One always pictures ghost written autobiographies going through a particular development process – The subject gets one draft ghost written and submits to the editor to go through. The editor goes through the draft and sees if there is adequate material which if leaked can cause enough uproar to
1) Generate free publicity to make genuine readers know about the book
2) Make the non readers curious so they buy it just to see if there is more such baring of the soul.
If not, he must ask the subject to add some masala, some hook to attract more sales.
We saw this with Adam Gilchrist’s book. Selective passages related to the Indians were leaked in India, caused uproar and must have spiked the sales. Fair enough. Here the process must have been different. The editor on receiving the draft instead of suggesting additions must have requested, nay, pleaded to the Speedy One to REMOVE certain objectionable content so as to not attract a case of libel. For Shoaib has written this book as he used to bowl – In your face with the intention to hurt.
To his credit, Shoaib starts the book with a very nice and sensitive retelling of his childhood days. He talks about the poverty and the compromises his family had to do to make ends meet. Here we find a very humble Shoaib describing his childhood with a lot of respect given to his parent, siblings and friends who never ceased to support him. Even in this phase we get glimpses of our preening peacock with exclamations of “I’m gonna be a star” and his long sessions on “Shoaib’s thinking stone”. But it is lesser and leads you to think of an additional dimension to the personality of this enigma.
He talks of his struggling days in a filmy manner – after all for him, this is the first act of a Hindi film, the struggle of the star. He thinks of him as a hero in the film. Heck, he even compares his eyes to that of Salman Khan. He talks of sleeping on the footpath before the trials for his first employers. Here we are supposed to go “Oh, this guy has slogged to get what he has!! Applause.” but again the cocky manner in which he goes through this passage puts you off a little.
On getting his first job, Shoaib loses whatever humility he has mustered while narrating. Here he turns into a pissed off snake and starts hissing and spitting and lunging towards all his enemies, real and made up. He blames his employers for not supporting him during the Karachi riots. He talks of unpaid dues and non selection to matches. He talks of the angst of being wronged. He goes melodramatic. He leaves his job, gets selected to represent a Rawalpindi team and unleashes hell on his ex team members by yelling at them. And his international debut is yet to come.
He talks of his debut and the poisonous atmosphere in the dressing room. He fires his first shots against Wasim Akram by implying that he was threatened by his presence. He does not spare the rest and gives the feeling that from the beginning he was his own man in the dressing room. He talks of being dropped, then being bought back due to Waqar being dropped. Here too he burns Akram by crediting his politics for getting Waqar out. Not that he spares Waqar. He gives Waqar the treatment later. He talks of Eden Gardens and his head turning two deliveries. he then goes into 1999 World Cup calling himself the MVP even though Saqlain, Akram, Razzak and Mahmood took more wickets and conceded lesser runs. He strangely does not give his wicket tally.
He talks of being banned for chucking, the entire machination which led to him being recalled and the testing process on Australia. He blasts the PCB for almost giving up on him. The testing process is a good read and gives some great insight on the entire throwing issues.
Shoaib has targeted everyone who came his way during his international career. He has this schizophrenic way of first belittling someone and then praising him. He talks famously of SRT not being a finisher and then praises him by saying he has developed his finishing game in the last 3 years. He disputes Dravid’s match winning skills ignoring the 2002 – 2004 phase where every Test win had a Dravid masterclass behind it.
Even in the games he played, he displays selective memory. During the 2004 ODI series he says that the bowlers did a great job in the 1st ODI. 344 runs in reply of 349 runs is not the result of a good job by the bowlers. He barely mentions India’s historic victory but whinges about being accused of faking injury in the 3rd Test match. He claims of not being able to bat in the match. However everyone saw him hitting sixes in that match showing no discomfort. Only discomfort was in the eyes of a visibly furious captain Inzamam Ul Haq. Maybe our eyes were deceived.
In fact in the entire book, the only stats mentioned are his bowling figures when they were good and the blasted speed gun. Ahh, the speed gun. I have never seen so much ink being spent on describing the speed gun and its results. The man is obsessed with it. More than 70% of his coverage of the 2003 World Cup is spent on that delivery bowled to Nick Knight which clocked 100 miles. The fact that Pakistan lost the match is glossed over. He even gets a quotation from Knight where he says he was scared like shit while facing the ball. Funny, I saw that match and Knight had played that ball with the minimum of fuss. In fact some of the quotes of opposite players that Shoaib comes up with are unintentionally hilarious.
He then reaches the phase where he used to be rested more than played. He plays the wronged hero again and again. At this point you want to yell, “Enough of it!! Who told you to bulk up like a mad man and put more pressure on your brittle bones?” He offers explanation for that too saying the muscles supported the bones. If that is the case, bodybuilders should be able to bowl 100 miles all the time.
He has some good words for Bob Woolmer and explains his entire pushing saga as a misunderstanding. He evidently has respect for the man and credits him (a little) for his good show against England in 2005. Here too he whinges at not given the Man of the Series forgetting the awesome display of batting by the actual winner.
He then whinges more, does some politics and tries to get in the team. He gets picked for the final phase of his career, gets dropped for doping and then hitting Asif and then, more whingeing.
He witnesses the spot fixing from a distance, expresses disappointment over the juniors and brands Asif as a criminal. Then comes the World Cup 2011 and his announcement to retire. He then expresses disappointment at being benched forgetting the awful bowling against NZ. He gets piqued over sitting out for Wahab Riaz against India. He sees Pakistan lose and declares grandly that result would have been different had he been picked. Forgetting that Wahab took 5 wickets. Forgetting the 2003 shellacking. Forgetting a rampaging Sehwag. Forgetting…forget it, you get the picture.
His last chapters are over miscellaneous thoughts he could not talk about earlier in the midst of bashing all and sundry. Here we see a grown up side of him. His thoughts on handling fasties are more an open application for a fast bowling coaching job. Even then there are some candid thoughts. He admits of being a rebel without a cause, of being a maverick. not in these words. Because what is Shoaib if he starts owning up.
I genuinely feel that reading this book gave me a great insight into the mind of this unique person. This book showed the vulnerability, the megalomania, the insecurities and the bravado of the man we know as the Rawalpindi express. Read it just to get a peak into his mind. What you read may not be 100% accurate. However it serves as a mirror to the mind of Speedy One.