‘Oh my lord, you should have been in the team rather than in the nets’: When a young Shoaib Akhtar bamboozled former India coach
The 1994/95 Wills Triangular Series was played between South Africa, Pakistan and Australia and ahead of one of the games, Akhtar recalled how he as an 18-year-old served as one of the net bowlers for the Proteas and immediately left an impression on their players.Updated: Aug 11, 2020 21:33 IST
Shoaib Akhtar made a career out of terrorising batsmen across the world, but it turns out that even before he made his debut for the country, the Rawalpindi Express left an impact on the South African cricket team during their tour of Pakistan in the early 90s.
The 1994/95 Wills Triangular Series was played between South Africa, Pakistan and Australia and ahead of one of the games, Akhtar recalled how he as an 18-year-old served as one of the net bowlers for the Proteas and immediately left an impression on their players.
“I became a net bowler for the South Africans. So, the South Africans came up to me, I remember very clearly, there is one gentleman called Gary Kirsten, and Jonty Rhodes,” Akhtar said on the Test Match Special podcast. “They said, ‘Would you like to be a good net fast bowler against us?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I can do that for you [and] very soon, you’ll remember me, that I’ll be playing against you guys.’ They said, ‘So, how’s that?’ And I just asked them to face me.”
It would take another three years for Akhtar to make his Pakistan debut, but that one session of pace bowling in the nets convinced Kirsten what he was made of. The former South Africa opening batsman was so impressed with Akhtar that he told the pacer he’d talk to the Pakistan management to include him in the team.
“I then bowled a couple of balls at Gary Kirsten and he said, ‘Oh my lord, you should have been in the team rather than in the nets.’ I asked if I’m capable enough to be a great fast bowler,” Akhtar added. “He said, ‘You must be kidding me. I am going to vouch for you in the Pakistan dressing room that you should play.’ And Pakistan, what they did is play me four years later. So, I lost my peak there.”