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Shoaib ?backs? out, Inzy furious

Shoaib Akhtar, the wounded 'Lion of Punjab', or 'Rawalpindi Express', call him what you may, walked in to face Anil Kumble. The latter was on a hat-trick.
PTI | By Kadambari Murali, Rawalpindi
UPDATED ON APR 17, 2004 01:52 AM IST

It was 14 balls of mayhem at the Pindi Cricket Stadium here on Friday. Shoaib Akhtar, the wounded 'Lion of Punjab', or 'Rawalpindi Express', call him what you may, walked in to face Anil Kumble. The latter was on a hat-trick.

Shoaib massacred Kumble. He first mistimed him over the slip area to the boundary and then repeatedly went down on his knees and banged him through and over the mid-wicket area.

Those five balls in the over before lunch fetched Shoaib and Pakistan 18 runs, three fours and a six over mid-wicket that landed on the canopy above the stands.

He later hit Kumble for another four and six after the break before holing out to Ashish Nehra in the leg-spinner's same over --- 28 runs off 14 balls, all in boundaries.

The talking point of the day though, was not his run rampage. It was about how a man who didn't take the field at all on Thursday despite being Pakistan's strike bowler (and these being conditions where he was desperately needed), managed to merrily whack the ball around with no apparent discomfort of any sort.

There has some mysterious confusion over what exactly is wrong with Shoaib.

Officially, while the injury moved from Wednesday's swollen thumb to Thursday's ruptured back muscle, Shoaib told a local reporter it was actually his rib cage. He told another news channel it was a back muscle.

Still other reports said that the temperamental bowler threw a tantrum that an embarrassed team management was trying to hush up --- it seems he got furiously upset when Inzamam-ul Haq refused to give the field he demanded and the injury to his thumb was just a convenient excuse. If so, it is not unusual. Shoaib has been known to do dramatic, unpredictable things in the past.

But this time, he probably went too far.

After the match, a serene-looking Inzamam coolly remarked that he was as surprised by the way Shoaib batted as anyone else.

If that remark wasn't enough to set the cat among the pigeons, Inzamam went on to add later that action would be taken against the bowler.

It appears that news of the spat came to light when Rashid Latif (the bane of the PCB on this tour), in an interview to a TV channel, said Shoaib had called him and told him he would not bowl because he was upset with Inzamam. No one denied the story.

Inzamam said that no one could afford to tolerate this kind of behaviour and that disciplinary action would have to be taken. "It is a bad influence on the team and can lead to all kinds of problems," he said.

That's not the only problem.

It seems that even while all this has been happening, Shoaib has been after Indian manager Ratnakar Shetty to help him facilitate a visa so he can visit India in the next few days for an ad shoot.

Local media believes however, that it would be very unusual if Shoaib actually faced any music. "He's a law unto himself and has always done what he wants.

“He can only be fixed --- for a temporary period if someone wants a scapegoat," said a Pindi-based cricket writer.

And they believe that someone has to be very high up.

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