16th June 1999, I was sitting right behind the end a certain Shoaib Akhtar was bowling. As he walked up to his run up, my father shouted Pakistan Zindabad and the whole stand got in full voice. Shoaib ran in and bowled a peach of a Yorker to the New Zealand captain, Stephen Fleming. That was my first, of many, live memories off the Rawalpindi Express.
Before that World Cup semi-final, at Old Trafford I had seen Shoaib bowl a few times. Most memorable was his introduction to Rahul Dravid and then Sachin Tendulkar in Kolkata earlier the same year. A young Shoaib bowled two balls in a row that can only be bettered in comparison by Wasim Akram's heroics in the 1992 World Cup final. Sheer pace and unrivalled energy that was never seen before was at show as India was silenced.
That World Cup in 1999 was unique. Pakistan played some kamikaze cricket and it can be argued that Shoaib was the showman off the team. Oozing sheer class and youthful exuberance, Shoaib dominated the World of cricket in that edition. He catapulted Pakistan into the final, where Pakistan was outclassed by the Australian team but what was always remembered was the cricket played by Pakistan. For the sake of comparison, the modern Barcelona team in football with Messi in full flow was Pakistan and Shoaib in that World Cup.