Shoaib Akhtar was one of the greatest fast bowlers of his generation and intimidated many batsmen around the world with his raw pace. He was also one not to shy away from controversy and even after his playing days does not mince his words when speaking on different issues related to the game. During his career he had memorable one to one battles on the field with some of the all-time greats like Tendulkar, Dravid, Lara, Ponting, Hayden to name a few. There was also an episode he had with the former Indian opener Robin Uthappa during Pakistan’s tour of India in 2007.
Pakistan were on tour for a three-Test and five-match ODI series in India in 2007. The hosts wrapped up the Test series 1-0 and the ODI series opener was played in Guwahati where again India beat Pakistan by 5 wickets with Uthappa hitting the winning runs. During the course of his innings, Uthappa showcased the ‘walkout-shot’ in which he would take a few strides towards the bowler before the ball was delivered to unsettle his line and length. He had the courage to play this shot against a fiery Akhtar who was beaming in and bowling at above 150 kms per hour.
“I’ll share one story about Shoaib Akhtar. We were playing a game in Guwahati. And since it’s in the east of India, it gets dark there early. Back then, we did not have two new balls. After 34 overs, we used to get a ball which used to be 24 overs old but slightly better. Shoaib was bowling and Irfan and I were batting. I think we needed 12 to win off 25 balls or something like that. I remember he bowled a yorker to me. I missed it from the arm and only saw it coming straight into the blockhole. I stopped the ball dead there. That was 154 something clicks. Next ball was a low full toss and I hit the ball for four. So after that, we needed 3 or 4 runs to win and I told myself, ‘Man, I have to walk out to Shoaib Akhtar and hit him. How many times will I get that opportunity?’ He bowled a length ball and I did it; it took the edge and it went for four. We won the match," stated Uthappa.
Pakistan won the second ODI in Mohali before the home team took the lead by winning the third encounter in Kanpur. Uthappa recalled his meeting with Akhtar at dinner on the eve of the fourth ODI in Gwalior.
“We went to Gwalior for the next game and I remember we all were having dinner together. I think we hung out at someone’s room and were having a meal. Shoaib bhai was there as well. He came to me and said ‘Robin… well played. Good game’. And then he said ‘One more thing… you walked out and hit me today. If you do that again, even I don’t know what will happen… you might get a beamer directed at your head.'"
“After that, I didn’t ever dare walk out to him," exclaimed Uthappa.