MUMBAI: Former Pakistan express bowler Shoaib Akhtar expressed fears on Wednesday that lack of on-field action between India and Pakistan may dilute the fierce cricketing rivalry between the two neighbours.
In an interview of Times of India, Shoaib said it was very depressing that there had not been much cricket between India and Pakistan, not as much as it should ideally be.
“I’ve always felt that every now and then we should find an opportunity to play each other. Generations of cricketers from both countries have experienced this rivalry, the pressure that comes with it, and have matured as cricketers. This generation is missing out on the beauty of that rivalry. There’s no fan interaction or crowd engagement happening and that’s further worsening things.
“Politics, be it in (cricket) administration or any other platform should be handled separately and cricket should go on. There’s always a way out.”
He said,”There is no cricket happening, therefore this present set of players wouldn’t know what the rivalry is all about. For me, Virat Kohli is the best batsman right now and Wahab Riaz has changed so much as a pace bowler. Where’s the opportunity to test their skills against each other? A youngster like Mohammed Amir could learn so much bowling to this Indian top-order. In fact, that’s something I’m really looking forward to when the Asia Cup begins. And of course, there’s the World T20 game to look forward to.”
Shoaib Akhtar said that India had been playing some exciting cricket and it was good to see the way youngsters were settling in. “I’m looking forward to the Asia Cup. India, in present form, are certainly the team to beat. I was watching the series against Australia and though the (ODI) results didn’t go India’s way, there was so much potential in the batting. The bowlers struggled but that’s also because of the injuries I guess.”
To a question, he said R Ashwin was the best off-spinner in the world. He was ahead of the rest by a distance.
“He’s an intelligent bowler, always looking to improvise and if conditions assist his style, he’s shown how dangerous he can be. With Ravindra Jadeja, the two make a fine pair. When I say Ashwin is the best right now, it’s because of how he’s constantly developing as an off-spinner.”
The ace Pakistani fast bowler said Jasprit Bumrah had made a very impressive start to his career and seemed to have a lot of qualities. Otherwise, this Indian attack had been struggling with injuries. “Mohd Shami had to pull out, Varun Aaron is unavailable. There’s just Ishant, who has struggled to move on to the next level.”
He said adapting to conditions seemed to be a bigger problem for Indian pacers.
”The problem is simple. Indian pacers don’t know what to do with the old ball. They can’t reverse. As it is, so many new rules has tilted the balance against the bowlers and in the given space, it’s been a challenge for a pace bowler to constantly keep adapting. And if you’re not willing to learn very quickly and adapt, you’re going to be left behind.’
Zaheer Khan, he added, had reached that stage when he was enjoying bowling with the new and the old ball and while he was around, he did a great job for India. It was good to see (Ashish) Nehra back but that aside, what else? He asked
He said the Indian pacers should be made to spend six weeks with Wasim (Akram) and Waqar (Younis). They needed to learn the finer nuances at the international level.
“There are two kinds of bowlers, ones who bowl their heart out and the ones who use their brains. I was the first kind. I didn’t have to learn to bowl like a lion because the lion was inside me, inspiring me since I was a kid who would watch Imran Khan take the field and bowl his heart out.
“The current Indian bowlers do not know how to reverse. They just don’t know what to do with a ball that has lost shine.”
To a question regarding Muhamad Aamir’s return to Pakistan team, he said the bowler had suffered enough. He and his family had been through a lot after he was suspended and all these years had been life’s biggest lessons for him.
“He’s still young and someone willing to learn and walk on the right path should be given a chance. He’s been through a very bad time. I hope he works his way out of this. I’d love to watch him bowl to Virat Kohli.”