Wasim Akram could really make the ball talk, according to former Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Romesh Kaluwitharana. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Romesh Kaluwitharana, Sri Lanka’s pint-sized aggressive opener who used to create fear among the bowlers from the late Eighties to early 2000, considers Pakistan’s Wasim Akram as the most deceptive and toughest pacer he has ever faced.

Gulf News participated in the Desert Cubs Cricket Academy’s interactive session with Kaluwitharana on Wednesday evening on Zoom, where the wicketkeeper-batsman gave candid views on some of the great players and the traits that made him the most talked about batsman during his days - during which he was also a key member of Sri Lanka winning the World Cup in 1996.

Talking about Akram, the dashing opener said: “Akram was the toughest pacer to play against because of the variety of deliveries he produced. In 10 overs, there could be atleast 30 to 40 different kinds of deliveries. He was very deceptive too. Sometimes he would run up hiding the ball on his back, and sometimes the ball would be hidden behind his sleeve.

“There have been occasions where he would take a very short run up and even produce the reverse swing. In short, he had the ability to trap you any time through these different tricks. He was just amazing.”

Keeping wickets for Murali were the happiest moments of my life. He is the highest wicket taker because he worked so hard. He used to bowl continuously at the nets for two to three hours.

- Romesh Kaluwitharana

Kaluwitharana, who kept wickets for the world’s highest wickettaker Muttiah Muralitharan, also revealed how he could read his deceptive spin. “Keeping wickets for Murali were the happiest moments of my life. He is the highest wicket taker because he worked so hard. He used to bowl continuously at the nets for two to three hours. He would then practice with me - displaying all different types of deliveries. I used to pick the ball from his wrist position and hence could keep for all types of deliveries, including his doosra.”

Recalling Sri Lanka’s World Cup success in 1996, he spoke about how the pinch-hitting combination between him and opener Sanath Jayasuriya gave Sri Lanka the whirlwind start. “That was a time when the game was undergoing a change. We decided to try out something special. We trusted in our abilities and above all we enjoyed playing as a combination. We did all the small things right and performed perfectly to our roles. We never pressurised ourselves thinking what would happen if we lost a match. We supported each other and in the process created history.”ndid

Kaluwitharana then urged all youngsters (there were 115 participants) to always go out to bat with a positive frame of mind. “Don’t go out to bat thinking that you may get out quickly or that you have certain weaknesses. When you walk out, burst that bubble of doubts and then bat,” he advised.

“I had a very tough childhood. I lost my father very early but it was his ambition to see me become a good cricketer. I worked hard to realise his ambition. By 19, I knew I had something in me that can help me filfill my father’s ambition. I did all the right things that were needed to become a good player. The choice for you all is the same. If you want to be successful, be disciplined and remain focused and work on your skills and fitness,” he said.

Presley Polonnowita, the Head Coach of the Desert Cubs, said later: “Kaluwitharana is the first of the many interactive sessions we’ve planned with great cricketers. We wanted to keep our students inspired during this lockdown phase and found this as the best way. We have Indian spinner Ravichandra Ashwin for April 24, followed by ICC umpire Ruchira Palliaguru’s session on laws of the game on April 26 another with Sri Lankan international, Chamara Kapugedara, on April 29.”