Pakistan pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar has said he will retire from international cricket after the World Cup. Akhtar made up his mind after Pakistan's 110-run defeat against New Zealand. Excerpts from his press conference:
Since I am not very good with speeches, I have written this down. So let’s see how it goes.
Dear friends, I thank you for being here. Today, I step ahead from the most significant part of my life and walk forward. I have decided to say goodbye. This World Cup is my last and the remaining matches here will be the last few in my international career. Mentally, I wanted to continue perhaps forever, but I must make way for the youngsters to take over. In my entire career of 18 years, I have had many defeats but countless victories. I have made a lot of friends and won’t hesitate to say that some misunderstood me.
I can’t say I have any regrets. It’s been an excellent run. I really thought I could last a little longer. Though I touched 159.9 km/hr while bowling a few days ago right here in Colombo but now I want to wait for it to be taken over. With this announcement, it feels like it’s my first death (sniffs a tad). My retirement, my ability to play for Pakistan was a dream come true for me. This dream was made beautiful and exciting because of the love and affection from my fans. I want to thank all my fans back home and around the world from the bottom of the heart.
I want to thank my board, my dear Pakistan Cricket Board for their support. I want to thank all the players who worked with me and those who played against me. And also those who were loyal and even disloyal. I want to thank the sponsors who always believed in me. And lastly to my family, my Abbu (father), my Ammi (mother), my brothers and my dear sister for all their prayers and blessings. I thank you very much.
You had said that you had a little more cricket left in you and you could play for a few more years. Then why this sudden announcement?
Look, I had decided upon this moment about two years back. When I was going through my knee surgery for the fourth time, I had made that decision that I was going to play this World Cup and play the part that as much as possible for Pakistan. I made that decision then and there. And secondly, the news about the three Pakistani players being involved in such matter (spot-fixing) and that’s where I felt a lot like I should be able to help the Pakistan team. I should concentrate on my fitness and get back into the side and help Pakistan. So that decision was made around a couple of years ago.
But I must make way for the youngsters to take over.
Satisfied with how your career has shaped up despite all the controversies and the number of Test matches that you missed?
As it is, playing for my country was just a dream. But I never thought it would come true and that I could only hope that I could play with the people I admired. As it is, it was such a great thing to make my debut for the Pakistan team. It was a pleasure, an honour and if I am ever born again, I would do the same thing.
About my injuries, the hypermobility in my joints have cost me a lot of Test matches. But whenever I had a chance, even with the niggles and during the most horrifying of pains, I never said no to Pakistan. And I always made myself available. I always wanted to be there for my country as much as possible. So there are no regrets except few. But you see I have countless victories and memorable moments like getting Sachin out first ball and bowling Dravid out. Playing with Waqar and Wasim. And serving just the greatest nation on the planet. Playing for Pakistan and serving my country, what else could I have asked for. Yes it was a dream.
So for what I have planned is, I am going to spend time with my family. I haven’t been with my family for the last 14 years, in fact 18 years. I have dearly missed my family a lot. And my parents are getting old and I want to serve them well. The only truth about my career is that I represented my country with everything I had and was very honest while I was doing so.
The best moment in your career and the fastest ball that you bowled during the 2003 World Cup to Nick Knight:
When my name got announced for Pakistan, I could not believe that someone like me could ever play for this great team. And the team had some of my idols, Wasim, Waqar, and Imran was there lending support whenever he could and Inzamam and all the other senior players, who I would see on television and dream to play with them. The best moment was when I got my first kit for my first Test, which had a big star on my chest (the Pakistani cricket symbol). And I wore that kit and slept in it, and I couldn’t believe that I was going to wake up in it. I did not take it off for three days. I was so passionate about my country and so patriotic. And I was so pleased that I am going to make it to the Pakistan team. And that was the best moment—the first kit I was given.
I have bowled a few 100-mile deliveries before that, but unfortunately it didn’t get accepted. I found myself in that race (to bowl the fastest ball and cross the 100-mile barrier) I don’t know why (sniggers) but I wanted to do that in an ICC event and once and for all, put an end to it. And I am glad that Pakistan, Rawalpindi (where he hails from) and the subcontinent now can boast of having had the fastest bowler in the planet.
Some of my best moments in international cricket came in India and also while playing back home. The first over I bowled in front of my home crowd. And also the Test that we played in Kolkata, where I got Sachin and Rahul out and playing a huge part in my team’s win. But it was also sad that my idol (Waqar) had to sit out because of me. I have never admired anyone like I have him (Waqar). Always have and always will.
Do you think you can have done something different regarding the controversies that played such a huge role in your career?
I don’t know, perhaps that’s how it was supposed to happen in my life. Because as I said, I had a wonderful run in international cricket. And I loved being out there, I loved bowling fast and I loved winning matches for my country. There are few moments but that’s just a part of life. It’s all a process you have to go through. And you grow out of it and you turn 35 and you become mature. I came from a humble background and cricket has been an institution for me. Whatever I have learnt I have learnt from cricket. There have been no moments that I regret. And the days I played for my country will always remain close to my heart.
On the players he enjoyed bowling against:
I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed bowling against them as they are my very top of the favourite. Inzamam is there. I love bowling with Wasim and Waqar obviously. Love bowling against was Gilchrist. I love to hate him but he was very tough. Ricky Ponting was another greatest that you can ever imagine. He has not only played but won matches and has so much ability. I wish he plays for Australia for some more time. Then my favourite Brian Lara. He was so elegant that I lost myself in his elegance. I only bowled three balls to him and that were the favourite three balls. I felt very sad when I hit him and he had to leave. These are the players that I really enjoyed bowling against. I wish that I could ever bowl but my good luck is that I could never bowl to that guy Viv Richards.
