Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, one of the all-time great fast bowlers, spoke to The Telegraph on Saturday morning. The following are excerpts.
Coming from the subcontinent, what’s your reaction to India being wiped out?
I’ve been saddened... Dukh hua hai... The players are my friends and I have ties with cricket in India... It hurts... There’s no shame in losing after fighting it out, but only the final Test went into the fifth day, while the third finished in two-and-a-half days... Perth was shocking.
What are the reasons for India doing so badly?
For one, the seniors neither led from the front with bat or ball nor did they project a good body language. When the team isn’t doing well, then the youngsters or the less experienced players look up to the seniors... They take a cue from them... I didn’t find the seniors trying to help out the youngsters, like Umesh Yadav... The impression I got is that the seniors played for themselves, not the team.
Won’t you blame Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who captained in the first three Tests, and Virender Sehwag, who took over in the final Test?
Everybody says Dhoni is cool... But you’re cool only if you’re winning... When the things aren’t going your way, you need to be proactive, need to show emotion... Sehwag bhi cool captain ban gaya... It doesn’t work that way.
The other reasons...
There was no opening partnership to talk about (best of 26!) and, with the wickets having grass, it was too tall an order for the middle-order... Seeing the wickets, I knew the batsmen would be challenged. But why didn’t the Indian quicks and medium-pacers take wickets? After all, they bowled on the same surface as Australia. The Indians didn’t bowl the right length, didn’t pitch it up... Look at Ishant Sharma, he took only five wickets at an average of 90.20! If he couldn’t get wickets in Australia, where will he get them?
The fielding was poor... When the Suresh Rainas and Manoj Tiwarys play, then the fielding will improve. Once the fielding gets better, then the overall game will also improve.
In the past, the Zaheer Khans have sought your guidance. Did anybody come to you this time?
No... Koi nahin aaya.
But you spent some time with the promising Mitch Starc at the SCG?
(Grins) That’s because he came to me... I’ll definitely give time to anybody who wishes to draw on my experience... The nationality isn’t important... Any youngster can come to me.
Should Rahul Dravid (194 runs at an average of 24.25) and V.V.S. Laxman (155 runs at an average of 19.37) call it a day?
I don’t want to be advising them, but there’s a time for everything... To play and to not play... When you watch the day’s highlights, or watch your performance during the day, then you get to know exactly where you stand... There’s little need for me to say anything more... I quit when I was almost 37.
What made Australia click in the manner that they did?
The way in which they bowled... Bowling coach Craig McDermott asked his bowlers to pitch it up and they did so... Then, the batting of Ricky Ponting at No. 4 and (captain) Michael Clarke at No. 5. India’s bowlers could get through the first three batsmen quickly, but not Ponting and Clarke. That made the difference, with Ponting getting over 500 runs and Clarke more than 600. That’s huge for a four-Test series.
How did you find Clarke’s captaincy?
He looked good, but his test will be overseas, when he’s away from home conditions.
Finally, what’s the way forward for India?
There must be a vision, must be a goal... If you want to get back to the No.1 position in Test cricket, then you do need to invest in youth with a high degree of potential.
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