Kolkata: Kolkata Knight Riders bowling coach Wasim Akram is taking a break from the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year to spend more time with his family. He tells Gulf News he’s not sure if he’ll be back for 2014.
The legendary Pakistan pacer is back in his home country as the Knight Riders tackle IPL 6, with veteran player Brett Lee filling in his backroom position in his stead.
Akram, whose wife Huma died in 2009, is glad to be spending time with sons Tahmoor and Akbar and insists he can’t commit to returning to KKR as planning ahead is very difficult due to the constantly changing nature of the sport.
In a wide-ranging interview, Akram also discussed the influence of Imran Khan, the India-Australia Test series, the strength of South Africa and what the future might hold for Pakistan.
Where will you be in the world during the IPL?
In Lahore bhai (brother). I have not met my parents for a long time. Dad is 92 now. I cannot forget our house in Model Town where I grew up. Huma first came to that house. How can I forget that.
But you have built a big house in Karachi?
Yes, it’s a big house with more than 10 thousand square feet of carpeted area. There is a swimming pool on the back side. I wish Huma was there, she could have designed it in a great way.
Was there a house-warming function? Did you invite some special guests?
We just entered the new house but there was no formal function. Neither did I invite anyone. Yes, I had requested my mentor Imran Khan to come and visit the house. But he is so busy with the preparation for the election that he could not come. But he had promised me that whenever he would come to Karachi, he would visit our home. Since my younger days, I have confided in skipper (Khan) about everything. I can proudly say that I did nothing without informing him. Till now, I am living a healthy life under his shadow. What a man! What a personality and what intelligence he possesses. One does not get many such opportunities to be close to such a person.
Won’t your sons play cricket?
No, they are far removed from the game actually. The only thing they say is, ‘Dad, please be with us at home’. I can understand their feelings. They are growing up without their mother. And that is why, just to ensure that I shall be with them, I have decided to skip the IPL this time.
So will you be there during the next edition of the IPL in 2014?
I cannot say now. You cannot predict what will happen in the future. Last year Kolkata Knight Riders were the champions. I could not even think then that I would not be able to be with the team in 2013. In life, nothing is fixed. You have to be prepared to go along the way life takes you.
Since you were commentating on the India-Australia series, you watched it closely. Did the standard of cricket impress you?
It was totally a one-sided affair. I was surprised to see that the Australians did not even try to counter. An impressive youngster like [James] Pattinson was looking lost at the Kotla. I believe he has potential to be a good fast bowler. But in general, the Aussie determination was missing in [captain Michael] Clarke’s team in this series.
What about India’s pace bowling?
Ishant tried to bowl fast but his pace is not above 140km/h. So he needs to add swing. On the other hand, Bhuvneshwar Kumar needs to increase his speed by a few yards. I shall be waiting eagerly to see how Kumar bowls on South African wickets and whether he can trouble the likes of Hashim Amla on their wickets.
Australia seemed to have no planning.
Yes, it was so boring to see such a one-sided Test series. They did not fight at all. It appeared they knew beforehand that they would be losing the series 4-0. When India went there, they lost 4-0. People pointed out rightly that the Indians could not play against genuine fast bowlers. Now the Aussies came to India and lost the series 4-0. People are again right to point out that these Aussie batsmen are really novices against spinners.
Which team is the best in Test cricket now?
South Africa, without an iota of doubt. They are playing well even in away series. You just cannot get Hashim Amla out on any wicket! Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are bowling well in tandem. They are equally dangerous on any type of wickets. So, yes, they are the best now.
What about Pakistan?
We are gradually improving. Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal are bowling better. In fact, people should remember that even without Mohammad Amer, Pakistan’s bowling is quite good. We are continuously producing young, talented fast bowlers and that has been the strength of Pakistan cricket for so many years. Because of these fast bowlers, Pakistan are always a dangerous side to play against.
Can Pakistan play well in the Champions Trophy in England?
It’s difficult to predict anything about Pakistan cricket. However, I believe that if they can stick to this team, there is every possibility of getting a good result in the Champions Trophy. England in June will be ideal for faster bowlers. It will be seaming and I shall not be surprised to see the Pakistani bowlers getting more wickets there.
Debasish Datta is a freelance cricket writer based in India.