Pakistan fast bowling great Wasim Akram,in Delhi on a two-week trip as a bowling variation and strategy coach at a new pace academy,admits that he lacks the patience to work full-time. At the same time,he has a lot of patience while speaking on a subject that is close to his heart. In an interview with The Indian Express on Monday,Akram spoke at length about the nuances of pace bowling,how mastering swing is harder than reverse swing,and on how bowlers,of late,have become lazy. Excerpts:
Theres a raging debate on Twenty20 eventually pushing out ODIs,and Test cricket losing spectator appeal. Do you endorse these views?
• I think ODIs will be phased out. The power plays have somewhat stretched the interest levels but even then,the middle overs are a bit boring from the spectators aspect. Having quit the game,and watching from outside,I realise how boring it can be to watch a one-day match. I get bored even commentating during a one-dayer. However,I cant understand the fuss behind protecting Test cricket. You dont need anyone to save Test cricket. The format is still revered by cricketers,and if you provide good tracks,people will watch it. I watched the Ashes,one match went so close and other was such a fascinating win. Contests like these will take care of Test cricket.
Do you think having different types of balls add to the challenge in Test cricket,or are you in favour of standardising balls?
• I am totally against standardisation of the ball in Test cricket,and the ICCs obsession with the Kookaburra. Using different types of balls is more like utilising home advantage. I remember the time we were playing the West Indies at home and Imran Khan told the curators to roll the wicket only on the two sides and leave the patch in between. The West Indies quicks used to hit that back-of-the-length spot and because the soil was loose in the middle,the ball never took off and our batsmen were protected. Similarly,when we came to India in 1990,we were told they would use only SG Test balls. We were curious to know about the SG ball,so we ordered a pack of balls from India and began practising. We realised it could reverse very well and it was a challenge to learn the nuances of bowling with that ball. I would want India to retain the SG balls,and let Duke and Kookaburra ball survive on their own turf.
Dont you think the use of technology has blunted the bowlers minds,that they have stopped developing and exploring?
• I think bowlers nowadays are being pure lazy and are happy with whatever they are being given on a platter. They dont want to be called greats,they are happy just being international cricketers. The use of technology is good but it shouldnt stop the bowler from using his own mind. I remember Waqar and I used to hit the nets and try out various deliveries. We used to exchange our ball if one had been successful in getting reverse swing and then try again. We used to bowl with the wind,then switch to bowling against the wind. Bowlers nowadays dont want to experiment and work hard. Over the past few years,I have only seen Zaheer Khan do the hard work. He put in a lot of work at Worcester and learnt some tricks. Hes the only guy in the Indian team who can move the ball in and out.
Theres a lot of emphasis on a perfect side-on bowling action in India. Does an unorthodox bowling style have a place in todays cricket?
• I agree that theres a lot more emphasis on the perfect action for the fast bowler,the typical side-on action. But in todays cricket,one has to be different from the conventional to stand out and succeed. Malinga succeeded because he was different,batsmen have a hard time picking his deliveries. Similarly,Dilshan played the scoop shot and has scored so many runs. One has to encourage unorthodoxy in these changing times,look more towards effectiveness. I am against changing the basic action (to whats considered correct) just for the sake of looking good.
Why has reverse swing become an obsession with bowlers? Do you feel conventional swing is losing its charm?
• Its probably because reverse swing looks more dramatic. (Allan) Donald has asked to legalise ball-tampering so that the bowlers can get reverse swing. But if any bowler wants to master the art of reverse swing,he will eventually do it if he spends time at the nets. Honestly,one of the reasons why reverse swing is becoming an obsession is because swinging the new ball is more difficult than bowling reverse swing. I learnt to swing the ball only when I was 28-29. I figured out that the wrist plays an important role and used to run in with two different wrist positions to get the ball to swing.