New Akhtar augurs well for Pakistan

Published: Monday, December 5, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Lahore:Rejuvenated Pakistan pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar has hailed former fast bowling great Imran Khan as the inspiration behind his success against England in the recent Test series.

"I always take inspiration from Imran and before the series he told me that only match-winning performance can help me silence my critics," said Akhtar, whose 17 wickets played a key role in Pakistan's 2-0 series win over England.

Khan, who played 82 Tests as an all-rounder before retiring in 1992, is also widely regarded as the mentor for retired pace duo Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

Akhtar said Imran's words inspired him to show his best against England.

"I was very skeptical but Imran inspired me and told me that I can make the difference in the series. He told me that I should play my part," said Akhtar, who had not played for Pakistan since January this year because of injury.

Imran had also criticised the Pakistan Cricket Board for holding a medical inquiry into Akhtar, who was accused of feigning injury after his team's defeat against India last year.

"In my tough times, Imran backed me and I owe a lot to him," said Akhtar, who was cleared of all the charges but was criticised for his lack of commitment.

The enigmatic 30-year-old paceman, under pressure to prove his mettle against England, capped a remarkable comeback with 5-71 to help Pakistan win the third and final Test by an innings and 100 runs on Saturday.

Akhtar said captain Inzamam-ul-Haq also gave him much-needed confidence.

"He (Inzamam) made my heart bigger. It all boils down to confidence of the captain and coach and both Inzamam and Woolmer encouraged me a lot," said Akhtar, who had a love-hate relationship with his coach.

"Inzamam was positive and told everyone we will win. The way Inzamam batted in the series encouraged others to give their best," said Akhtar, described by England captain Michael Vaughan as the "man difference" between the two teams.

"He (Akhtar) was a surprise. His consistency and discipline to bowl at 90-plus speed with the variation of a mystery slow ball was the difference between the two teams," Vaughan had said after the final Test.

Woolmer described Akhtar as an "asset".

"Akhtar is always an asset when he is fit and playing. He had some issues to resolve when he arrived and he had resolved them. He is now delivering and it is good for both the team and for him," said Woolmer.

Woolmer said Akhtar had promised to be a "new Shoaib" and he fulfilled the promise.

Akhtar thanked his team-mates for their support.

"When I was in Australia every member of the team called me and inquired about my fitness. Everyone wanted me to play against England and I thank them for their support," he said.

"With this kind of support I will continue to perform and play my part in wins."

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