Why we are inclined to agree with Shoaib Akhtar over Steve Smith

On Wednesday, former Pakistani bowler Shoaib Akhtar lashed out at the International Cricketing Committee (ICC) for sharing a meme mocking him for his claim that he could get Australian batsman Steve Smith in four balls.

The ICC responded with a two Michael Jordan images – the first where he looks bewildered and the second where he bursts out laughing.

Akhtar, who isn’t one to keep his mouth shut, lamented how the cricketing body had thrown neutrality out the window.

While Akhtar did get trolled for this, like he has on previous occasions – particularly when he claimed that he would destroy Sachin Tendulkar in the 2003 World Cup (we remember what happened there) and that he could have been a greater captain than Imran Khan for Pakistan, we tend to partially agree with him when it comes to his analysis on Steve Smith. We’re not going to say that Smith would be his bunny, but the battle would be as good as a Shoaib and Sachin. While most of us remember the golden duck in Kolkata and the magnificent 98 in Centurion Park in South Africa, most of us forget that Sachin has been dismissed eight times by Akhtar – five in ODIs and thrice in Tests.

We may make fun of Akhtar, but his pace was frightening. People questioned his action, but he wasn’t banned by the ICC for throwing, which means that the action was legitimate. He was consistently fast and even the few times he bowled with a short run-up, his pace was still over 145 km/h. Where Akhtar messed up was that he tried talking the talk too much. Glenn McGrath did that regularly, but the difference between Shoaib and McGrath is that the latter delivered every time he targeted a batsman. Akhtar’s wise cracks would often backfire, the Sachin Tendulkar 98 is the prime example of that.

However, we feel that Shoaib would have done well against Smith. Not like the way he bragged on Twitter, but it would have been a great contest. Smith by far is the best Test batsman in the world. His record is unbelievable and his ability to play spin is even better than some of the players living in the subcontinent. However, there is one flaw in Smith’s batting. And that is his technique. We saw what happened when he got struck in the head by a Jofra Archer delivery and was forced to retire hurt. He looked solid after he came back from injury. With a narrower bat, it would be interesting to see how he would have played Shoaib.

In a fantasy world, Shoaib may have got him out first ball in their first encounter – similar to the meeting with Sachin. However, afterwards, it would probably be an even content. Would Smith alter his technique? I don’t know. Would Shoaib only attempt leg-stump yorkers while bowling round the wicket in Test matches? Difficult to tell.

Once thing’s certain though: Steve Smith would score his runs – with difficulty – but make his century, and Akhtar most likely would have dismissed him on a regular basis.

Sadly, we can only assume and can see the contest most likely in a fantasy cricket league or in an online game.

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