The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Akram urges Indian selectors to be 'careful'
- 'See Sourav's career in 360 degrees before judgement '

Karachi: Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram Wednesday backed Sourav Ganguly and advised the Indian selectors to be 'extremely careful' before sealing the fate of the beleaguered captain.

'There is no doubt that Sourav Ganguly is passing through the worst batting form which leaves his career in doldrums. I also fear that his career might be reaching dead-end but I would still back him and advise the Indian selectors to be extremely careful and watchful while deciding his future,' Akram said shortly before leaving for a week-long tour of Mumbai.

'If I were a selector, I would definitely have given him one more chance before really thinking about his future as an Indian cricketer,' he added.

Sourav has scored 9,967 runs, including 22 centuries, in 271 one-day Internationals and 4,949 runs for an average of about 41 in 82 Tests.

But in the recent three-match Test series against Pakistan, the Indian captain scored only 48 runs in six innings while his ODI scores were 0, 9, 4 and 18 before he was slapped with a six-match ODI ban by ICC Match Referee Chris Broad for India's slow-over-rate in Ahmedabad.

'Naturally, we didn't see the same aggressive and attacking Sourav we are used to watching. To add insult to injury, India drew the Test series and then also lost the one-day series to Pakistan, that meant knives were out for him ', the 39-year-old Akram, who played 104 Tests and 356 ODIs for Pakistan during his illustrious career, said.

Akram said such lean patches were part of the game and came in every cricketers' career. 'We have to realise that all the top batsmen pass through a period where the ball does not make any contact with the bat. It has happened to the best before and it will happen to the best in days to come. You see it is inevitable.'

The former Pakistani captain said Sourav was among the best in Indian cricket and one should be cautious before passing any judgement on him.

'Sourav has been a great servant of Indian cricket and his contributions to the team in the last five years cannot be denied. Everyone will have to see Sourav's career in 360 degrees before any judgement is passed.

'And I tell you it is going to be one hell of a decision because Sourav is definitely one of the best Indian cricket has produced,' Akram said.

Akram also believes that absence of captain Sourav's magic in the last two games was one of the several reasons behind India's loss in the one-day series. 'Pakistan were a fitter and younger side. But India missed Sourav because he is a true leader who has matured nicely as a captain. When the chips are down, everyone looks at the captain to lift them and Sourav has that magic,' he said.

'Sourav, I think, should get his mind away from cricket for the time being, take a breather and come back with a bang. He should take this as a challenge,' Akram, one of the greatest ever, said.

Akram praised the young and confident Pakistan team for their performance in the recent series against India and predicted a bright future for them. 'I always backed them and I am so happy for Inzamam-ul Haq and his team because now I see that Pakistan cricket will be on a rise from here,' he said.

The cricketer-turned-commentator specially appreciated the team for handling the pressure well despite being the underdogs.

'I think the difference between the two teams was fitness. The other crucial factor was the pressure and I think the Pakistanis handled that extremely well while the Indian team could not tackle the home pressure.

'After the Mohali Test, I could see the Pakistanis targeting for the kill while the Indians were just trying to survive and hang in there. They (Indians) won in Calcutta but I think Pakistan were a better team. And when they got the win in Bangalore, it was the start of a historic tour for a young Pakistan team.'

Akram, said: 'I was particularly pleased with the way Inzamam handled the team. Trust me it's not easy when you have a young bunch of players at your disposal.'

Meanwhile, Akram, along with his father Chaudhry Mohammad, will visit his ancestral village in the outskirts of Amritsar during their week-long trip to India. (PTI)

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