'Entire Indian team couldn't play me but this one guy kept hitting me for sixes': Akhtar names his 'most fearsome rival'
Former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar has had some fascinating battles with some of the all-time greats. His spells to Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakkara are part of cricketing folklore. Akhtar was obviously rapid but equally colourful on the field. There was never a dull moment with him around and the 'Rawalpindi Express' has continued to stick to the same persona even after his retirement. (Also Follow: IPL 2022 Full Coverage)
While Akhtar troubled batters with his fiery bouncers, off the field, he continues to drop beamers every now and then either through his YouTube channel or on Twitter. Some of Akhtar's claims are just like his bowling – in your face, with certain revelations having all the makings of a dramatic Bollywood film.
During a chat on SportsKeeda live, Akhtar and former India spinner Harbhajan Singh were testing each other's knowledge about the first ever edition of the IPL. Akhtar asked Harbhajan if he remembered who took the first ever hat-trick in the IPL, a question whose answer Harbhajan got wrong. Akhtar gave Harbhajan three options to choose from – L Balaji, Amit Mishra and Makhaya Ntini, to which Bhajji went with leg-spinner Mishra.
Akhtar then corrected Harbhajan, informing that the feat belonged to Balaji for Chennai Super Kings as he dismissed Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla and VRV Singh of Punjab Kings (formerly Kings XI Punjab). Akhtar then referred to Balaji as his 'most fearsome rival', and here's why.
"Sachin was not comfortable. The entire Indian team couldn't play me but this one guy, Balaji kept hitting me for sixes batting down the order," said Akhtar.
Akhtar and Balaji have squared off a few times, their most memorable battle taking place during India's historic tour of Pakistan in early 2004. With the ODI series tied at 2-2, the decider at Lahore saw Balaji taking on Akhtar. In the final over of the Indian innings, Akhtar broke Balaji's bat but in the same over, the India pacer smoked the Pakistan for a six. Balaji and Pathan's crucial partnership propelled India to a match-winning 293/7.