Published on 13 Sep 2012 | over 4 years ago
Akhtar's run of impressive performances started in the 1990s. In 1999, during a pre-World Cup series against India, he rose to prominence. It was followed by outstanding bowling performances in Sharjah and later in 1999 Cricket World Cup. There was no better sight in World Cricket than watching Akthar bowl at full throttle during the late 90's and early 2000s. His most significant performance was in India in 1999 when he captured eight wickets in the Asian Test championship match at Calcutta -- including the wickets of Indian batsmen Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar when he bowled, both batmsen off successive deliveries. Ironically it was the first ball he ever bowled to Sachin Tendulkar.
In 2002, he was selected for the Pakistan team against Australia and achieved success. However he performed poorly during the 2003 Cricket World Cup and after the tournament he was dropped from the Pakistan squad. He was selected back into the Pakistan squad in the 2004 Test match series against New Zealand, but struggled in a losing Test series against India in 2004. The series ended with a controversy when he left the field citing an injury leading to suspicions by former Pakistan captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, about his commitment to the team. As a result, his relationship with Inzamam-ul-Haq and former Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer deteriorated. A medical panel was set up by the Pakistan Cricket Board to investigate the nature of his injury, however Pakistan officials dispelled all suspicions.
In 2005, Akhtar regained his reputation as a fast bowler for his side. Playing in a three Test home series against England, he made a series of impressive bowling performances. His effective use of slower deliveries proved to be unplayable by the English batsmen. Akhtar emerged as the highest wicket taker of the series with seventeen wickets. His comeback was also remarkable as prior to his return, he had been criticized from all corners-such as by the Worcestershire chairman John Elliot for his celebrity attitude and lack of commitment to team. His performance was also acknowledged by the English captain Michael Vaughan, who remarked "I thought he (Shoaib) was a big difference between the two teams". He is also known as one of only three bowlers to have ever broken the 100 mph barrier in cricket history, with a delivery of 101.3 mph, during the 2003 World Cup against England, and this delivery stands as the fastest recorded to date.