Shoaib Akhtar has been uncharacteristically effusive in his praise for two of India’s captains, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly, who he describes as a “giant of a man in a slight body“.
In his just-released autobiography ‘Controversially Yours’, he says that Ganguly’s decision to bring youngsters had changed the face of their team and Dhoni had benefited by that when he took charge of the side.
“An important thing that happened to Indian cricket was the captaincy of Ganguly. I think he was a superb captain, a giant of a man in a slight body. One of his greatest gifts to his side was the very brave decision to bring in youngsters, and he backed them as well. This has changed the face of their team. Dhoni has benefited greatly for taking over Ganguly’s team,” Akhtar writes.
Akhtar, who retired from international cricket after the World Cup this year, described Dhoni as a smart man and intelligent captain who manages his resources perfectly.
“He is a very smart man and intelligent captain and manages his resources perfectly. Plus, he wants to win. India is blessed to have someone as level-headed as him at the helm.”
“I admire the way he overcomes problems, and on the field he is calm and collected, and means business. He knows how to lead and the Indian team were deserving winners of the 2011 World Cup,” he says.
Akhtar also had good things to say about the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag, who he thought “played to win.”
“Things changed when younger players like Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh arrived on the scene. These guys didn’t play for records. They played to win.”
“I know our whole team gives Sehwag the credit for being the one to lead India’s winning streak. Gautam Gambhir and he have given India quick and wonderful partnerships. Before that, there was only Sachin; the poor man carried the entire burden on his shoulders. With him, was Dravid who has a great technique but has never been a match-winner,” Akhtar says.
“With the coming of younger players, the Indian team took the No 1 Test spot. That’s the difference they have brought.”
Contrary to media reports, which quoted Akhtar as having stated that Sachin Tendulkar was scared of his bowling, the Pakistani speedster has actually showered plenty of praise on the Indian maestro.
Akhtar says that Tendulkar has always been a great batsman, if not the greatest, and “I always admire his extraordinary skills“.
Initially when Akhtar had bowled to Tendulkar, he had not found match-winning abilities in him, but in the last three years the Indian player has changed his game, he says in the book.
Tendulkar was now playing the role of a match-winner in his team, Akhtar writes, adding that with the help of Sehwag, Yuvraj, Gambhir and Virat Kohli, Tendulkar now wins matches for India.
“Now he is a complete batsman,” says Akhtar of Tendulkar before adding that along with Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, the Indian batting master was the face of India.
“The face of Pakistan is controversies,” Akhtar writes.