Former Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has ruffled feathers in India again in a new headline-grabbing autobiography that also contains candid admissions about ball-tampering and corruption.
The book, from the man who was once the fastest bowler in the world, takes a swipe at Indian heroes Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, as well as unnamed figures who have “ruined” the game in Pakistan.
His comments about the star duo in ‘Controversially Yours’, excerpts of which have been released to the media, have especially made waves in India, Pakistan’s neighbour and great rival.
Akhtar, 36, claimed that Tendulkar and Dravid, two of the world’s top Test batsmen, played for their own records and rarely won matches for India.
“I can’t recall a series from Tendulkar’s earlier playing days when he helped win matches. He might have had more runs and records but he lacked the ability to finish a game,” he wrote.
Akhtar, who played 46 Tests and 163 one-day internationals between 1997 and 2011, recalled that on India’s tour of Pakistan in 2006 Tendulkar was “distinctly uncomfortable” facing him.
“We managed to psychologically browbeat him,” the fast bowler wrote. “We bounced the ball at him and were able to unnerve him.”
The book was released in New Delhi last week, but its launch in Tendulkar’s home city of Mumbai on Sunday was cancelled by organisers without any explanation.
The bowler, whose career was marked by allegations of drug abuse and ball-tampering, wrote that he did not feel guilty about “working” on the ball.
“The game has become very unequal and only favours the batsman,” he wrote. “If you bowl a no-ball, the batsman gets a free-hit; bouncers have been curtailed.
“They have restricted us so mercilessly that I find it very difficult to feel entirely guilty about ball tampering.”
Akhtar goes on to describe how the ball can be tampered with.
“There are so many ways to prepare the ball, it’s not just a matter of scratching it,” he wrote. “I have used my boot nails and zip of my back pocket. Many bowlers use vaseline or gum on the ball.
“The only way to stop this is for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to ensure that at least some pitches are prepared in favour of bowlers.”
His other solution is to legalise it and “set rules for it”.
“Perhaps some manipulation of the ball, like scratching it with your nails, could be legally allowed,” he added.
Pakistan cricket has been hit by a series of controversies, including the lengthy bans handed to three players - Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif - over a betting scandal last year.
Pakistan have been forced in recent years to play home series abroad after a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009.
“I wish I had played under (former captain) Imran Khan,” wrote Akhtar.
“He was the last man who cared about the game and the Pakistan team. Unfortunately, our seniors were the most corrupt people I have known in my whole life.
“Barring a few like Rashid Latif and Moin Khan, the rest indulged in activities that certainly did not help the game, yet most of them were let off with fines.
“It was not the board alone that ruined Pakistani cricket, it was the team itself.”
Senior Indian cricket official Rajiv Shukla reacted angrily to Akhtar’s claims about Tendulkar and Dravid.
“Sachin does not need to prove anything to anyone, least of all to Shoaib,” said Shukla, a former cricket board vice-president who now heads the Indian Premier League. “Shoaib must apologise to both Tendulkar and Dravid.”