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Akram finds Aussies still top of heap
Ashish Shukla (PTI), PTI
Hobart, Australia, December 18, 2003
First Published: 14:04 IST(18/12/2003)
Last Updated: 15:46 IST(18/12/2003)

Legendary left-arm paceman Wasim Akram found more than one fault in Australia's approach to the second cricket Test in Adelaide but still rated Steve Waugh and his men as the best team in international cricket.

Despite criticism of the arrogant batting in the second innings which led to their humiliating defeat against India this week, Akram urged restraint in reviewing the Australians as the world champions.

"You have to judge a team by their performance and they have been very, very consistent," the former Pakistan captain, who is here as a television commentator, told PTI in an interview.

"They score at four an over in every Test. It doesn't matter what grade of cricket you are playing, four an over is a hell of a lot," remarked Akram following India's historic win in the Adelaide Test.

"Hayden, Ponting and Langer -- once they get in, they only get out after (making) hundreds," said the Pakistani, the only player to have claimed more than 400 wickets in both forms of the game.

Still, Akram was surprised as to how the Australians approached the final two days of the second Test.

"They needed to occupy the crease and get some runs. They also couldn't reverse swing on the final day. As a bowler, I would be reverse swinging the ball in a big way -- it would have put batsmen in trouble."

Akram, however, hailed India's rise from a team of poor travellers to a world beating unit and linked their improved performance in recent years directly to their new fitness levels.

"The difference is you have four or five players who have set new fielding standards. If you field well, your overall performance gets better. This has happened in the last two years.

"They reached the finals of the World Cup, they won chasing 300-plus in the NatWest final. Sourav has done a great job as captain -- a leader is always the main man behind his team," said Akram.

The talk of captaincy seemed to touch a raw nerve in Akram. He said he was hurt the way Cricket Boards in the subcontinent treated their captains.

"Captaining a Pakistan side can be a pain. It's not fun at all, I promise you. I resigned, I was twice sacked and it was not funny.

"Have you ever heard an Australian captain being sacked? No, they tell him before this is your last series and the next captain would be ready, two years before he's due (to take over).

"I don't know why we can't think that way in our countries. We don't back each other. Boards get upset by players unnecessarily instead of backing them up."

Even though it was a "roller-coaster" ride for Akram and his end wasn't a rosy one, the great left-arm paceman is not regretting a moment of his career.

"For me it was a roller-coaster ride which lasted 20 years. My end was not well-scripted but then you don't get everything in life," said Akram.

"When I started I wasn't even sure if I would play for Pakistan. So in that sense I couldn't have asked for more."

Akram was fascinated by the rise of Rahul Dravid but Sir Viv Richards continued to be his favourite batsman, ahead of Sachin Tendulkar whom he puts second in his all-time list.

"Viv was the most complete, most dangerous batsman I have seen. I don't think there would be anyone like him. Sachin comes at number two, Martin Crowe was the best batsman against reverse swing I have bowled to."

Akram has some vivid memories of Tendulkar whom he saw as a 15-year-old in Karachi in his first Test in 1989 and whom he witnessed as an annihilator of the Pakistan team in the recent World Cup in South Africa. The agony of Tendulkar being dropped off his bowling in particular was still vivid in his memory.

"I told (Abdur) Razzaq, 'why the hell are you standing next to me, you should be at mid-off'. But we were done by the genius that day.

"I honestly could never sledge Tendulkar. There are people who come and upset you in the wrong way. He comes and bats and doesn't talk.

"When he came into interantional cricket, I was 22-23 and Waqar was 19 and we couldn't sledge a 15-year-old. Then he was too young a player to sledge. Now he is too great a player to sledge."

Akram wanted the cricket administrators to lift restriction on bouncers and also took a pot shot at the double standards in accusing him and Younis of "ball-tampering" in the 90s while the same was termed respectably as "reverse swing" in world cricket now.

"Bouncer is the beauty of the game. It doesn't matter how many bouncers you are bowling -- unless it is negative, it shouldn't be restricted. Only then the proper quality of a batsman could be judged.

"When we swung it both ways, with the new and old ball, the players and the media got bitter. We were accused of ball tampering. Now when everbody does it, it is reverse swing. I find it funny.

"Imran taught me this art and now everyone in Pakistan, even in club cricket, know it. It is simple -- you work on a ball, see what conditions you are playing, if it is a sunny day and it is a dry wicket and dry square, it can start happening in 20-25 overs.

"It is also a fallacy that it doesn't work against left handers. I could swing it both ways. Waqar also got every left hander in the world.

Akram said he was willing to help out bowlers in India but he could not do it in an official capacity or on a regular basis.

"I'm not a coaching sort. If young players come up to me, I would help them. I would take them out in nets, ask them to ask questions, but I am not a coaching sort.

"I can't sit in the dressing room and get frustrated. I can always help but I can't be a coach on a regular basis."


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