Pakistan’s former captain and fast bowling great, Wasim Akram believes that the absence of international cricket in the country is darkening the future of the game in Pakistan.
Wasim Akram caught Javed Miandad’s eye in 1984 and then he was included in the national squad just after two years. Akram went on to become a pace bowling legend and he is considered as one of the best fast bowlers to ever play this game.
However, the Sultan of Swing does not think that any youngster can attain similar kind of attention as he did because of no international cricket at home.
He quoted the instance when he was picked and also recalled how Waqar Younis was found, “It’s impossible now,” said Wasim. “My fourth first-class game was a Test match [against New Zealand at Auckland], and that won’t happen now. Miandad saw me, then Imran [Khan] met me when I went to play for Pakistan and took me under his wing, then Waqar [Younis] came along and we ruled the world for ten years. But that opportunity isn’t there for youngsters anymore.”
Pakistan’s former test captain thinks that it is necessary for a youngster to watch his heroes play in front of the them to stimuli his love for the sport.
“If you are not watching the heroes and the top stars in the world in the grounds and you are not meeting them… without that, it’s really difficult for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and it can really hurt them financially also,” he said.
He further said, “There’s been no cricket in Pakistan for seven or eight years, and cricket is struggling in Pakistan in general.”
He went on to recall his childhood days, “Imagine when I was young, I used to go to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. I watched England playing there — Bob Willis, Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting — I watched India there in 1978 and 1982, when I was in class ten, with [Sunil] Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, and Australia with Allan Border.”
Pakistani youngsters are deprived of international cricket and unable to witness their heroes play in front of their eyes, “They motivated me, but for Pakistan’s budding cricketers, there’s no cricket there. Everything is played in the UAE on bland, placid wickets and nobody is watching cricket there. One-day cricket gets a bit of support, and T20s over three hours, but for Test cricket it is mostly empty stadiums, so it has affected Pakistan cricket big-time.”
Akram believes that the success of Pakistan Super League can help the cause, “The PSL was a great success,” said Wasim. “It was the second most watched event in Pakistan television history — 68% of the country watched it, and that is a lot of ratings.”
“The idea is to gradually take the PSL to Pakistan — maybe the final, or the semi-final — and see what happens. But if the PSL happens in Pakistan, every game you will get 50,000-80,000 people watching from the ground,” he added.
He thinks Pakistan has better law and order condition now, “Things are better in Pakistan security-wise,” he said. “I live there and things are better. If teams decide to tour there, then cricket in Pakistan will evolve to a different level.”
International teams will have to visit Pakistan soon, it would be better for Pakistan cricket as well as for world cricket, “The sooner this happens, the better,” he said. “Not just for Pakistan cricket, but for world cricket, because if Pakistan cricket evolves, it will improve world cricket. The PCB and the Pakistan government are trying, things are getting better, and hopefully soon someone will put their hands up and say ‘let’s tour Pakistan’ and see what happens.”