'Hard to imagine Pakistan cricket without Akhtar'
Pakistan's top order player Azhar Ali has expressed shock over fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar's decision to retire from international cricket after the ongoing ICC World Cup 2011, and said that it is difficult to imagine Pakistan cricket without him.
"I didn''t know Shoaib bhai was going to retire beforehand, but on a personal level I did have a feeling that this could be his last World Cup, especially if Pakistan went on to win. Despite that I was still shocked when I heard the news because in many ways it's hard to imagine Pakistan cricket without the fastest bowler in the history of the game," Cricistan.com quoted Azhar, as saying.
Both Azhar and Shoaib play domestic cricket for Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) and were also part of the ODI squad for the series against England in 2010.
Describing his experience of playing with Shoaib for KRL, Azhar was very positive about the Rawalpindi Express' influence on the team.
"Shoaib is a very charismatic individual and even fellow cricketers enjoy being in his company. We really enjoy having him at KRL and whenever he plays for us there is always an extra buzz about the team," he said.
"When one of the best bowlers in the world is running in to bowl for your domestic team, it lifts everyone and makes you feel invincible," he explained.
Azhar further said that Shoaib stood out even in international cricket, where every player is a star.
"I was with the Pakistan team during the ODI series in England and even though it was an International cricket match, Shoaib still attracted a lot of attention. What I liked about Shoaib was that he had time for everyone. He would come to me and the other players who weren't getting a game and make us feel part of the team," he said.
"I remember he [Shoaib] told me that I had a lot of potential and that as long as I worked hard I would play a lot of games for Pakistan. I know it's been said many times but Shoaib really does have a big heart and his retirement will be a big loss to Pakistan cricket," he added.
Image: Shoaib Akhtar
Photographs: Getty Images
Pawar impressed with standard of cricket at World Cup
The International Cricket Council president Sharad Pawar on Monday praised the excitement generated due to the ICC Cricket World Cup calling it potentially the "greatest and most dramatic event where the standard of game has been impressive."
"We have surely been treated to a real feast of 50-over cricket with some outstanding games. Few who were in Bengaluru will forget the tied match between India and England or Ireland's record-breaking triumph against England while the passion shown by the home supporters for the hosts Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka has been spectacular," Pawar said.
"The standard of cricket has been impressive and there is no doubt that 50-over cricket has a real attraction and an amazing appeal for players, spectators in the grounds and the hundreds of millions watching on television around the world," Pawar added.
The ICC president is happy that those who predicted that days the 50-over format were numbered, have been proved wrong.
"Some people have been predicting the demise of 50-over cricket but they have been proven wrong throughout 'The Cup that Counts'. The television audience figures have set new records and the India vs England match was the most viewed game in ICC Cricket World Cup history with multi-millions in India alone tuning in," Pawar added.
The veteran politician and senior union minister of India is happy about the number of people who were present at the ground during games.
"I think the television and crowd figures demonstrate the enduring appeal of the 50-over game and I have no doubt that it will continue to grow from strength to strength in the future."
Image: ICC President Sharad Pawar
Photographs: Getty Images
Collingwood's kids wanted Eng loss so daddy could return home
As English cricket fans crossed their fingers for Andrew Strauss' men ahead of their must-win World Cup encounter against the West Indies, two girls in the country wanted the team to lose because they were desperate to have their daddy back at home.
All-rounder Paul Collingwood's daughters were missing him so badly that they wished the English lose the match which they ultimately went on to win narrowly to make the quarter-final cut.
Keira and Shannon Collingwood spoke to their father on the eve of the match and conveyed their wish in no uncertain terms before the cricketer pacified them with a promise.
"'We hope you lose tomorrow, daddy. Then you can come home.' That was quite tough and I had to think quickly," said Collingwood.
"I told them, 'Yes, but if we win, daddy will get a few more pennies to buy you more Barbie dolls'. That seemed to do the trick. 'OK, I hope you win now', said Shannon," he recalled.
England made the quarter-finals after a roller-coaster group stage campaign in the sub-continent during which they beat table-toppers South Africa and the West Indies, tied against India and lost to minnows Ireland and Bangladesh.
"It has been very emotionally draining. There were times in the match against West Indies when we thought we were down and out of the World Cup. We've gone from despair to euphoria in the space of 20 minutes," Collingwood said.
The all-rounder credited Strauss for inspiring the team with his composed leadership.
"A lot of the credit for our resilience has to go to Andrew Strauss. You can't get away from the fact that in the back of your mind there will be thoughts about the amount of time we've been away this winter. But Straussy has driven us through it," he said.
"Bearing in mind the mental, emotional and physical strain of the Ashes tour and subsequent events, a lesser leader would have had plenty of excuses to choose from if he's wanted to," Collingwood was quoted as saying by The Daily Mail.
"But Strauss is a very stubborn guy. Whether he is playing table tennis or golf or on the cricket field, he is very hard to wear down and he has urged everyone to forget all talk about fatigue," he added.
Image: Paul Collingwood
Photographs: Getty Images