The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shoaib to target all XI tomorrow
‘The surface doesn’t matter as I’m so quick in the air...’

Pretoria: Shoaib Akhtar, the world’s No. 1 speed merchant, has vowed to “target” the entire Indian team during Saturday’s World Cup ‘derby’ in neighbouring Centurion.

Speaking in Rantjiesfontein (a 35-minute drive away) after the Pakistan team’s workout Thursday afternoon, Akhtar warned: “All of us have to give our best and, personally, I’ll be looking to target all XI Indians... We’ve got to win — we don’t have an option. So, I’ll be going all out.”

Talking with a recently acquired accent, Akhtar added: “There’s a lot of hype and the intensity of an Indo-Pak match is always high... Yes, there will be pressure, but I thrive in such conditions... I love to bowl in the pressure games. God knows what the result will be, but it surely will be a good match.

“In any case, it’s easier bowling to the Indians if a comparison is made, say, with Australia...”

Asked whether the SuperSport Park wicket would give him an advantage, Akhtar replied with the confidence of a champion. “For me, the surface doesn’t matter because I’m so quick in the air... Of course, help from the wicket — be it pace or bounce — is going to be welcomed. My job will be easier if conditions help swing.”

In Akhtar’s opinion, if the toss is won by Pakistan, then Waqar Younis should set a target. “The bowling is our strength, so, we should get the runs on board and then bowl out India... Will it only be a Shoaib Akhtar versus Sachin Tendulkar battle' No... He’s the best batsman, but India have Rahul Dravid as well... If you ask me, I like bowling to the biggest names, though.”

Having only recently clocked the fastest delivery ever (161.3 kmph, at Newlands, against England), Akhtar insisted a five-wicket haul would give “more satisfaction” than breaking the 100 mph barrier. “I’m actually quite disappointed that I went for 63 from nine overs in that game.”

Clearly, Akhtar indicated being hailed as speed merchant No. 1 didn’t exactly mean too much. And, speaking about his form in the World Cup, he candidly accepted he “expected” more than ten wickets in the four matches till date. “That’s not enough, but I’m happy with the rhythm. It’s not that I’ve struggled.”

Having just emerged as the highest scorer (43, versus England) in the No. 11 position in any ODI, Akhtar quipped: “Nowadays, when I wake up, I begin looking for the bat... I’ve been consciously trying to improve my batting, because a 25-30 from somebody in the tail could lift a team to 270-280, which will be more than competitive batting first...”

Asked by The Telegraph whether he continued to unwind by watching Bollywood movies and listening to the latest chartbusters from India, Akhtar enthusiastically answered: “Jee haan ... Aap ne theek farmaya... While Kaante is the last movie I have seen, I thoroughly enjoyed Dil Chahta Hai... Everything about it is so nice.”

Now, will he be a little nice to the Indians'

Meanwhile, the Indians arrived from Durban late this evening. Unlike the last India visit here, for the Australia game, when both were in the same hotel, the Pakistanis will be shuttling from Johannesburg. Apparently, security considerations came into play.

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