Ever since he signaled his arrival into the international scene with two toe crushing yorkers that broke the defence of the great wall of India and the master blaster at Eden Gardens, Shoaib has been in the news, be it for his exhilarating on-field antics or for his off-field waywardness.
Of late, Shoaib has been in the news for wrong reasons. The tour Down Under brought out the worst in him. Though the sight of his long run up with his shabby hairstyle that sends a shiver down the batsman's spine and his subsequent thunderbolts are still etched in the memory of avid lovers of the game, in the Australian tour, he hogged headlines for all the wrong reasons. He made sure that he got more than his deserved share of the newsprint with his misconduct that started off in the field with an eye-to-eye confrontation with the Australian opener Justin Langer and ended up with his visits to discos, the photos of which were splashed all over the media.
Shoaib always had a problem with his attitude. Having created a sort of macho-image for himself, he has always placed himself above the team. His checkered career is marred with troubles with the Match Referees, who have had a tough time dealing with him, be it for his suspect action or for his misconduct on the field.
When India toured Pakistan last year, at a time when the host needed him most, he gave more importance to nurse his bruised ego rather than bail his team out of a crisis. Though the disciplinary committee, formed to check whether he feigned injury during the decisive stages of the Rawalpindi Test, gave him a clean chit, there was no denying the fact that the damage had been done with Pakistan losing a Test series at home to their archrivals for the first time ever.
This time, after high drama and action he has pulled out of the first leg of the tour citing injury and he hopes to return for the One-day series. But it's anybody's guess as to whether he will return or not. Not all are fully convinced of the reasons for his withdrawal considering the fact that he was made to pay heavily for his misdemeanors during the Australian tour just a day before the squad to tour India was announced.
By no means is he a role model for upcoming youngsters. Infact, he is more bound to mislead them. Though Pakistan might miss his pace, cricket being a team game he must be made to feel that nobody is indispensable. The team is afterall high above any individual.
Now where does Shoaib Akhtar stand in the Pakistan scheme of things? Though, many former greats have come out in support of him, it is clear that his captain was not that keen (as was being made out) to have him in the side. Neither was the coach who is a strict disciplinarian by any means. Will anybody like to have a person who doesn't pay heed to the captain and coach, who aspires to become captain by casting aspersion on his teammates and who is such a disruptive element to be included in the team?
Cricket, being a gentleman's game, has no role for such arrogant characters. It is high time that cricket did away with people like Shoaib and returns to Tom Brown's Schooldays were Thomas Hughes came up with that classic definition of the game: "It's more than a game. It's an institution."