Johannesburg: Speed kings Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan and Australia’s Brett Lee clash in a key World Cup game on Tuesday but both have downplayed any prospect of a pace war.
The two said they would rather concentrate on grabbing wickets instead of trying to prove who could bowl faster.
“I know I am required to keep batsmen under pressure by taking wickets,” said Shoaib. “I’m seen as an aggressive bowler so if I need to sacrifice speed for wickets I don’t mind. It’s not that I won’t bowl fast. I’ve noticed when you trouble a batsman with pace, bowl a few short balls, he usually gets out next ball.”
Lee indicated he would follow the same policy at the Wanderers which has one of the fastest wickets in South Africa.
“Pace remains my main weapon but I also look up to guys like Glenn McGrath, who bowl line and length and take wickets which helps the team win. I must also do that.”
Shoaib beat Lee to the magical 160kmph barrier last year during a one-day International against New Zealand in Lahore. Lee’s fastest delivery has been timed at 159kmph during a Test in Cape Town last year.
Both Shoaib and Lee may have little in common except bowling fast, but remain good friends. “He (Shoaib) is a great mate of mine and I love watching him bowl,” Lee said.
“There are people who might try and stop him but they should not,” he said about speculation over Shoaib’s suspect action.
Lee himself has seen his action challenged and appeared rattled when England’s Barmy Army chanted ‘Chucker’ whenever he ran into bowl in the recent Ashes series.
Shoaib described Lee as “sweet” and a man who loves to share a joke.
Veteran Wasim Akram advised Lee and Shoaib not to sacrifice pace. “When we won the 1992 World Cup the main thing captain Imran Khan stressed was to bang it in since speed is always a fast bowler’s weapon,” Akram said.