March 2, 2015

Brisbane: Even as the current Pakistan team struggles to make an impact at the World Cup, Wasim Akram – one of the heroes of the 1992 triumph – backed them to come good, while slating ex-players who had been savage in their criticism after the defeats to India and West Indies.

“This team has substance,” he said. “We have to support them instead of making fun of them on social media. Some of those ex-players are just attention-seekers. My message to people criticising these players is ‘get a life’. I mean, if you want to criticise, then come out with solutions instead of using foul language.”

On-field setbacks aside, Pakistan’s campaign has been rocked by controversies. There were suggestions that certain players had fallen out with Grant Luden, the fielding coach, and then Moin Khan, one of the selectors, was recalled from New Zealand after having been seen in a casino. Akram shook his head in exasperation when asked about the Moin episode. “It was unfortunate,” he said. “Former greats on TV commentary ask me about it, and I have no answer. Personally, I think he has been made a scapegoat.”

There was sympathy too for Misbah-ul-Haq, who has had to come to terms with a new-look bowling attack in the absence of Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Hafeez. “It is very tough to play with inexperienced bowlers,” he said. “There is no Junaid Khan, who swings the ball well.

There is no Saeed Ajmal, who is one of the best spinners. Mohammad Hafeez is also missing. “It is an inexperienced bowling attack and we saw against West Indies how they destroyed it in the last five overs. But I must say that it is difficult to bowl in the last five overs these days. You have players like AB [de Villiers] and [Brendon] McCullum. I’m glad that I retired at the right time!”

Courtesy: ICC Media

Akram suggested that lack of familiarity with these conditions had also cost Pakistan. “These are different wickets altogether,” he said. “You need to spend at least a month to get used to the wickets here. It helped us back in 1992 because we arrived here three to four weeks before the World Cup.”

Misbah will be 41 in a couple of months, and Akram was unimpressed by the lack of succession planning when it came to captaincy. “I’ve been thinking about it,” he said. “After Misbah retires, who will be the captain? I can’t pick any. But you have to move on and find a new captain. Unfortunately, we don’t believe in homework in our part of the world when it comes to grooming a future captain.

“There will have to be a fresh start. After Misbah and [Shahid] Afridi, you will need new faces. You have Sohaib [Maqsood], Ahmed [Shahzad] and Umar [Akmal], but they will need to be more consistent. Also, you have to look the part. So far, they don’t.”

For Akram, being in Australia has meant being reminded of 1992 ever so often, especially of the over that he bowled in the final that saw both Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis dismissed. “The last couple of months that I’ve been here, they are showing it every day [on TV],” he said with a broad smile. “It was a proud moment for me and for all Pakistanis.”
Such glory days seem a long way away at the moment.

Courtesy: IBN LIVE

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