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Akram wants victorious farewell at World Cup

Colombo: Pakistan tearaway Shoaib Akhtar says he has had enough of chasing speed records and wants to get down to his main job of taking wickets consistently.

“Basically, I am no longer interested in bowling faster,” the ‘Rawalpindi Express’ said Tuesday. “It is more important to win matches. I am just here to play the game, not to prove how fast I am. Now I need to focus on how well to manage myself,” said Shoaib.

The comments mark a huge change in the attitude of the fast bowler, who has strained every bit to cross the 100 miles-per-hour mark. “I have already crossed that mark, doesn’t matter whether it is accepted or not. Everybody knows how fast I am.”

The bowler was clocked at 161 kph (100.04 mph), during a one-dayer against New Zealand in Lahore in April but as such feats are not officially monitored, the ICC said they must remain unofficial.

Shoaib said he was determined to resurrect a career interrupted by injuries and dotted with questions about his bowling action.

The paceman is joint-third with Australia’s Dennis Lillee and Shane Warne on 60 games in the list of the fastest to complete 100 ODI wickets. The list is headed by Saqlain Mushtaq (53 games) and Waqar Younis (59).

Apart from 114 wickets from 68 ODIs, Shoaib has also claimed 69 wickets in 21 Tests.

Wasim Akram, meanwhile, is hoping to go out on a high when he retires after next year’s World Cup in South Africa. “Pakistan winning the World Cup will be a dream come true,” said Akram, one of the game’s fast-bowling greats.

“I can’t ask for anything more. That would be an ideal way to end my career,” he said Tuesday, ahead of Thursday’s Champions Trophy-opener against Sri Lanka. “The World Cup, that will be it. It will be difficult after that. There is a time for everything.”

Akram captained the Pakistan side that lost to Australia in the final of the 1999 World Cup. The 36-year-old left-armer is the only player to claim more than 400 Test and one-day wickets.

The master swing bowler admitted his form in recent one-day tournaments was poor, although he was not overtly worried. “I am going through a lean patch. But after 17 years, it’s nothing much if I don’t get it right in one tournament.”

Akram made his debut in 1984-85 and despite his recent slump in form, expects to do well here. “It was very difficult to bowl with control on seaming tracks in Nairobi. But the Sri Lankan wickets suit us.

“Form is temporary, class is permanent,” said Akram. Referring to criticisms that Pakistan have been inconsistent despite their wealth of talent, he reasoned that constant cricket took the edge off the players. “If you play everyday, you are going to lose some. If we play two games a year, we will win both.”

Akram rated New Zealand’s Martin Crowe, Brian Lara of the West Indies and India’s Sachin Tendulkar along with Australia’s Steve Waugh and Matthew Hayden as the “gems” among the batsmen he has played against.

However, asked who his favourite bowler was, Akram named one — the late Malcolm Marshall of West Indies. “He was the cleverest. He knew the weaknesses of batsmen even before they came in to bat.”

Akram said he had no plans to take up coaching after retirement. “I am not a coaching sort. One has to be very organised. It can also be frustrating sometimes because you can’t do it yourself.”

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