‘Pak team has always wanted to play in Mumbai Says Wasim Akram
Wasim Akram tells about the Pak team’s request to L K Advani in 1999 that they be allowed to play in Mumbai, Andrew Symonds’ “over-reaction” to monkey chants and India and Pak’s major cricket issues.
The India-Pak Test series starts in a few days. Who do you think has the edge?
A lot depends on who wins the oneday series. The teams will also change. India will have a new captain who hasn’t played at all for many months.
Is that going to be a problem?
I would have certainly made Dhoni the captain. It is said ‘he should not have too much on his plate.’ I don’t know where this dialogue has come from; we never heard such things when we were playing. He’s 26, the right time to be captain is now. And if he’s doing well now, why not allow him to lead? Some players are better players under pressure; Dhoni is one of them. They (the selectors) probably thought, let’s wait, because Australia mein maar khane ke chances hain, and if they lose, his confidence might be hit. In fact Australia would have been the right place for Dhoni. A captain learns when his team is not doing well, not when his team is doing well. I hope Kumble is a short-term arrangement as captain.
Kumble may be retained captain for the Australia tour too.
A new captain will face a lot of pressure in Australia. Kumble’s fielding too is not good, he’s 37; that will put more pressure on him. And if the captain is under pressure, the entire team will be under pressure. Australia knows this.
Talking of slow-movers, Shoaib Akhtar has looked unfit in the one-day series…
Of course he is not looking fit. He is rusty and has not played cricket for six months. But with every game he’s getting better. Hopefully he’ll stay fit for the Test matches. This is his last hurrah. If gets injured or does something off the field, it will be bye-bye for him.
How is it that he just keeps doing something off the field?
I ask this question to him every time, and every time, he promises me he won’t do it again!
India and Pakistan have been playing frequently of late, and that has made cricket look normal. An incident like the exchange between Shahid Afridi and Gautam Gambhir could’ve become big earlier, when tensions were greater. Isn’t it true that the more we play, the more normal our cricket will become?
India and Pakistan should play once in three years. But of course the Cricket Boards want to make money, so they won’t let it happen! If we play once in two-three years, the level of interest will remain high; if we play every year, the contest will become like any other.
There has been a lot of debate in India about three senior Indian players that you played against. There have even been calls to drop them.
The seniors can still play well. They are only 33. Two of them are very fit…
You mean Sachin and Dravid?
(Laughs) I’m not saying anything. Mera dost tha bada woh teesra bhai
(The third one — Ganguly — was my good friend). All of them are getting runs. Rahul got dropped and got a 200. People were saying ‘drop Sachin and Ganguly,’ and they came back with a bang. There’s a lot of cricket left in them. You can’t drop them, otherwise Twenty20 mein toh fluke lag gayaa, but try playing without them in the other forms of the game and you’ll know.
You think India’s victory in the T20 World Cup was a fluke?
Twenty20 itself is fluke cricket. I can play it even today. The ball arrives, and you have to just hit it. No technique, nothing. But it’s fun.
Of the seniors, Sachin Tendulkar has got out six times in the 90s this year. Do you think he has been nervous in the 90s?
Sachin has just been unlucky, and I don’t think it matters much to him at this stage of his career. For me it’s good he’s getting 90-plus; if he gets it in every game, India is always going to win. If your opener gets 90-plus, it means the team is going to get 280-290, and that’s what is happening. So he’ll be disappointed and yet also be happy because in the end, the team will win. The good thing is, he’s batting aggressively. That’s the way it should be, because whenever he’s playing shots, he is more dangerous. If he continues to bat like this, bowlers will want to run away from him. He should open in one-dayers and play his normal shots.
Why is it that the infighting in Pakistan cricket never ends? There was the Mohd Asif-Shoaib Akhtar incident some time ago, and in this series too, there have been reports of a fight between Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi.
Yes, sometimes there are differences of opinion, though I don’t know what’s happening in the dressing room now. But I assure you that whenever they are on the field, they play for the team. That’s what we did.
Like you and Waqar?
(Laughs) Yeah, yeah, that’s what I and Waqar did.
Pakistan has always had good fast bowlers, and you are considered by many the best leftarm pacer ever. India has got three good left-arm bowlers now. What is your assessment of them?
The three will do well in the subcontinent because the ball reverseswings. They are different. R P Singh is bowling well and has been impressive, Irfan is good at changing his pace, and now Zaheer is a different bowler than he was earlier. They’re being effective because they are changing their directions all the time — sometimes bowling over the wicket and sometimes round the wicket. But India will struggle in Australia with the same attack. That’s why they have to give confidence to Sreesanth, because he’s in the middle of the three left-armers.
Sreesanth, like Afridi, keeps doing a lot of controversial things on the field.
He can do all the drama he wants to do, but ultimately, he will have to take wickets to be effective.
You only played in Mumbai once.
After that, Mumbaikars missed the chance of seeing you running in to bowl.
Of course I missed playing in Mumbai. The entire Pakistan team has always wanted to play in Mumbai. I remember we landed at the airport in 1999, and [the then Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister] L K Advani came to see us at the hotel. He said, “Tum logon ko kya chahiye?” Saeed Anwar replied at once, “We want to play a match in Mumbai. In 1999 we were not allowed to come to Mumbai because of opposition from the Shiv Sena.
In the same year, the team led by you got a standing ovation in Chennai after winning.
I can never forget that standing ovation. I think the crowd across India is cricket-loving.
Andrew Symonds won’t agree.
I could not believe his complaints. If four people out of one billion have said something to him, toh kucch nahin hua yaar (nothing has actually happened). Humko Australia mein kitni awaazein lagti hain (We hear so much in Australia!). The whole thing wasn’t a big deal; Symonds made a big deal out of it. Cricket knowledge is huge in the sub-continent, and you have a full house even for a Test match. What else do you want? There are no full houses in Australia.
Do you think the rebel cricket league will succeed?
The Indian Board has launched its own league now. Tell me, if there are current players playing in one tournament and retired ones in another, which one will you want to watch? (Smiles) I rest my case.