Wasim Akram on Pakistan’s future as a home Test nation, ball-tampering and why he was more difficult to face than Waqar
Interview by Sam Collins
Do Pakistan have a future as a home-Test nation?
It’s very difficult to say. We have to wait for at least the next two years. The PCB has to find alternative venues, maybe Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but you can’t just take cricket away from Pakistan. I know the security situation isn’t good, so I don’t think we should be asking another team to tour Pakistan for the next two years.
Did you think cricketers were untouchable before the Lahore attacks?
That surprised all of us, every Pakistani. We always thought that sportspeople, not just cricketers, were away from terrorism but in the end we realised that cricketers can be sitting ducks.
Will neutral Tests stop young Pakistanis wanting to play the game with their heroes so far away?
I think it will. I started playing cricket when I watched Imran Khan on television and at the stadium. If youngsters have no role models playing in the country or for their country, eventually they will drift away.
Pakistan replaced West Indies as England’s opponents next summer. Is this good for Pakistan?
Another venue where the PCB can have its home series is England. There are plenty of grounds here and a lot of support. Pakistan coming next summer will be good for them and their cricket.
Who would you have preferred to face – yourself or Waqar Younis?
Waqar. When I bowled I had lots of variety. Waqar was quick but, when the ball wasn’t reverse-swinging, he would have been easier to face I suppose.
Why are there so many left-arm quicks around at the moment?
They are especially effective in the shorter form of the game – it is a different angle and difficult for a right-hander to pick the length and angle of the left-arm bowler. If I had to pick one left-arm quick I would pick Zaheer Khan from India. He is not that quick but swings the ball both ways. Then there is this young guy who has been playing in the T20 for Pakistan, Mohammad Aamer. He is only 17 yet bowls at 90mph and will swing the ball eventually. Ryan Sidebottom is a good English-conditions bowler. He swings the ball consistently but is not very sharp. I have seen him bowling in Sri Lanka; he struggled there. He has to learn to bowl on different wickets.
How did you discover and perfect reverse-swing?
It’s practice. We learnt from Imran Khan early on in our careers. It was 1992 when we came to England after we had beaten them in the World Cup final. It was ball tampering because we were doing it [reverse-swing] and then of course, after everybody else learned how to do it, it became reverse-swing. It was simple, we practised in the nets and tried different things with the ball. There is no science. It’s like anything: be consistent with your practice and work hard.
Do you think Pakistan are unfairly targeted when the ball swings?
I certainly thought so when I was playing in 1992 in England. Whenever we toured we took wickets with the old ball. England would be 200 for 1 and then 230 all out. I took millions of wickets for Lancashire for 10 years and no one complained then. Yet you play against England and the same players complain. Interview by Sam Collins
Wasim Akram was speaking on behalf of private bank Coutts & Co.