Wasim Akram, Pakistan’s legendary left-arm fast bowler, has echoed the concerns voiced by Misbah-ul-Haq on the eve of the Edgbaston Test, that the continuing exile of Pakistan’s cricketers from their homeland is having a devastating effect on the next generation of players coming through the ranks.
Wasim, who claimed 414 wickets in 104 Tests, cemented his legendary status by bowling Pakistan to victory in the 1992 World Cup. However, his big break came after being discovered by Javed Miandad as a raw and rapid net bowler in November 1984, and was propelled into the national team at the age of 19, within weeks of claiming 7 for 50 on his first-class debut against the touring New Zealanders.
Such a scenario would be virtually unthinkable now, he says, because of the disconnect that has been created between Pakistan’s domestic set-up and the national team, who have been forced, due to security concerns, to play their home matches in the United Arab Emirates for the best part of a decade.
“It’s impossible now,” said Wasim. “My fourth first-class game was a Test match [against New Zealand at Auckland], and that won’t happen now. Javed Miandad saw me, then Imran [Khan] met me when I went to play for Pakistan and took me under his wing, then Waqar [Younis] came along and we ruled the world for ten years. But that opportunity isn’t there for youngsters anymore.”
Under Misbah’s leadership, Pakistan have risen above their off-field issues to become one of the leading Test teams in the world and they are virtually unbeatable in their home-from-home in the UAE. But, as Misbah pointed out last week, such achievements are hollow if they do not resonate with the fans.
“If you are not watching the heroes and the top stars in the world in the grounds and you are not meeting them… without that, it’s really difficult for the Pakistan Cricket Board and it can really hurt them financially also,” he said.
Wasim agreed wholeheartedly. “There’s been no cricket in Pakistan for seven or eight years, and cricket is struggling in Pakistan in general,” he said.
“The PSL was a great success,” said Wasim. “It was the second most watched event in Pakistan television history 68% of the country watched it, and that is a lot of ratings.
“The idea is to gradually take the PSL to Pakistan maybe the final, or the semi-final – and see what happens. But if the PSL happens in Pakistan, every game you will get 50,000, 80,000 watching from the ground.
“But the sooner this happens, the better. Not just for Pakistan cricket, but for world cricket, because if Pakistan cricket evolves, it will improve world cricket. The PCB and the Pakistan government are trying, things are getting better, and hopefully soon someone will put their hands up and say ‘let’s tour Pakistan’ and see what happens.”