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Akhtar speaks about love received from India

The fast-bowler claimed that Kolkata was one of his favourite venues

Photo Courtesy: PTI

Pakistan’s former legendary pacer Shoaib Akhtar, in a Youtube video, expressed his love for the people of India and thanked them for the support he received during the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he represented the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) franchise.

The fast-bowler claimed that Kolkata was one of his favourite venues and believed that the stadium was home to some of his best performances.

“Kolkata was amazing. The people of that city were amazing. I have been loved all across India and I am very thankful to them. My best performances have probably come on that ground. I have a lot of memories at Eden Garden. It is one of my favourite grounds. It is one of my favourite pitches to bowl on. I loved every bit of it,” Shoaib said.

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The Rawalpindi Express stated that his stint with the KKR was possible because of the help he received from the government of the time.

“I was facing a ban of five years at the time. The ban was wrongly imposed by the Chairman of the PCB. This jeopardised my IPL contract. I was about to file a case against the ban but the government of the time intervened. Asif Ali Zardari intervened and sorted out the matter. I am very thankful to him for this,” he said.

Akhtar stated that Indian actor and owner of KKR Shahrukh Khan and former India captain Sourav Ganguly were instrumental in getting him to feature in the IPL.

“Shahrukh kept asking me about my status. Ganguly kept asking as well. I kept telling them that I might come. The ban was placed on me because I criticised the pitches. I said that fast bowlers break their back on substandard pitches. You [PCB] should consider this. The PCB chairman took offense to this and based on personal vendetta he placed a ban on me,” he said.

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The former pacer revealed that Khan and Ganguly were very helpful and provided him with a lot of support.

“In IPL, Shahrukh took great care of me. He asked me to rest or play. I said I wanted to play. Ganguly asked me how fit I was and I told him I wasn’t really. He said in the team meeting that Shoaib is fit. The coach said I wasn’t. Ganguly said that I would want a half-fit shoaib. He gave a shut up call to the coach,” he said.

Akhtar remembered the love he received during his first match for the KKR franchise and stated that it was the same throughout the country.

“When I entered the ground a crowd of a hundred thousand was cheering for me. This crowd used to react very strongly against me. When I was playing for Kolkata, they gave me a lot of love. The entire crowd was behind me. The entire media of India as well backed me to play and perform there. It was good for the IPL as well that I play in it,” he said.

The fast-bowler revealed that he was in tremendous pain during the match because of his knee but persevered. He stated that he received a lot of admiration from Khan and Ganguly after his performance in the match.

“Shahrukh asked me why I withstand so much pain. I told him that this has been a part of my life. If I could have bowled two or three years without pain I would have taken more than 200 wickets. Shahrukh sympathised with me and Ganguly said we won the match because of you,” he said. “Shahrukh climbed on me and then brought me to the hotel on his shoulder. I asked him that I had won so many matches before, why are you giving me so much love? He said it was because you withstood so much pain to help us win and we are really grateful.”