Controversial speedster Shoaib Akhtar has provided an insight into infighting that has always dogged Pakistan cricket team, recalling how greats like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were at loggerheads.
In his tell-all autobiography, ‘Controversially Yours’, Shoaib described in detail the tension in the dressing room caused at one stage by a feud between Wasim and Waqar. The pacer also claimed that senior players ganged up against him in his debut Test leaving him demoralised.
The feud between Wasim and Waqar took place prior to the Asian Test Championship match in Kolkata (1999) that led to his selection for the Eden Test.
”Meanwhile, we lost the Delhi Test and Wasim got into an argument with Waqar. It got so bad that rumour started doing rounds that Waqar was to be sent back home,” the bowler writes.
“But the entire squad left for Kolkata for the first Test of the Championship. Inside the dressing room, things got uglier. I do not remember it but ever being as tense as it was then,” he revealed.
“The two seniors were at war and we were a young and fresh team. Everyone was stressed out and amidst all this, it was decided that I would play.”
He alleged that some Pakistan players “ganged up” against him during his debut Test match against the West Indies in Rawalpindi back in 1997.
“What can I tell you about my first Test match! The one I had prepared for all my life. Wasim Akram was the captain and he told the board he wouldn’t play Shoaib come what may,” he claimed.
“Perhaps he wished to continue with the previous team because he was satisfied with its performance or perhaps he didn’t want to encourage the emergence of new fast bowler.”
Shoaib further stated that Wasim even threatened to quit if he was selected in the playing XI.
“The Pakistan Cricket Board had announced that I would play and team’s captain responded by threatening to quit if I did. But the board held on. So Wasim pushed the issue further and said five other members of the team were threatening not to play if Shoaib was allowed to.
“There was a division in the team before the match started, and a controversy arose in which I unwittingly played a part.”
Shoaib recollected his first day in international cricket when his own teammates weren’t exactly cordial with him.
“We were to field first and I nervously got ready to go out on to the ground. The atmosphere in the dressing room was horrible; the rest of the team ganged up against me and made things as uncomfortable as they possibly could, peppering every phrase aimed at me with abuses,” he alleged.
“The result was that I felt messed up and terribly unsure of myself. This feeling heightened as the day wore on and I wasn’t asked to bowl even once. I did get my first chance after lunch and got two wickets, but I knew that I had under-performed.
“I just couldn’t shake off the tension that had built up in me, and as a result I bowled far below my own standards. I remember feeling that perhaps I wasn’t good enough to play at this level. I was completely demoralized and my dreams seemed to lie shattered around me,” he recalled.
The controversial pacer then spoke about his spat with the then captain Waqar during the 2003 World Cup where Pakistan couldn’t even make it to the last four stage.
“Even though I have taken a fiver against Kenya and wickets in almost all the matches, that we played, it was not enough for us to win the Cup. The dressing room reflected what was happening to us on the field. Tempers were short and fights and squabbles kept breaking out.
“Once again, we were on the losing side, which is never conducive to Pakistani team spirit. The whole lot of us were rubbing each other the wrong way and I got involved in a verbal conflict with Waqar, which of course was the only thing board remembered later - not my record, mind you. I was sacked along with other players, including Waqar,” Shoaib wrote.
Shoaib claimed that top performers in Pakistan cricket are never valued.
“If you ask me, Pakistan has everything but ‘qadar’, the ability to value what we have. Allah has given us both a gift and a curse and the curse is that we will never be valued by our own whether we are in politics or sports,” he alleged.
“Benazir (Bhutto) was shot dead - whoever wants to work for the good of the nation is bound to be finished. We have produced outstanding players in squash and hockey and have consistently produced valuable cricketers.
“Ironically, eighty percent of our population, the proverbial man on the street, loves us deeply but the twenty percent who are in power don’t care,” he said.
Shoaib said it is high time that well-performing players are protected.
“When are we going to start looking after those people who have played for the country? Yes, the country has given so much to us, but we too have given it reasons to be proud of us. But we are never recognised; Mujhe aitraaz hai is baat par - this is my objection and complaint.
“When will there be a change in the attitude towards players. When will they stop insulting them? Kab tak zalil karte rahenge? Humare jitne bhi star hain, sab zalil hoke nikle hain,” he said.