Wasim Akram is in demand even eight years after retirement. The only Pakistani associated with the Indian Premier League (IPL), he is the bowling consultant of the Kolkata Knight Riders. The man who bowled lethal left-arm pace spoke to HT on Sunday. Excerpts:
Being the lone Pakistani in the IPL, do you feel for the players back home?
It's for the two boards to sort things out, but I would have loved to see some Pakistan players in the IPL. The likes of Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal or Umar Gul could have been match-winners.
How do you assess the progress of Zaheer Khan?
With his consistency and variations, he has become a complete bowler. He's the best left-arm pacer in the world now. He isn't nippy but has shown that you don't have to be if you can control swing and read batsmen's weaknesses.
You worked with Irfan Pathan. What went wrong with him?
Psychologically, he probably wanted to become a quick bowler, which is not his strength. He is a swing bowler and must concentrate on that.
Quite a few Indians bowled at 140km when they came in but lost pace. What happens?
It should be more of bowling or running and less time at the gym. But it's happening the other way round. I used to bowl for over three hours at the nets and then do my running and sprinting.
Who are the batsmen you found most challenging?
Sunil Gavaskar's was the most sought after wicket when I started. I tried desperately to get him when we toured India in 1987, but he used to block me with perfect defence. I got him just once (in five Tests and seven ODIs). Martin Crowe tackled reverse swing very well. He would play Waqar Younis and me on the front foot for the incoming ball, avoiding outside edges and never played towards cover against the swing. Brian Lara seemed to give bowlers some opportunities, but there was no stopping him when he got going.
Sachin Tendulkar is obviously a great batsman. But I regret having played just seven Tests against him. He came to Pakistan in 1989 and then we came here in 1999. That's all. Although I played a lot of one-dayers against him, there was no provision of bowling bouncers, so as a bowler I got restricted. I wish I could test him more in Test matches.
IPL being just a four-over game for bowlers, what exactly do you work on?
I tell them what the wrist position should be while swinging the ball, how to change the angles, about variations like the slower ball or the slow bouncer. I tell them that it's essential to watch the feet movement of the batsmen till the ball is delivered. I try to provide mental support too and don't leave them alone when they are down.