Lawson bowled over by Shoaib's 150 kmph ball

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Though Pakistan's newly appointed coach Geoff Lawson might have shown little interest in the 'pot-boiler' job initially, he revealed that watching speedster Shoaib Akhtar hurl '150kmph thunderbolts' in a practice game turned him from a 'sceptic into a believer'.

The 49-year-old former Aussie pacer, when first contacted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials, was little interested in taking up late coach Bob Woolmer's vaccant position, but his pessimistic views changed after he visited Pakistan on a PCB invitation to interact with the Board officials and the players.

''When the first call came to see whether I was interested I think the first word I said was 'no','' Lawson said.

''Then I said '1000 planets would have to align' before I took the job. But I really changed after going over there. Meeting their board was a very positive experience''.

''Watching Shoaib (Akhtar) in a practice game in Abbotobad turned me from a sceptic into a believer. I hadn't even got out of the car when the first ball I saw him bowl would have been about 150kmph,'' the former New South Wales (NSW) bowling coach told The daily Telegraph.

He, however, sought guarantees from the PCB that there would no repetition of 'drug farce' in Pakistan cricket before agreeing to sign a two-year deal and said he would 'walk' if there was a repetition of the incident as the entire saga was a poor advertisement of cricket.

Interestingly, Pakistan cricket received a shocker when the pace duo of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were found guilty of taking the banned drug 'nandrolone' last September just before the ICC Champions Trophy in India. However, later their lengthy bans was quashed on appeal after both of them claimed they unknowingly took the substance.

Shoaib elated over Lawson's appointment: Meanwhile Shoaib Akhtar said in Karachi that he was delighted by Geoff Lawson's appointment as national team coach, arguing only an Australian can help Pakistan to beat the world's number one team.

Former fast bowler Lawson, 49, succeeded onetime England batsman Bob Woolmer, who died during the World Cup in the Caribbean four months ago. He edged out two other short-listed Australians, Dav Whatmore and Richard Done.

"I am excited that he is coming to Pakistan, it's thrilling. He can lift us to that level where we can become the world beaters," said Akhtar.

"I have always loved the Australian mentality. They only play to win and even if they lose they put up their best till the end," he added.

"I am confident that Lawson will help us beat Australia because he will know their weaknesses and strong points."

Akhtar said teams from the subcontinent, especially Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, have benefitted from Australian coaching. Both have been coached by Dav Whatmore.

"Australian thinking is different from the sub-continent. They acquire knowledge about minor things and work on them while sub-continental people think differently," the paceman said.

The 31-year Akhtar, nicknamed the 'Rawalpindi Express' after his hometown, has been plagued by injuries. He only returned to the Pakistan team last month after missing the World Cup in March.

Lawson has said that Akhtar is key to Pakistan's success.

"He's a vital cog to them being top of the tree," Lawson said after meeting Akhtar last month.

Akhtar said Lawson's appointment would help him and fellow pacemen.

"He (Lawson) is someone who believes fast bowlers can win matches and I will definitely be able to lift the level of my performance under him. Once the fast bowlers deliver the team will benefit," he said.

"Even Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor benefitted from Lawson's help when they played alongside him in New South Wales, so he must have something which worked."

Akhtar said the team is gearing up for an exciting but tough season ahead.

"This current Pakistan team has a young captain in Shoaib Malik and it has worked extensively to be the fittest. The atmosphere is very good and we are gearing up for the challenges ahead," said Akhtar.

Pakistan feature in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup to be held in September in South Africa, then host South Africa for two Tests and five one-day internationals and tour India for three Tests and five one-day matches.

They also host world champions Australia in March and April next year, a series Akhtar is already looking forward to.

"I can't wait for the Australian series. I want to play in at least one series win over Australia," he said.


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