Maverick former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar wants an ICC World Cup final showdown with bitter rivals India and has called for ‘revenge’ for the semi-final loss in 2011.
“I want an India vs Pakistan final, whether they are playing in Mumbai or Ahmedabad," Akhtar said in an interaction with Sports Tak. “2011 ka badla lena hai is baar (we have to take revenge for 2011 this time)."
India faced Pakistan in Mohali in the last-four stage of the 2011 edition of the ICC World Cup. The high-voltage match was marred by several dropped catches by the Pakistan fielders as Sachin Tendulkar made merry. The Indian batting maestro scored 85 off 115 balls with 11 hits to the fence. Gautam Gambhir (27 off 32 balls) and Suresh Raina (36 off 39 balls) played cameos as the hosts put up 260/9 in 50 overs. Pakistan’s chase fizzled out in the face of some high-quality Indian bowling led by Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel and 231 was all that the visitors could muster.
It was India’s fifth win on the trot against Pakistan in ICC World Cups following the victories in 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2003. India added two more ICC World Cup victories against Pakistan in 2015 and 2019 and have a 100% record against their arch-rivals in the showpiece ODI event. This stands sharply in contrast to the overall record in ODIs between the two teams which is tilted in favour of Pakistan. The two sides have played 132 ODIs so far, with Pakistan winning 73 of those and India winning 55. This includes a near-monopoly that Pakistan had in matches played in Sharjah.
Akhtar was part of the 2011 World Cup but had a forgettable tournament. He played just three matches in the tournament and wasn’t part of the playing eleven for the clash against India. The group match against New Zealand in Pallekele was the last that he played in the tournament and it was also the last that we saw of him in international cricket. It was a tame end to the career of a player who still holds the record for bowling the fastest delivery (161.3 kmph).
Akhtar also rued the verbal jingoism that has been going on between the two sides over the hosting of the Asia Cup. India and Pakistan don’t engage in bilateral series owing to a strained political and military relationship. Also, there was also virtually no international cricket in Pakistan with international teams refusing to travel to that country following a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009. Frontline international cricket returned to Pakistan in 2019 and by 2022 nearly all major Test nations had toured Pakistan again.
Asian Cricket Council (ACC) chief Jay Shah had said that India will not be travelling to Pakistan to participate in the Asia Cup later in the year and the tournament will be moved out of that country. Pakistan had retorted by saying that if the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided against sending a team to Pakistan for the Asia Cup, Pakistan will boycott the ICC World Cup.
“These are trash talks. Neither BCCI nor PCB can do anything in this matter. BCCI can’t do anything without asking the Indian government. Our board also can’t do anything without consulting our government," Akhtar said.
India and Pakistan have faced each other in the final of an ICC tournament once earlier - the ICC World T20 in 2007, which India won by five runs under dramatic circumstances.
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