Team not wanting you:
Nothing like that. It’s my personal decision. Obviously I have consulted with Intikhab Alam before the New Zealand tour. I sat down with Afridi and Aquib. We all sat down together and decided on this point. At the same time it was my wish that I wanted to retire in this tournament and wanted to do well. There is no rift. I told them today that I am going to double my efforts from today in the field and any possible manner that I can offer help to Pakistan cricket. With every ounce of the blood in my body I will serve my country. I play or not is up to the management so they are the best people to answer that. I am working hard, even today I am focusing on the match against Australia and if I get a chance I will serve my country to the best of my abilities. If I don’t play I will ensure that my efforts and guidance. I will make sure that every guy gets my help. If nothing is left I will carry water to the field.
Replacing Wasim anad Waqar and questions over fitness and timing:
Obviously as I told you that I made this decision about an year ago. You always knew me as not the fittest man or the bowler. I always played with pain. I have always been half-unfit. I have never been a guy what you call who can play five ODIs on a trot. Fitnee issues have been there and are still there. But as if now I am feeling good, have been bowling 10 overs. In the last one year I have played almost all one dayers and have bowled ten overs in all kind of situations. You see my efforts have been there in the World Cup and I will double my efforts from now on. Whatever I can do for my Pakistan I will do it with the best of my abilities.
How do you want to be remembered?
Definitely want to be remembered as a guy who was very patriotic about his country and always been very honest. A guy who was always been there through the thick and the thin. Pain or no pain, I never worried about getting myself injured. On numerous times, I had so many injuries but I still carried on playing for Pakistan. I never said no and will never say no to Pakistan. Pakistan is my greatest passion. Whenever it was required of me to get out and play I was there. I always picked up the right path. I promised to myself, to my parents and to my country that I will never pick the right path and I always stayed away from controversies like match fixing.
I am available for every match, I am working hard and bowling fast as quick as you know. My pace is still there, I am not slowing down. My services are there for the country whenever they need me. As of now I will like to be with my family. They haven’t seen much of me in the last 18 years. My mom really misses me, she wants me back home so I will be back home in Islamabad.
Perception of Pakistan cricket:
It’s getting better. The way we are playing and have gathered ourselves after the episode in England, we have worked really hard. As a senior player and Pakistani it was my responsibility to lift the game back and come here with only focus being on wining the WC. Obviously if we win the tournament we will get the cricket back in Pakistan. We will get the craze back in Pakistan. We are playing for the people of Pakistan. This time we are not going to go down without a fight. We have to make sure that we make it happen for millions of the people around the world and especially for my people in Pakistan. This is a chance we have to turn it all around.
Some day this had to happen might as well now.
Dressing room scenes in the morning:
Obviously sentiments were there. Sadness was there. The team knew that it was going to happen but they were not ready to believe it. They love me and I love them. They were sad but they were also happy for me. The next few matches that I play I am going to whetever is left in me I am going to put it in against Australia or any other matches I play. They are happy for my future life. Might be feeling a bit awkward to them that in Pakistan cricket someone is leaving on this note and I would say that they were a bit shocked. They have accepted this decision of mine. This is my decision and I hope I am setting a good trend.
That doesn’t mean I am criticizing anyone. But Pakistan team…unfortunately there have been some incidents. But if you look at it.. the greatest part of Pakistan cricket is that, if you remember.. we’ve played 1986 semifinal, 92 final, we’ve played quarterfinal in 96, then we played final in 99. We’d a bad run in 2003 and 07, but we have won the T20 World Championship, and now we are in quarterfinal here once again. So, Pakistan cricket has achieved so much and why can’t you remember that. It’s very important to cherish the memory of Pakistan cricket and the magnificent part that Pakistan has played for world cricket. The talent they have produced to inspire so many youngsters around the planet to start this beautiful game, because of Wasim (Akram), Waqar (Younis), Inzamam and because of Imran (Khan), and Imran was the driving force behind Pakistan cricket. I am literally thankful to Imran, and if I didn’t watch him when I was growing up, the long hair, the beautiful structure, the man was well-educated and the greatest cricket I have ever seen, I wouldn’t have been a cricketer. I would have ended up copying Waqar and I would have ended up something different which is Shoaib.
As I said earlier, I want to spent time with family and I don’t want to anything else. My message to the youngsters is not to give up, not to give it at any cost, don’t go in depression, if you go in depression make sure that have a quick nap and get up and start training. That’s the best way release your tension, the best way to release your negative energy and thoughts. Please stick to the cause, bang your head on to the wall until you go through that wall. In right manners, be hyper, don’t be incomplete man…get up, train, work hard and love your country and love what you do. As far as is retirement is considered, this is my retirement and I am not coming back.
How can I predict, I am not …(laughs).
It’s an emotional decision for me and it was a tough decision for me. To play for Pakistan was not just my dream, it was my passion, and I am attached to my country. All of you know that how painful at times it was for me to play because of various injuries but I never say no when it comes to playing for Pakistan. It’s an emotional decision, there will be a lot memories. As a human being, though not perfect, I have always tried to put my country ahead of anything else and try not to be a part of any controversy, especially not to get involved in that controversy…playing for Pakistan was a dream, will you make me cry now? I have consulted my dad, mom, and they are getting old and told me to come back to home but do better and come. I might have played on for another one or two years, but I want to give chance to youngsters and if any youngster, in Pakistan or in India, if they want my guidance and I will transfer my knowledge for them, so that they can channelize their aggression well and become fast bowlers and world can admire them.