At his peak, Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar was widely regarded as not just the fastest but the most lethal fast bowler in the world. He didn’t just boast of express pace but also possessed a sharp cricketing brain. The former Pakistani pacer was involved in several iconic duels with the world’s best batsmen. Akhtar’s fearsome pace meant batsmen found it hard to deal with him, with some retiring hurt after being hit by his deliveries. Recently, Akhtar shared a stat on Twitter that stated he had sent 19 batsmen off the field thanks to his brutal deliveries, the most for any bowler. However, he informed his fans and followers that he never enjoyed injuring batsmen. The Rawalpindi Express though named one exception. “It was Matthew Hayden I wanted to hit badly during my playing days & I did that many times during test & practice games&now we r best mates. But now we are best of friends now & I think he’s 1 of the most generous & kind human being I ever met is Matthew Hayden,” Akhtar tweeted.
After his playing career, Akhtar has forged strong friendships with several Indian cricketers as well. Virender Sehwag and Akthar can be often seen exchanging friendly fire in the commentary box and on Twitter. Sehwag too has said it was extremely tough to face Akhtar at his peak.
Dhoni too echoed the same sentiments ahead of the Champions Trophy, when asked about the toughest bowler he had faced in international cricket.
“All the fast bowlers are quite difficult, with the limited technique I had, it was very difficult to face the fast bowlers. Still, if I had to pick one, I would pick Shoaib Akhtar. Very simple reason, he was quick, he was fast, he could bowl a yorker, he could bowl a bouncer but you never expected a beamer (he chuckles), he was a bit unpredictable, he was fun to play against,” he said.