Showman Akhtar obliges fans after saying not fit enough for series

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Gwalior, Nov 14 (UNI) Maverick Pakistani speedster Shoaib Akhtar today claimed that he was not fully match-fit to play the ongoing ODI series against arch rivals India, but later skipped most of team practice session and spent time with fans to the apparent discomfiture of the team management.

Akhtar had earlier in the day stirred a hornet's nest by saying, during a Children's Day function at the Scindia School here, that he was not fully fit for the series and had wanted to play some matches before this tour.

''I wanted to play some three or four matches before the series.

I needed training to be match fit,'' he said.

During the pre-match press conference, captain Shaoib Malik evaded a direct answer on Akhtar's statement, simply saying that all the team members had come here to perform their best and that was their task.

''We are playing for the country and we try to do our best each time we step out on the field,'' he said when asked to respond to what his strike bowler had said earlier in the day.

Later, Akhtar, who returned to international cricket after serving a 13-match ban following a brawl with team-mate Mohammad Asif prior to the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup, did not have much workout and net session.

He was seen chatting with journalists and children sitting at a corner of the ground in a relax mood while his team-mates were having work out and net session.

After some time, he returned to the team dressing room and a handful of cricket fans who could sneak the tight security cordon jostled to have a glimpse of him.

Many, including security personnel, took out their mobile cameras and clicked pictures of the Pakistani speedster.

He also called up to the balcony a mother and daughter duo and had a chat with them, besides inviting a few more young girls to come up.

He then came down the stairs of the dressing room and obliged autograph seekers and fans went for a berserk for a while to the discomfort of the security men present to look after him.

Pakistan team manager Talat Ali, who was standing on the ground just opposite the dressing room, did not seem amused though not much could be read out from his expression-less face.

The fans though had a rewarding time. Rahul, from Gwalior, was happy that he could sake hands with Akhtar.

''Earlier, I could only see him on television. Now for the first time I saw him from a close distance. He is an exciting guy,'' the youngster said.

Another youngster, Nayeem, was a happy after getting Akhtar's autograph. ''It is worth waiting for long and after having a harrowing time with security men I got his autograph,'' said the XIIth standard local boy.

The Pakistani team had a long practice session of nearly two hours, first having light work out, catching and fielding practices and then a net session with each player spending time by hitting the ball turn by turn on the two strips provided for them.

Indian team came to the ground a half an hour later and straightaway went for the nets. They later have a light work out followed by catching and throwing sessions. They remained at the ground for more than two hours, doing most of their practice under floodlights.


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