April 24, 2012

Girls still swoon over him and men still envy him (“400 diabetes niye kheley gelo… ki chehara rekhechhey” was one remark about the famous physique t2 overheard at one of his recent appearances in town). Yet, Wasim Akram is as non-starry as non-starry can get. He can walk into an auction house on Park Street unannounced and also agree to a not-fixed-from-before interview in seconds. A bowled-over t2 caught up with the 45-year-old droolworthy Pakistani cricket legend and now KKR bowling coach.

KKR and Me

You are much more than just a bowling coach for KKR… you are like a mentor… always there with the boys from the dressing room to the dugout. What do you keep telling them?

With young cricketers, U-19, young boys, you can explain to them about their actions and techniques. But at this level, it is more mental. To get their technique right, there is no time. I just tell them how to bowl the last overs, stay close to the stumps if nothing is happening… all these minor details…remind them before going into bat…. For instance, Manoj (Tiwary) made a mistake (in the match against Rajasthan Royals). He is a tremendous player, a match-winner. But he played a rash shot. After the game I told him politely that ‘next time make sure that you hit the winning run’. If you want to be like Sourav Ganguly or Javed Miandad… why these players were great was because they used to win the game on their own. He said ‘absolutely true and next time, I will make sure that I hit the winning runs’.

Do you tell them stories from your playing days?
Yeah I do… I tell them a lot of cricket stories. They ask me a lot of cricketing questions and we do discuss at length because we spend so much time together. It is fun to be with these boys. I am enjoying my role in KKR and I am enjoying this city as well.

Do you have a favorite cricketing story?
I have a lot of stories… but you cannot publish them… so I’d rather not say it. (Laughs.) Normal stories are not funny and the stories I tell the boys cannot be published in newspapers!

What would inspire you when the going got tough?
I always learnt one thing from Imran Khan and Javed Miandad — that if you are not playing well, just go out and work hard. The harder you work, the quicker your form will come back. So, I have never been down as a player. I have always believed in my work ethics.

How has Gautam Gambhir shaped up as a captain?
He is a very serious captain. Loves his cricket and is a thorough professional. He does his work properly. He is available to the team and feels for the team. And I think every team member knows that about their captain and that is always a good start for any captain.

What’s new about the Knights this time?
New dawn new Knights is new season, same players… we did well last year… we have very good overseas players… (Jacques) Kallis, (Brendon) McCullum, Brett Lee, Shakib al Hasan, Ryan ten Doeschate. We picked up Sunil Narine who is a very different kind of a bowler. We have a good blend. I think new dawn means new attitude and that also means the way we are playing even on turning tracks. We are chasing 130… so I think as a team, our belief is only going to get better.

Among your contemporaries, who would you pay to watch?
When I was playing, obviously Brian Lara as a batsman… before that another West Indian great, Viv Richards. Then Sachin Tendulkar, (Adam) Gilchrist… all these guys I enjoyed watching… not bowling at them. They were very hard to get… very good competition.

If I have to watch any bowler, I will definitely go for Waqar Younis. He was a sight to watch. Off the field, we hated each other’s guts, but on the field, he was phenomenal. He was actually like an eagle when he used to sprint in from the sightscreen, for every delivery. I don’t see bowlers doing that anymore apart from Dale Steyn or maybe Brett Lee at times.

Which pace bowlers do you like to watch now?
I like Brett Lee and Dale Steyn’s attitudes and variations. Umar Gul is very good and Zaheer Khan has also improved a lot… a complete bowler. So, quite a few in this day and age.

Who is the one bowler you would not like to face?
Malcolm Marshall probably.

And one batsman you would love to bowl to?
Any batsman who gets out first ball! But if I have to take one name, I think in 1989, it was (Kris) Srikkanth. In eight Test innings, I got him seven times… in the first over or second over every time. So, I don’t mind bowling to him. He might not like it… (Laughs.)

And one batsman you would not like to bowl to?
Brian Lara probably or may be Gilchrist in One Day cricket.


You said you enjoy being in Calcutta. Have you been able to explore the city?
When you come as a player, you come, play and go back. This time, it is on my agenda to explore because it is such a historic city. I love the culture and the people and their passion about sports. Bengalis are very passionate people… whatever they do, they do it with passion…. And I have been seeing the Ganga every time we go to Eden Gardens. And I never knew that the Ganga flowed through Calcutta! This time, I am going to go on a drive and see what it is like.

Have you tried Bengali food?
I have… recently I had mustard fish… I love fish… I wait to have shorbewali fish…. you cannot get it in Punjab. Punjabis have no idea about fish… the only fish they have is fried fish… that’s very Punjabi on either side (India and Pakistan)! In Karachi, I have been to somebody’s house on the beach and he had fish biryani, prawn achaar… it was incredible…

What else would you like to explore?
My interests have changed. I like paintings, sculptures and antiques. Recently, I picked up two sculptures from Australia. I don’t know why it happened, but I like them. I am building my house in Karachi. I moved there two years ago after the tragedy (the passing away of his wife Huma) with me and my kids [Tehmur (14) and Akbar (11)]. My in-laws are there, so I moved…. I have 200 interior designing magazines which I go through every day. I have to build my home myself. I have to be well-prepared and don’t want to give it to some designer and close my eyes. I will live there. So, it has to reflect my and my kids’ personalities. In India, especially in Bengal, the culture is so rich and so full of history that I want to buy something from here and put up on the walls of my house.


What is Wasim Akram’s dream house going to be like?
A cosy, comfortable (place) for my kids and me… where they are happy and can run around. We have a dog as well. Her name is Blaze. She is a German shepherd. I bought her five months ago when she was 10 weeks old and now she is that big (gestures with his hand)! She is beautiful.

Are you a strict daddy?
No, I cannot be. I have learnt a lot since my wife passed away. I miss them too much because they are alone back home, but I have to work. They are studying and doing well in school. After this IPL, I am going to take them to England for two months and spend time with them and do nothing else.

Are they into cricket?
They don’t like cricket. May be because their father travels because of cricket… but they are like all other kids… PS3 (games), computers, football… they like to play outdoors… cricket abhi nahin kheltey.

WOMEN and Me

Many women still tune in just to catch you!
(Laughs) Yeah… I don’t know why that is so. It is a good thing I suppose… I am the oldest guy in the squad….

And the dishiest of them all…
Chalo, that’s a compliment… I won’t say no to it! It is still very humbling to know that girls still like you. That is always a motivation! (Laughs.)

Any wacky fan anecdote that you remember?
Some girls used to write letters in blood… or maybe, it was ink! I was 21 and all these things happen when you are young… I enjoyed every moment of it!

Any dream as a bowler that has remained unfulfilled?
No… I have no bowling dream. I think God has given me everything as far as bowling is concerned. I have got wickets against every team at every ground in the world. I am satisfied and that’s why I don’t feel like playing anymore. I have moved on in life. That chapter has finished and this is a new chapter. Hindi mein avatar kehtey hain na?

If you had to live your life all over again, would you live it differently?
Yeah… I would live it slightly differently. The mistakes that I had made when I was young, I would not make them now…. I would probably work harder.


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