Akram to train Lankan pacers ahead of South Africa tour

Coach Ford reminds players the need to raise their game

Gulf News

Colombo: Sri Lanka on Wednesday said they have roped in legendary Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram as a mentor ahead of the team’s gruelling tour of South Africa next month.

Akram, 50, will conduct a daylong coaching clinic in Colombo on Thursday, Sri Lanka Cricket said, in what would be the first of a series of programmes involving foreign experts.

“We are honoured that Mr. Akram has accepted our invitation to be a part of this initiative,” Sri Lanka Cricket chief Thilanga Sumathipala said.

Sumathipala also said the 2019 World Cup could be within the grasp of Sri Lanka if the team is given the right guidance. Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996 but choked twice in the finals of the 2007 and 2011 editions.

The latest coaching session comes as the victorious team returned home on Tuesday after beating Zimbabwe in a two-Test series in Harare and lifting a triangular tournament that also involved the West Indies.

Regarded as one of the best left-arm pacemen ever to grace the game, Akram took 414 Test wickets and 502 in 356 One Day Internationals — both still a Pakistan record.

Sri Lanka are set to tour South Africa for three Tests, three T20 matches and five ODIs starting December 26, with national coach Graham Ford warning of a tough challenge against the formidable Proteas.

The Islanders returned home victorious from their Zimbabwe tour but the national coach warned his side faced a “huge challenge” in South Africa.

Having comfortably beaten Zimbabwe in both Tests in Harare, Sri Lanka also lifted the triangular series trophy on Sunday, beating the hosts by six wickets in the final.

Although regular skipper Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal missed the entire tour due to injury, Sri Lanka rarely felt their absence as they lost just one game in the process of clinching the tri-series, which also involved the West Indies.

But even as Mathews told reporters on Tuesday that both he and Chandimal had recovered and were ready to play, national coach Graham Ford said the South Africa tour in December would be a different ball game.

He said the players would have to improve in all three aspects of the game — batting, bowling and fielding — when they face the formidable Proteas.

“We’ve got a huge challenge coming our way,” Ford said shortly after arriving in Colombo.

“Everybody knows how well South Africa is playing. We have to improve in all three disciplines,” he said, adding that particular attention would have to be paid to fielding.

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