Former Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar heaved a sigh of relief when he was named in the team of his long-time rival Sachin Tendulkar for an inaugural three-match series in the US and said he's done bowling against the Indian batting legend whom he considers a "brutal force" and the "greatest player history has ever seen."
"Thank God for that, that I am playing for Sachin and Sachin is playing for me. I am done bowling against him. I have been bowling against him for last 15 years and I was not looking forward to bowling against him, to be honest," a cheerful Akhtar said.
On why he did not want to play against Tendulkar, Akhtar said, "Tendulkar is a brutal force, he is the greatest player history has ever seen. I also never wanted to have a kind of India-Pakistan thing once again."
He said he wanted to be on Tendulkar's team and enjoy the series.
Tendulkar and Australian cricket icon Shane Warne will captain 28 of the world's greatest cricketers for the inaugural 'Cricket All Stars' series in New York, Houston and Los Angeles this month.The teams -- Sachin's Blasters and Warne's Warriors -- will play the T20 format and players were assigned to the two teams through a live draw of lots. However, a toss of coin between Tendulkar and Warne decided in whose team Akhtar would be. Tendulkar won the toss and hugged Akhtar as it emerged that he will be part of his team.
Akhtar described Tendulkar as a "great friend, great cricketer and an amazing person." He said being on the same team, both he and Tendulkar will get to know what their respective playing strategies used to be when they played against each other for India and Pakistan.
"I have not seen him (Tendulkar) as a captain. I will see what kind of strategy he liked to give me and he will get to know a little bit from me that as a fast bowler what I used to think running up to him," he said.
Akhtar said he will be playing competitively and ensure that people get good value for money, whether it is playing with or against Tendulkar.
"I know people would love to see me bowling to Sachin but mein thak chuka hoon, main nahin kar sakta (I'm done, cannot do it)," he said with a laugh.
Tendulkar and Akhtar's rivalry on the cricket field has been legendary with their respective fans having enjoyed the duel between the two in their playing days.
Tendulkar's team includes former India opening batsman Virender Sehwag, former India skipper Sourav Ganguly, V V S Laxman, West Indian batting legend Brian Lara, Pakistani cricketer Moin Khan, former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene, Lankan bowling legend Muttiah Muralitharan and former Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath.
Warne's team includes Indian cricketer Ajit Agarkar, Pakistani fast bowling legend Wasim Akram, former Australian cricketers Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting, former South Africa cricketer Jonty Rhodes, former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara, Pakistani cricketer Saqlain Mushtaq and former Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds.
During the draw of lots, Tendulkar got Sehwag, Ganguly and Laxman on his team, leading some to remark jovially that it was looking like an Indian cricket team in the making.