He’s arguably one of the finest fast bowlers that cricket has ever seen. And Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram stays connected with the game even now, 11 years after retirement. “Cricket is all I know,” he says.
But his coaching and commentating assignments notwithstanding, Wasim is also enjoying married life (he tied the knot with his Australian girlfriend, Shaniera Thompson, last August), and is excited about the imminent arrival of their first child together (his third, in all).
In Mumbai recently, the 48-year-old talks about his new life, about becoming a father again, and the sad demise of Australian batsman Phil Hughes.
* As a bowler who has bowled several bouncers in his heyday, how did you react to the accidental death of Phillip Hughes, and the debate around the bouncer?
It’s sad to hear of a young life departing. He was a tremendous player. I’ve done a lot of commentary while he was playing. In the cricket fraternity, everyone knows everyone.
As far as bouncers are concerned, we just use them to scare batsmen. We don’t want to hit or kill someone. He missed the ball, and the helmet didn’t cover the back of his head, so it went in from beneath. That’s dangerous, and we need to do something about the technology (to develop fail-proof helmets).
* You seem to be spending a lot of time in India these days.
Yes, I do a lot of commentary for a channel here. I’m also the bowling coach for Shah Rukh Khan’s IPL team, so that takes up two-three months every year. So, you can say that I spend half my time here, and the other half in Karachi. I also travel around the world to commentate on matches. Cricket is all I know. I played for 20 years, and have been doing commentary for 10.
Wasim Akram married his first wife, psychologist Huma Mufti, in 1995. They have two sons — Tahmoor (born in 1996) and Akbar (born in 2000). Unfortunately, she passed away in Chennai in 2009, succumbing to multiple organ failure.
The cricketer got married to second wife Shaniera Thompson, a former public relations executive, in August, 2013. An online report quoted him saying, “She has embraced Islam and is learning our language. She has been close to my sons and they form a very good bond.” The couple is now expecting their first child together.
Shaniera is currently in Australia, where she is preparing to give birth to our first child. After the India-Australia series, my two sons and I will join her there. It’s exciting that I’ll be a father again. I never thought it would happen. The boys are excited too. I think I’ll enjoy fatherhood more this time around; when my sons were born, I was travelling a lot for cricket.
* How has your wife, Shaniera, adapted to Pakistan?
She loves it. In the beginning, we were total opposites as far as our cultures are concerned, but now, she’s enjoying herself. She can’t completely blend in with her blonde hair, but she has adapted to the dressing style. Women here wear salwars with a long kameez in Pakistan. But Shaneira has developed her own version with loose pants.
* You recently appeared on a comedy show on Indian television. Do TV show and film offers come often?
I find it difficult to take up such assignments, but Kapil Sharma and Navjot Singh Sidhu had been after me for a while, so I gave in. It was good fun. I don’t get too many movie offers now, but Pooja Bhatt had approached me for a film eight years ago. Acting is a different ball game altogether, so I said ‘no’. Eventually, Irrfan Khan played that role (in Rog; 2005).
* You were recently in the city for the Mumbai leg of the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour. Does fashion interest you?
I’m fashion-conscious, and I try to stay aware of new trends. When I was younger, my style inspirations included Sunil Gavaskar and Imran Khan. Now, I just wear what’s comfortable and what suits me. You don’t have to be in designer wear all the time. Even a simple white T-shirt and jeans can be stylish if you wear them with confidence. My wife has been advising me to wear slim-fit jeans, but at my age, it’s taking me quite some effort to look at myself in the mirror, wearing them.