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How a 19-year-old Akhtar convinced Gary Kirsten to vouch for his Pakistan selection

by Wisden Staff 2-minute read

Shoaib Akhtar, speaking on the Test Match Special podcast, recalled how he left an impression on Gary Kirsten after a net session on South Africa’s tour of Pakistan in 1994.

The Proteas, touring Pakistan for an ODI tri-series which involved Australia as well, invited Akhtar to bowl in the nets. Kirsten, as Akhtar recalled, was ready to vouch for the then 19-year-old pacer to be included in the Pakistan team after a net session.

As it turned out, Akhtar made his international debut for Pakistan a full three years afterwards, in a Test in 1997, which he said was later than he had hoped as he’d lost his “peak”.

“I became a net bowler for the South Africans,” the former Pakistan speedster said. “So the South Africans came up to me, I remember very clearly, there is one gentleman called Gary Kirsten, and Jonty Rhodes.

“They said, ‘Would you like to be a good net fast bowler against us?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I can do that for you [and] very soon, you’ll remember me, that I’ll be playing against you guys.’ They said, ‘So, how’s that?’ And I just asked them to face me.

“I then bowled a couple of balls at Gary Kirsten and he said, ‘Oh my Lord, you should have been in the team rather than in the nets.’ I asked if I’m capable enough to be a great fast bowler.

“He said, ‘You must be kidding me. I am going to vouch for you in the Pakistan dressing room that you should play.’ And Pakistan, what they did is play me four years later. So, I lost my peak there.”

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