The retirement of a great is no less sad for being inevitable. And so it was that Shoaib Akhtar, for my money the fastest bowler of them all*, announced yesterday that he would leave the international game after the World Cup.
Shorn of his shoulder-length locks, and looking gaunt but smiling, he spoke rather beautifully. "Mentally I wanted to continue perhaps forever. But I must make way for youngsters to take over."
His 178 Test wickets at 25.69 speak of a career blighted by injury, controversy, and unfulfilled potential. Unlike other fast bowlers, he retained the monstrously long run-up with which he started his career. And though his arm was sometimes bent, his heart was ever on his sleeve.
"Do you want me to cry?" he asked journalists yesterday, before restraining his tears. "Playing for Pakistan was a dream. Yes, it was a dream," he said, before walking away, to handshakes and hugs.
* With apologies to Jeff ThomsonReuse content