In his days, Shoaib Akhtar terrified even the most skilful batsmen with his raw pace and athleticism. Akhtar’s no-holds-barred approach with the ball sent a shiver down the spine of many oppositions. Further, his ability to move the ball both ways – a prized skill that he honed under the tutelage of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis – added an extra layer of lethality and ferociousness to his craft.
The ‘Rawalpindi Express’ enjoyed a fierce duel with some of the best batsmen in the world. Coincidentally, the prime of the iconic Indian batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman coincided with Akhtar’s invincibility, when he was operating at the peak of his power.
Naturally, the rivalry between India and Pakistan, in a precise sense, was a contest between the Indian batsmen and Pakistani bowlers. Pakistan relied mostly on unfettered, ruthless pace while Indian batsmen counterattacked with tremendous technical proficiency and sheer grit.
While many struggled against the hostility of Akhtar, some batsmen played against him with incredible ease and nonchalance.
The former Pakistani pacer has revealed one such batsman from India who was pretty comfortable playing him, and unsurprisingly, it is Rahul Dravid.
“If a batsman used to play, like Rahul Dravid, we would bowl him length balls. From close to the stump we would aim at the gap between bat and pad, try to hit the ball on the pad,” Akhtar said in a chat with Aakash Chopra on his YouTube channel.
The 44-years-old also recalled an interesting anecdote from 1999 Pepsi Cup when he and his colleague Shahid Afridi planned to dismiss Rahul Dravid early to enjoy their Friday night plans.
“There was a final match in Bangalore, I had dismissed Sadagoppan Ramesh early, we took 3-4 wickets early. Sachin Tendulkar was not playing. Shahid Afridi and I said Rahul Dravid will take a lot of time and it’s Friday night today. Afridi said bowl something and take his wicket else he will play for long,” Akhtar added.