The controversies that have dogged him on and off the field have made former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar look less like a cricketer and more a prizefighter battling his demons.
However, the 36-year-old, who touched upon all those issues in his autobiography, which are sure to grab attention in cricket-mad South Asia, also spoke candidly about his humble background and how he dared to dream big despite not possessing any of the poise that could have made his path to stardom smoother.
Discussing his book at the launch on Friday, Shoaib spoke about how he dodged the bus conductor while going to Lahore for trials because he had no money for the ticket. And how a horse-cart puller gave him shelter and fed him before he attended the trials, and how he remembered to visit the man after making a mark as an international bowler.
Shoaib explained how his knees had worn out, especially after he was made to bowl long spells in domestic cricket, even before he made it to the Pakistan team and how fluid had to be drained often before he went on to bowl.
“At every stage I was told I can't do this or that — that I can't replace Waqar Younis or Wasim Akram, I can't dismiss Tendulkar, and that I can't overcome my knee problem.”
He feels match-fixing, which has rocked Pakistan cricket time and again, is a product of the system. “Lack of education among players, a tendency to be corrupt and lack of grooming all play a part.”
According to Shoaib, leading Pakistan players have played a big role in painting each other black. “Understanding the pride of playing for one's country and courage is what matters.”