Akhtar's cricket book ruffles feathers

NORMAN DA COSTA, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:17 AM ET

TORONTO - The colourful Shoaib Akhtar continues to make headlines in retirement just as he did during his playing days. It was a joy to watch the Rawalpindi Express gather steam during his long run-up and let loose his ferocious 100 m.p.h. deliveries that often had batsmen quaking in their boots. The Pakistani has now unleashed more fury, especially among the Indians, with the release of his autography Controversially Yours. His book is just that — he has spared no one. He writes that India’s iconic stars Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid did not have the ability to finish matches. Tendulkar, he adds, was “scared to face his scorching pace.”

This criticism levelled at two of India’s best players apparently led to the cancellation of the launch of his book in Mumbai Sunday. And, in suburban Dahisar and Thane, protesters carried posters of the world’s fastest bowler on donkey backs. An effigy of Akhtar was to be torched in the streets, but the local police stepped in. No further proof required that you do not mess around with Tendulkar in a country where he is treated like a god. Tendulkar, who holds most if not all of the batting records, went on record as saying, “ It’s below my dignity to react to Shoaib’s comment.’’

Akhtar, who was never far from controversy during his playing days and was banned and reinstated several times, also took pot shots at former Pakistani skipper Wasim Akram and some of his former teammates. He also admitted he frequently tampered with the ball, adding all of the top Test bowlers do it. With the publicity this book has already generated, one can assume it will fly off the shelves.

ENGLAND STUNNED

Touring West Indies brought high-flying England crashing down to earth in a two-match Twenty20 series the home team was expected to win handily after an outstanding summer that included wins over India and Sri Lanka. The series ended in a 1-1 tie after England won the first by 10 wickets, thanks to a superb performance with the ball by Ravi Bopara who captured four for 10 runs. Not to be outdone, spinner Garey Mathurin made a dream debut, taking three for nine to send England crashing to 88 after being set 114 to win in the second match.

PRINCE OF A PLAYER

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, arguably India’s greatest captain, passed away in Delhi last week at the age of 70 from a lung infection. The Tiger, as he was known, was the ninth and last Nawab of Pataudi and held the title until 1971, when the Indian government abolished royal entitlements. I had the opportunity of watching this great batsman when India toured Kenya in 1970. At the time it was amazing to see hundreds of women at the matches until I found out they weren’t there to admire the Tiger’s powerfully-timed cover drives, but to get a glimpse of his vivacious wife Sharmila Tagore, the hottest Bollywood goddess at the time. Tiger led India in 40 Tests after previously leading Sussex and Oxford University. Many believe Tiger could have been an even greater player had he not lost use of his right eye as a result of a car accident.

PRESIDENT STUMPS AFRIDI

Millions of Pakistanis love Shahid (Boom-Boom) Afridi and that includes the country’s President Asif Zardari. In fact, Zardari, who happens to be the chief patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board, invited the all-rounder to discuss his problems with bumbling board chairman Ijaz Butt. But Afridi was left stranded at the wicket when the president concentrated solely on how the sports fraternity can help his government raise funds for the flood victims in Sindh. “The president left without speaking to anyone individually, including Afridi,’’ said a source.

CANADA CLOBBERED

There’s no denying Ireland and Afghanistan are the cream of the associate countries. Canada has found that out much to its chagrin. Afghanistan travelled to Toronto last month and pasted Canada. And last week’s trip to the Emerald Isle ended in more misery. The Irish were great hosts off the field but on it they manhandled Canada. Ireland decimated Canada inside two days in the four-day Intercontinental Cup encounter and followed that up by posting two one-sided victories in the one-day internationals.

AUSSIES ON A HIGH

Michael Clarke’s first series as captain of Australia’s new-look team was certainly memorable. His team defeated Sri Lanka 1-0 in the three-match series (two were tied) and he capped it by knocking a century in the third. Now Clarke prepares for an even stiffer challenge with a trip to South Africa, the No. 2 Test nation.

Clarke had to be thrilled with the performances of run-machines Michael Hussey and Shaun Marsh and bowlers Trent Copeland and Nathan Lyon. Marsh was obviously the find of this trip, compiling 240 runs for an average of 80. What’s mind-boggling about Marsh is that he made his debut at 28 at a time most countries are capping players who are in their teens ... There won’t be any tears shed now that Tim Nielsen has stepped down as Australia’s head coach. Nielsen, who served since 2007, was asked to reapply for the job by the Argus commission that was formed after Australia’s Ashes defeat to England last winter. It was obvious Nielsen was no longer wanted.

QUICK WICKETS

Mumbai Indians beat Trinidad and Tobago by one wicket on the very last ball in the lucrative Champions League Twenty20 tournament in Mumbai Monday. T&T made 98 and Mumbai 99 for nine ... Sri Lanka made a couple of surprise changes to its squad for the Tests against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates next month. Star batsman Thilan Samaraweera and unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis have been axed ... Mushfiqur Rahim takes over from the fired Shakib Al Hasan as captain of Bangladesh for the home series against West Indies and Pakistan in October and December ... Former Australia Test opener Geoff Marsh has been named the new coach of Sri Lanka.


Photos