Bowling legend Wasim Akram believes the absence of cricket in Pakistan is affecting the future of the game in the country.
Wasim, who was discovered by batting legend Javed Miandad in November 1984 and was given a go in the main team at the age of 19 and then went on to attain legendary status with 414 wickets in Tests, thinks it is impossible for any youngster to be picked up like him because of no cricket in Pakistan.
“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. 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.”
The former left-arm pacer believes youngsters cannot be attracted to the game without watching their heroes play in front of them.
“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 (PCB) and it can really hurt them financially also,” he said.
“There’s been no cricket in Pakistan for seven or eight years, and cricket is struggling in Pakistan in general,” he added. “Imagine when I was young, I used to go to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. I watched England playing there — Bob Willis, Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting — I watched India there in 1978 and 1982, when I was in class ten, with [Sunil] Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, and Australia with Allan Border.
“They motivated me, but for Pakistan’s budding cricketers, there’s no cricket there. Everything is played in the UAE on bland, placid wickets and nobody is watching cricket there. One-day cricket gets a bit of support, and T20s over three hours, but for Test cricket it is mostly empty stadiums, so it has affected Pakistan cricket big-time.”
After the first edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL) turned out to be a huge success, the PCB is trying to bring one or two matches of the second season to the country and Wasim thinks it will be helpful.
“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.”
He added, “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 people watching from the ground.”
Wasim also said that security in Pakistan was better than before. “Things are better in Pakistan security-wise,” he said. “I live there and things are better. If teams decide to tour there, then cricket in Pakistan will evolve to a different level.”
However, he thinks teams should start visiting soon or it might be too late. “The sooner this happens, the better,” he said. “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.”
Wasim Akram was interviewed by ESPNcricinfo