Akram slams PCB, backs Afridi for captaincy
Mumbai: Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram on Thursday backed Shahid Afridi to lead the side in the World Cup and hit out at the Cricket Board (PCB) for delaying the appointment.
Akram said Pakistan has the potential do well in the mega event but the side need to know leader as soon as possible.
"Pakistan can be a dangerous team. No one can altogether write off Pakistan`s chances in the World Cup. They have the capability to do well, but first and foremost the captain has to be named," said Akram, among the finest left-arm pace bowlers in the history of the game.
"But they don`t have a captain with just 15 days left for the tournament. I don`t know the reasons behind the delay. Even Shahid Afridi must be under pressure. The sooner the captain is named, the better for the team," said the former all-rounder, who was a dangerous lower order batsman.
He backed swashbuckling all-rounder Afridi to lead his country in the February 19-April 2 tournament.
"I would go for Afridi, although Misbah (Ul-Haq) is performing well (as Test captain), but he`s not a magician. Afridi has been the captain for a reasonable period of time. The World Cup is too close to change a captain.”
"They came back well in New Zealand. It shows that Afridi has the skill. Last year he was the highest wicket taker and also one of the top run-getters for Pakistan. In my opinion, Afridi should be named Pakistan`s captain. I don`t know what the PCB thinks about it," he said.
Akram said it was difficult to spot a player with the requisite skills to lead Pakistan cricket side.
"Pakistan team me captain kahan milthe hai? (Where do you get a captain material in the Pakistan team?). Ek nahi miltha hai, tho kahan se doosra milegha? Usko (Afridi) Rakho abh. (If you don`t get one where will you find the second. Keep Afridi for the present)," he said.
The 44-year-old cricketer-turned-commentator said though Pakistan would miss Mohammed Asif and Mohdammad Aamer, suspended by the International Cricket Council for their alleged involvement in match-fixing, the team still had a good bowling attack.
"Both are talented and top class bowlers and wicket taking bowlers. Their absence will definitely make a difference.”
"But Pakistan has made it a habit of playing normal cricket and playing well under pressure, but relaxing when not under pressure. Umar Gul is bowling well, Shoaib Akhtar is back and (Wahab) Riaz is also doing well. Pakistan`s back up is excellent," he said.
Akram, who was here for encouraging talented children associated with the Rouble Nagi Art Foundation and Pratam, a non-government organisation, said he was satisfied with the Pakistan squad.
"I am happy with the 15 picked for the World Cup," he said.
Akram, who grabbed 502 wickets in 356 ODIs and was also a member of the triumphant 1992 team led by Imran Khan, cautioned India about the pressure of playing at home.
"I have been saying for a long time that India is one of the favourites. But fitness will count a lot and home pressure is slightly different," the former Pakistan cricketer said.
"I have the experience of playing two World Cups in Pakistan and India. So I know what pressure can be. Sachin (Tendulkar) will tell you what pressure is all about when playing at home," Akram said.
"Apart from India, Australia is looking good. They have won five out of six games against England. One cannot rule out Sri Lanka and South Africa. From quarter-finals it can be anybody`s World Cup," he added.
Akram supported the views expressed by India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and opener Gautam Gambhir that they wanted to win the Cup for Tendulkar.
"The Indian team has a goal. They hope that they win the Cup for the nation, fans and the team. But Sachin is a special person. He`s done a lot for India and if the team wants to motivate him this way, then why not," he queried.
Yesterday, India`s 1983 World Cup-winning skipper Kapil Dev said the World Cup was not only about Tendulkar, but about the other players as well.
"Sachin is not (the only one) playing cricket. It is India that is playing. Winning the World Cup is as important to others as it is to him.”
"Yes, he is a great player and he has served the country the most. But by placing him above the team, you are insulting the other 14 members in the squad," Kapil said.
Akram, who thoroughly knows the difficulties of fast bowlers on sub-continent pitches, said he did not envy their task, especially during the fag end of the innings with the batsmen constantly finding innovative ways to get after them.
"Good luck to the bowlers in the last power play overs. It`s very difficult. The batsmen have found out ways like employing the short sweep or making room to hit the ball. The bowlers have to learn fast. But what can they learn...maybe bowl a yorker-length outside the off stump. They have to practice a lot," he said.
Akram also favoured the format of the tournament in this Cup as compared to 2007 when both Pakistan and India were knocked out after suffering shock defeats in the preliminary stage of the competition which robbed the tournament a lot of its sheen.
"This is a better format than in 2007. Us se Behtar hai (It`s better than that one)," he said.
In the upcoming edition, the 14 teams have been divided into two groups of seven each with the top four from each group advancing to the second stage, the quarter-finals.
In the 2007 edition in the West Indies, teams were split into four groups of four each with the top two in each group making it to the Super 8.