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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Akram: Axing Kamran, Razzaq right

At a time when sub-continent teams like Sri Lanka and Pakistan are in a state of turmoil, former Pakistan skipper feels changes bound to happen.
By Faisal Kamal

Wasim Akram is supporting Pakistan’s decision to drop Kamran Akmal and Abdul Razzaq for the upcoming tour of the West Indies. In an exclusive chat with Mobile ESPN ahead of Indian Premier League season 4, Kolkata Knight Riders’ bowling consultant Akram said the changes in the Pakistan squad are steps in the right direction.

"I think Pakistan have done the right thing to drop Akmal and Razzaq for the West Indies tour. Even Younis Khan and Umar Gul have been rested. These guys did not perform well in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Pakistan are now trying to build a new team and that's fair enough" said Akram.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran dropped crucial catches against New Zealand in the league stage and an edge from Sachin Tendulkar in the semifinal. All-rounder Razzaq was also a major letdown in both batting and bowling. Akram believes breeding youngsters is the way forward for Pakistan.

"The way Pakistan performed in the semis, I think these changes were bound to happen. Taufiq Umar is a welcome inclusion after being in and out of the side for a while. There are few other youngsters that Pakistan have brought in and the new team looks good. I have always believed that Pakistan have abundance of talent and now is the time to use it," said Akram.

Akram is upset that Shahid Afridi's recent remarks on India’s relationship with Pakistan players created quite a furore.

Afridi during a chat show on TV earlier this week had said, 'They (Indians) just can't have the kind of heart a Muslim has or a Pakistani has. I think they don’t have the sort of big hearts, pure hearts, Allah has given us.” Afridi later said his remarks had been taken out of context. Akram believes that Afridi should be very careful when talking on sensitive issues.

"I don't know what happened to Afridi when he went home. He spoke so well after the semi-final. The whole of India and Pakistan was praising him. But he must have said something that irked the Indian media. And I think Shahid should realize that he is the leader of a side where the game goes beyond boundaries and is much more than just cricket. He has to be very careful in what he says," said Akram.

Switching to Sri Lankan cricket and the runners-up have also seen drastic changes in their hierarchy. Skipper Sangakkara was the first to resign on Tuesday after losing the final to India. Vice-captain Mahela Jayawardene also stepped down from his post.

"I think Sri Lanka should not be too worried from the recent happenings. Sangakkara and Jayawardene may have stepped down as captain and vice-captain respectively but they are still available as players. They are very experienced players, they will continue to play Test and ODI cricket for their country and Lanka is going to benefit immensely from their presence," said Akram.

In a surprising move the selection committee headed by Arvinda De Silva also quit before the end of its term. Akram is not surprised by the developments but feels the islanders are still a good side.

"I don't know why the Lankan selection committee resigned but I feel that the islanders did exceptionally well to qualify for the final and they played good cricket. They were one of the favourites in the World Cup and ended up as runners-up, so it was a job well done," said Akram.

All-rounder Angelo Mathews and opener Tillakaratne Dilshan are in the fray to replace Sangakkara as Lankan skipper. For Akram, Dilshan is the clear favourite for the job.

"Mathews' inconsistent form and fitness is an issue. I feel Dilshan is the perfect candidate for Lanka's captaincy. Dilshan has been playing cricket for the last 8 or 9 years and has been doing quite well. He would be the right choice to lead Lanka with all the senior players rallying around him. He has done well his nation so far and was terrific in the World Cup," concluded Akram.
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