Former Pakistan fast bowler looking dapper in a black suit, looked nothing like the Rawalapindi express we're used to seeing on the field. But true to his reputation, he still managed to raise eyebrows and crack up the audience with his comments.
Even before the book hit the racks, his controversial remarks about Sachin, Dravid, SRK, and Lalit Modi sparked controversy. While still candid about most things, he was a little guarded about his remarks on Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.
"I am not here to clarify anything... but facts in my book have been presented in a rather strange manner by the media here," Akhtar said.
His remark that Sachin was scared of him created quite a shock. He was quick to respond that he was not saying that in general but about a particular match, when Sachin was suffering from Tennis elbow. Elaborating on the 'scare tactic' the players employed in matches he said, "Some days fast bowlers are threatened by batsmen and on some days, you see the 'scare' in the batsmen's eyes. I know what I see in people (sic). I scare them away. We would analyse their body language and use them to our advantage."
"I request people to read the book to understand my remarks about Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid...what I said, why I said and the manner in which I said. They are all world class cricketers", he added.
Akhtar, who was in SRK's IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders', had alleged earlier that he was cheated by SRK and former Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi. But he retracted the statement; "Shah Rukh looked after me like an elder brother and never betrayed me. The betrayal came from Lalit. It was clearly written in my contract that I can play anywhere but he created trouble along with PCB."
The cricketer who is as famous for his controversies as for his bowling had been involved in controversies regarding his action, ball tampering but never in any match-fixing scandal.
"Everyone tampers with the ball. I did so too. Tampering should be legalized," he said.
He stressed on the need for Pakistan to invest in the game so that young players don't get on the wrong path.
Quite a storyteller, Akhtar related stories dramatically, with the right pauses, and expressions. Warming up to the audience, he brooded aloud the dark period in his life following doping allegations and ban.
"You will find in the book my humble background and where I come from. I have been honest to my game. You will understand the struggle behind the game and the long, lonely nights...when the doping allegations happened. I was shut in the room, with curtains drawn, only me and pain, I didn't eat or come out for seven days, only I know what I went through."
Reminiscing his childhood, he said, "I used to go to Pindi Cricket Club to watch Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis practise on the net, and tell my friend, 'Someday I would play with them' and five years down the line I was there."
After his grim, emotional stories, he lightened the mood by telling some interesting dressing room tales, "Yeah we abuse and hit each other in the dressing room, but look at Bhajji. He didn't hesitate to slap on the field itself, he laughed.
He also expressed irritation with the ever-growing rulebook in international cricket. "We all make mistakes, but since some of us are always under the microscope, every mistake looks big. There are so many rules, a person can't play a bouncer, can't wink, can't give autograph to girls, they taken the fun out of the game."
Reveling under the attention, he was least ashamed of his controversial persona. Telling about his controversies, he openly took digs at himself and related the stories with relish. He launched into details of a rather violent encounter with Matthew Hayden, "I have always had a great rivalry with Matthew Hayden, we've always liked to take on each other. Once we got into a fight in the hotel early morning during breakfast. I was sitting at the table and he said good morning, I said F@%* off'. He stood up and I also stood up but then I saw the difference between our size, there was a lot of crockery also around, but then our trainers came," he rued with a laugh.
On the women in his life, he chose to keep mum, "I don't kiss and tell", he said with a wink.