A fiery fast bowler of Shoaib Akhtar's stature is naturally expected to spit fire when he is set out to tell his story. But the Rawalpindi Express fails to deliver the real beamer in his just-published autobiography
'Attitude' is a word that haunted his life and career all along. While, in a relative term, it is good and bad in Shoaib Akhtar's view, his attitude has made him one of the most controversial figures in the world of cricket.
He is never scared of controversy, so Akhtar seems to be fascinated by the idea of introducing himself as 'Controversially Yours.'
He writes, "Controversies have hovered around me since the day I was born. Take my name, Shoaib, for instance. In Arabic, it means the one who brings people together, but it can also mean one who separates."
He never tried to separate people, as we know from his life story chronicled over 271 pages in the book. Contrary to his wish to be a binding factor, he used to be banned from his band.
Suspensions he was punished with, be it from his classroom or from the Pakistan national team,were not justified but inevitable in the given situations. The culprit was his erroneous attitude of inwardly respecting people without toadying to them.
But, if you really want to pick the book up for its title, there's disappointment in store for you, for nothing in the book is what you don't know already about Shoaib, especially, if you are a cricket buff.
The details about his drug abuse, admission of ball tampering, the way he came out of the 'chucker' stigma and a rape charge, have all been much talked about and the book doesn't offer anything extra.
His remarks on the Indian greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid had certainly raised some dust as his terming them 'not the match winners' had been taken as blasphemy given that one of his targets is also considered the god of cricket, while the other is the great wall that the greatest demolishers struggled to conquer.
His observation that Tendulkar was scared of his bowling had definitely incited rage among the Indian cricket fans, but the controversy element stops at that.
His adulation for the little master shown in the book did not get the expected publicity. Perhaps, this disappointment factor has played the downer and the autobiography of the supposedly fastest bowler of the world is not a hot cake on the stands.
Although he is candid in recording his tumbles and fumbles, Shoaib disappoints you on the most important count. He talks about women and even mentions Bollywood glam dolls, while spilling the beans on his and his team mates' love lives, but he never names the women they dated.
His rational side surfaces when he castigates the hypocrisy of the Pakistan team management insisting upon the team members doing namaz in the dressing room.
He has even ridiculed Inzamam-Ul- Hak as the captain who insisted on doing namaz even on flights. But he does this with an authority as he is also well-versed in Islamiat, the essence of Islam, and s a great believer.
The beginning of his talimaat, learning Islamiat from a murshid for fifteen years, is a poignant episode in the biography. He is so scholarly that he could interpret the real meaning of namaz, unlike most Pakistani cricketers. You can add this to the duality of his persona that has otherwise given him a bad boy image.
What really moves you is his response to a few in Pakistan- 'an insignificant minority' as he puts it- dancing in the streets after the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
He vents out his angst: "I recall thinking in horror, people die in Mumbai and you celebrate! Are you human? Don't the people of Mumbai have red blood like yours?" His heartburn over Pakistan being ousted out of the IPL after the ghastly act is just an added pain.
While reading an autobiography of a flamboyant cricketer like Shoaib Akhtar, it is unfair to look for literary value in the book. But, the narration of journalist and author Anshu Dogra has done justice with her prose being a mix of lucidity and banality in patches.
Published by HarperSports
Author Shoaib Akhtar
For Rs 499
Available at all bookstores