Not so long ago, at the Twenty20 world cup, this same individual, took a bat to beat up his own team mate, Shahid Afridi. The story goes that in the dressing room, Shahid Afridi apparently used foul language against Shoaib, and he got so enraged that he took a bat to beat up Afridi. Mohammad Asif intervened and an enraged Akhtar hit out at Asif instead. Asif got away with thigh injuries, and Akhtar received a 13 match ban. But most things in life are ironical. Mohammad Asif, was ruled out of the Indian Tour, due to injury, one that was not inflicted my a certain Mr. Akhtar! Well, thankfully not!
Now if Shane Warne was always seen as the naughty, play boyish persona of the Australian team, then Pakistan has there version of a Shane Warne, and he's known as Shoaib Akhtar. The womanizing, the wining, the bohemian lifestyle, and ofcourse the star status. None of us have the right to pontificate or even get ethical about their lives off the cricket pitch, but you cannot ignore the similarity.
Back to Shoaib Akhtar in India. Perhaps he has matured overnight? Nah! It"s more like he is role playing and so far he is doing s a really good job. Barring one incident, when the fledgling or rather under developed paparazzi in India, got pictures of Akhtar, with a woman with who he was seen going to a night club. Mystery woman? Yes, in all probability, one of his temporary alliances.
Other than that, no one can kick up or build up any gossip about the charismatic Akhtar, quite simply because he has not done anything. On the field half glares turn into smiles and it's all very 'bhai – bhai' for this man, and the general feeling is that this particular Indo–pak series lacks the intensity! Cricket lovers had almost begun to expect some on field fire when the two teams met. Sadly this has not been the case. Ofcourse peace is what we all want, but a little fun, a little theatre hurt no one. Spectators love the needle and the consequences of mid pitch aggression.
After playing the game at the international stage, you know what borders not to cross. Within the boundary everything is acceptable. You take the rough with the smooth and realize that you have to add a pinch of salt to the events that take place! It's all acted out in the moment, on the pitch!
It's a known fact that off the field, the men from Pakistan and our men in blue are very friendly. Shoaib Akhtar for instance would have hundreds of friends and acquaintances in India, and in all the various pockets of the country. But this time around, he may spend time with his pals, but he is more intent on doing other things. Other very noble things!
Recently Akhtar visited orphanages in Chandigarh and was touched by all the work that was being done by the missionaries. Soon after his visit, he expressed his desire to adopt a child, and play the role of a single father..
"I don't want to publicise this matter. I am looking for one (baby)," Akhtar said.
Orphanages in Chandigarh, and then a visit to a school for special children in Lucknow. Shoaib made it clear that he was on a quest to do his bit for the physically and mentally challenged kids. According to him charity is nothing new to him as he is involved with a few back home in Pakistan. But the excessive media coverage in India, was both mind boggling and frustrating. The lucky few who got to touch Shoaib Akhtar and feel his presence would remember the moment. And for those who missed out, they would be praying for the star cricketer to return one day.
"Working for the cause of such children is my moral responsibility and the issue has always been close to my heart."
One things for sure. This angelic avatar of Shoaib Akhtar is endearing, but you cannot help but notice that naughty gleam in his eye and that ever mischievous smile that dances on his lips.
For now Shoaib bhai, keep the 'shareefness' alive. It's hard to digest that it's the same bad boy of Pakistani Cricket, but stranger things have happened right?