Calcutta: Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram spoke to The Telegraph after India’s 4-0 drubbing of Australia.
In recent years, Akram has been watching Team India from close quarters as he’s more or less a regular in the TV commentators’ box across countries.
Now 46, Akram took 414 wickets in Tests and 502 in ODIs in a career spanning around 19 years. Besides, he even has a double hundred in the principal format!
The following are excerpts
Q Being an Asian, what did you feel when India thrashed Australia?
A I was glad to see Australia go through what they did... We, from the subcontinent, have often struggled in Australia and it was nice to see the tables turned so emphatically. There have been times when we made five changes in our XI. Well, Australia did that at the Kotla. In the second innings, Glenn Maxwell opened, indicating how haywire things had gone for Australia. Humme to khushi hui.
What made the difference for India?
Ravichandran Ashwin (the MoS with 29 wickets) was an improved bowler and he impressed me... Ravindra Jadeja was very good with the ball (24 wickets)... Till the Australia series, he hadn’t done justice to his enormous talent. But, after that, he is going to be an entirely different player — full of confidence. Then, there was Cheteshwar Pujara (419 runs), who’d impressed me three years ago itself, on his debut, against Australia... Murali Vijay (430 runs) was good too.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni...
Of course... Main aa raha tha... Dhoni’s a complete cricketer now and what an innings he played at the Chepauk! That 224 gave India the start they needed in the series... Dhoni’s much sharper in the mind and is more involved with his bowlers.
What’s special about Dhoni?
Dhoni doesn’t talk much... Uski koshish rehti hai ki uske performances critics ka mooh bandh kar de. Dhoni lets his performances do the talking. If you ask me, that’s the best way for a sportsman to respond.
Not too long ago, most of the former cricketers and a massive percentage of mediamen had been screaming for Dhoni’s head...
That campaign was wrong, but India’s performances in England and in Australia had been bad... See, it’s like this... If the team does well, then credit to the captain. Equally, if the team doesn’t do well, then the captain will be criticised. A true leader is one who can accept both the bouquets and brickbats.
You’ve talked about Pujara. What has been most impressive about him?
Pujara’s technique... It’s simple, where loose shots have no place. That sets him apart from most of the other young batsmen… He gives the impression that he won’t get out.
How much longer do you expect Sachin Tendulkar to play?
If Sachin’s still got the passion, he could play for another year... Could be six months... His batting remains very good and it’s not proper to put him under pressure.
For India, the next three Test series are all overseas...
The real test will be in South Africa, later this year.
What has brought about the end of Australia’s domination?
The other day, Allan Border told me that for around two months, in the lead-up to and during the (T20) Big Bash, all other cricket comes to a halt... That’s a very sizeable number of days... Many want Shane Warne to make a comeback, but he retired six years ago... There’s panic in Australia... Obviously, that so many quality players have retired in recent times, hasn’t helped. That has left a void, jo fill nahin ho paa raha.
Why did Pakistan get a hiding (0-3) in the Test series in South Africa?
Because we don’t get to play on such wickets... I knew our batsmen would struggle and that’s what happened... In those conditions, we had to face Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander... Saeed Ajmal was consistent, but Umar Gul was a disappointment. He’s fine with the ODIs and T20 Internationals, where he doesn’t have to bowl more than 10 and four overs, respectively. However, when it comes to Test cricket, woh bhool jata hai ki kya karna hai.
Pakistan are a force more in the shorter formats...
Yes... We struggle in Test cricket and that’s very worrying.
Finally... Are you happy with Pakistan having two captains — Misbah-ul Haq (Tests and ODIs) and Mohammed Hafeez (T20s)?
(Smiles) In Pakistan, humko to ek leader nahin milta! Chal raha hai... There’s no Plan B on the Misbah front... Hafeez, to my mind, needs to get more experience.