Former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar will act as head coach of the State Bank of Pakistan side for the upcoming first-class season, according to a report in the Dawn. After Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, Akhtar is the latest former pace bowler from his country to formally take up a career in coaching.
Interestingly, Waqar and Akram had also taken up cricket commentary before temporarily switching to a coaching job like Akhtar, with Akram recently returning as the bowling coach for Indian Premier League franchise Kolkata Knight Riders. Akhtar was part of the Hindi commentary team along with the likes of Navjot Singh Sidhu and Harsha Bhogle during the ICC World Twenty20.
According to the State Bank of Pakistan side's team manager Zaheer-ul-Hassan, Akhtar has agreed to coach the domestic side while a clearance from the bank's sports committee is being sought. "It will be a huge bonus for us to have a cricketer of his stature in the support staff as the head coach. We are extremely happy that Shoaib has expressed his desire to play his role in uplifting the State Bank cricket team," Zaheer told the Dawn.
"Shoaib has shown deep interest when we approached him. At the moment, we are in the process of formalising the contract details."
Akhtar has a tough job to follow, however, with his State Bank of Pakistan team only marginally avoiding relegation from the departmental first-class competition last year. They finished a dismal tenth in an 11-team competition. Zaheer said that a conscious effort was being made to improve the support staff for a better performance in the coming season. "Yeah, it was a very close call (to avoid relegation) last season. At times the entire squad was under great pressure to survive the drop. Had that been the case, it would have been pretty hard for us to run the team because a colossal amount is spent each season," he said.
One of the world's fastest bowlers during his prime, Akhtar made his debut for Pakistan in November 1997 and bid farewell to cricket soon after the 2011 World Cup. During his career, he went through several injuries and was involved in many controversies. In 2012, he had shown interest in helping the Pakistan national team as a bowling coach under Dav Whatmore, but his proposal was not taken seriously.