Sad for cricketers who can’t be part of India-Pak series: Akram

Pakistan fast bowling legend Wasim Akram said that an India-Pakistan cricket series is much bigger than the Ashes and felt sad that the present generation of cricketers who cannot be part of such a series.

The two neighbours haven’t played a Test series since 2007-08 when India hosted Pakistan over three Tests and the last bilateral ODI series was in 2012-13. The two sides continue to meet in ICC-sanctioned events like the T20 World Cup, 50-over World Cup and the Champions Trophy but a full-fledged series has been a no-go because of political tensions.

Akram, one of the greatest left-arm pacers of all-time, said that one of the highlights of his career was playing against India in India.

“Pakistan is ready to play India but it is left to the government. It is a top class series. If you take the Ashes, there would be two million watching it but when it comes to an India-Pakistan series, more than two billion people follow the game,” Akram said in an interview to the Khaleej Times on Thursday.

“The pressure is on the players, both the nations, and it starts months in advance. The highlight of my career was playing India in India. I feel really sad for the present generation of cricketers who cannot see or be a part of such an exciting series. It’s beauty is totally different,” he added.

Akram, who came to be known as the ‘Sultan of Swing,’ went down memory lane and said that another highlight was the win in the Chennai Test and he had fond memories of the sporting crowd that day.

“Another big highlight of my career was that Chennai Test which we won despite Sachin Tendulkar’s heroics. It was a great and different feeling to be cheered by Indian fans and we did a lap of honour for the sporting crowd,” said Akram.

Pakistan won by 12 runs at Chepauk despite Tendulkar scoring a defiant 136.

Akram is currently the director and bowling coach of the new franchise Multan Sultans in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and he said that the fielding and bowling has improved a couple of notches.

“I think straightaway you pick up the fielding. The way the Pakistani boys have learnt over the last two years from the foreign players, the fielding standards have become as good as any international standard. The catches they have taken, the saves, the youngsters are learning a lot. That’s the big difference,” he said.

There have been quite a few low scores or under par totals in this edition and Akram put it down to the standard of pitches and felt that the Sharjah surface is worn out and should be relaid.

“The general trouble that we are having in Sharjah and Dubai are the pitches. They are not batting-friendly. In Sharjah, they have a game almost every other day all year round. So, that square is tired. I think the square has to be relaid. Otherwise, Dubai is beautiful, but the pitches need to be a little bit more batting friendly. T20 is what people want to watch, as an ex-bowler I’m saying and that’s odd. But they need to see sixes and fours and that’s not happening on a consistent basis either in Sharjah or in Dubai,” felt Akram.

The PSL will take another big leap this season with three fixtures scheduled to be played in Pakistan. The two eliminators will be played in Lahore, with the final to be held in Karachi.

And Akram was delighted and proud to see cricket taking another step in Pakistan.

“It is unbelievable. I’m very, very excited. The whole country is excited, imagine more than 200 million people are excited about cricket coming home. It is massive. Dubai is a great venue no doubt, we love it but it would be ideal if the PSL eventually went to Pakistan. That would be a dream come true for every Pakistani,” Akram said.