Reverse swing is obviously a key factor, but the whole team has to work for it. You can’t toss the ball to your fast bowler and say ‘Go Reverse’. All eleven players have to work for it, says Akram.
Sept. 1: Even from someone who, by his own admission, started out with a jerky run-up and hurried delivery stride and still ended with 916 international wickets, Wasim Akram is as much a staunch advocate of grassroot pruning as he is of reverse swing.
"You can only change the wrist action, run-up of a fast bowler at 14-15 years of age. That is the age when he is maturing, his muscles are expanding and his mind is more open to new ideas," Akram says. "At 18, he is already developed and you can only finetune him."
In the capital for the last four days, the master of swing and deception has been helping out pace bowling hopefuls at an ongoing Delhi and District Cricket Association pre-season camp. The time frame, he says, is not the most ideal. "Too short, I wish they had called me earlier... I’m planning to start a fast bowling academy here, that will give me more time to spend with kids."
Akram feels India are better placed than Pakistan when it comes to utilising talent, though he rues that state of affairs back home is because of their own making. "We’re going through a tough phase. Shoaib’s injury has created problems, so has Asif’s stupidity. You know what we need right know — a new PCB chairman!...," he says keeping one eye on pacers toiling on a dry practice pitch at the Kotla.
Sub-continental tracks never kept him from taking a bunch of wickets and he along with Waqar Younis wrecked many line-ups in the 1990s. "The pitches are just a mind game. It’s not that you don’t keep the dryness of the pitch in your mind while bowling. Reverse swing is obviously a key factor, but the whole team has to work for it. You can’t toss the ball to your fast bowler and say ‘Go Reverse’. All eleven players have to work for it."
Told that Indian team coach Gary Kisten had asked Zaheer and Co. to just maintain line and length, Akram lets out a sigh. "I respect his point of view. But honestly, for a pace bowler the most important criterion is pace. If you can bowl fast, you are one of a kind. This is what Imran Khan told me when I started out. He said, ‘I want you to bowl fast. If you bowl fast I’ll keep you in my team’.
"That gave me a lot of confidence," he recalls, before airing his views on how English and Australian cricketers likened reversing the ball to tampering.
"They never understood what we did. They said it was illegal and that we used some substances. It’s Marcus Trescothick who’s been doing it now," he laughs.
"In any case, mint will only get you normal swing. You have to keep the ball dry for the ball to reverse," he said.
The legendary left-armer has some strong views about the current crop of fast bowlers and highlights Irfan Pathan as a bowler who needs help. "He’s lost confidence, I don’t why. I met him in Australia and he worked as hard as everyone else."