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Akhtar relishing prospect of T20

He's good looking, hugely popular in Pakistan, controversial and the fastest bowler on the planet.

Durban crowds, whatever their opinion of him, will surely be looking forward to seeing Shoaib Akhtar, the "Rawalpindi Express", do his stuff at Kingsmead in the upcoming ICC World Twenty20 tournament starting in eight days time.

Akhtar, 32, who has bowled the fastest recorded delivery at 161.4km/h has kept the headline writers busy during his spectacular career.

Aside from blitzing batsmen, he's also been banned for taking performance-enhancing drugs (nandrolone) last year, banned for one month for chucking (in 2000), banned for one Test and two ODIs for abusing South Africa's Paul Adams during the Test series in 2001, and became the second player ever to be banned for ball tampering in the same year.

To be fair to Akhtar, his drugs and throwing sentences were eventually quashed and, although he just escaped a fine recently for allegedly leaving a Pakistan cricket camp without permission, he is itching to get stuck in for his country in the newest and most popular format of the game.

Speaking in Lahore, Akhtar, who burst on to the big stage in the 1999 World Cup with his long run-up and blistering speed, said he was looking forward to the action. "It will be fast and will provide the spectators with all sorts of thrills and fun," he said.

"Cricket can only get more popular after this tournament."

Akhtar said that while the Australians would begin as favourites, Pakistan would be serious contenders.

"Realistically, we feel we have a very good chance because the format suits the way we like to play our cricket. We have strokemakers, hard hitters, fine allrounders and good, aggressive bowlers."

From a personal point of view, Akhtar said he was taking the challenge "very seriously".

"For me, it will be like bowling my last four overs of an ODI. Obviously, the format favours the batters, but I think there is still enough for the bowlers if they use their intelligence, smartness, common sense and discipline."

source - iol.co.za
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