Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar had stirred a major controversy in his 2011 autobiography ‘Controversially Yours’ when he spoke of Sachin Tendulkar being scared of facing his bowling.
Shoaib attempted on Tuesday to mend bridges and pacify Indian fans by clarifying that he never made such claims. “I never said he was scared of me. I said he was ‘uncomfortable’ facing fast bowling due to tennis elbow,” he clarified, going on to describe Tendulkar as the greatest player in the world.
The controversial former player recalled the day in February, 1999 at the Eden Gardens when he shattered the stumps of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar off successive deliveries in an Asian Test Championship match, breaking the hearts of Indian fans and helped Pakistan win.
“I had no idea of the huge fan following Tendulkar commanded when I came here to play. I think he was a bit casual that day when I bowled him through the gate. I was stunned to see the crowd’s reaction,” Shoaib recalled.
However, it was Tendulkar who dominated in Centurion, during the 2003 World Cup, thrashing Shoaib to every corner of the ground while hitting a match-winning 98.
“Tendulkar looked focused that day. He was punching the ball so nicely although I was not in great shape in that match. Tendulkar is not just a great player. He is an institution in himself.”
Giving credit to the legend for his achievements, Shoaib said, “Amassing runs against bowlers between 1985 and 2000 is a great achievement as it was during those 15 years that the world had a huge cache of pace and spin bowlers.”
Shoaib admitted that Pakistan players used to spend most of the time in team meetings chalking tactics against Tendulkar. “We knew once we got him out, India will go down psychologically.”