Exclusive: AB de Villiers has taken batting to another level, says Wasim Akram
Akram opens up on cricket in a bio-bubble and pace bowlers trying to outfox the batsmen without saliva
Wasim Akram is itching to get back to the field. No, the iconic Pakistani left-arm fast bowler is not making a comeback at 54. The former Pakistan captain will be coaching the Galle Gladiators in the Lankan Premier League (November 21-December 13), a tournament that will mark the return of cricket in the island nation following the Covid-19-enforced break.
During an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Akram opens up on cricket in a bio-bubble and pace bowlers trying to outfox the batsmen without saliva.
You are returning to Sri Lanka as a coach of Galle Gladiators. The country will finally see cricket after a gap of seven-eight months. How does it feel to be a part of the event, especially considering the way Sri Lanka have supported Pakistan, sending their team back to your country last year to help Pakistan who had been taking all the effort to restart international cricket on home soil?
Global sport came to a standstill as a result of the pandemic. People now are hungry for live sport. Though matches are played in empty stadiums, there has been a huge spike in viewership numbers both in television and online space and the IPL is proof of that. Sri Lanka too had has been devoid of any sporting events, so what better way than to embrace the new normal with the most loved sports in the country and I am extremely glad that I will be part of this new beginning in Sri Lankan cricket. Both countries have shared a very amicable relation both in the sporting field and in international relations too. And I am happy to make a small contribution to make this relationship stronger.
This is your first stint as a head coach of a team. Your team have players like Mohammad Amir, Colin Ingram and Lasith Malinga. What are your expectations?
We have some really good players in the Galle team, I don’t want to name names, but it is a good mix of youth and experience and I am sure we will give everyone a run for their money. It is still early days to comment on whether we will make it to the final or not but one thing I can assure you, Galle Gladiators will be very tough to beat. I am really excited at our prospects.
How tough will it be for players to cope with life in a bio-bubble?
These are difficult times for everyone. Many countries have slowly started coming out of the difficult period, but for some, there is still a long way to go. Every government is doing their best to keep the people safe, and whatever is the protocol, we have to follow it. People world over have stayed indoors for months at a stretch without complaining, for their own safety and for the safety of others. When you look at the bigger picture, at humanity as a whole and what it is going through, I don’t think we should let small challenges come in between our mental or physical health. And the players who have committed themselves to play in LPL are very much aware of that. I appreciate them for understanding the situation.
Looking at the fast bowlers in the IPL and England in the Pakistan and West Indies series, do you think they have adjusted to the situation well, considering fast bowling is about rhythm and these bowlers were not able to bowl for such a long period of time?
Professional sportsperson face difficult situations on the field on a regular basis, here it is off the field, but it is all about adapting to the situation. And I am sure they will also learn to adapt quickly to the new normal.
What will be your tips to help youngsters overcome the challenge of bowling without saliva? Lots of young pace bowlers will be a making a beeline to get some tips from you...
Yes, shinning the ball with saliva was a normal thing during our days, in fact it was normal till few months ago. But now situations are different, and as I had said before, everyone is adapting to new things and new situations. Today’s bowlers will also come up with something new, and as the saying goes Necessity is the mother of all invention! And who knows, instead of young pace bowlers making a beeline to get some tips from me, it may be the other way round where I am looking for some new tips from them.
Will it be a strange experience now for you to be part of a big event like the LPL without fans?
Fans have always played a very important part in my sporting career and I am sure they will be missed. But most events that has happened during the pandemic have happened without spectators on the ground and the fans seem to have accepted this new normal. If you remember, there were no Live action for a long time at the start of the pandemic, as a sports fan, that was the most frustrating part of the pandemic. Now with Live matches, albeit without spectators in the stadium, at least they are able to watch live action on TV, online or OTT platforms. Having said that, yes, the ambience that the fans create in the stadium, that can’t be replaced.
The two Ws (you and Waqar) were the masters of the yorker. How would you have fancied your chances at bowling to South African genius AB de Villiers in the last three-four overs of a tense T20 game?
(Smiles) That is something I wouldn’t like to give it away. AB is a special player. He has taken batting to another level altogether but I would have done something to stop him.
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