, opening in Islamabad on June 24. “The match is not possible in the near future due to the absence of the national team. It is being planned on the sidelines of the T20 tournament when most of the national stars, who want to feature in the match, would be present.” Meanwhile, the Islamabad region -– with which Akhtar is currently associated – has demanded an international farewell match.