Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Legendary Pakistan left-arm seamer Wasim Akram bowled to some of the best players the game has ever seen, and he revealed how he would bowl against some of the superstars and powerhouses currently playing the sport.
Put in a hypothetical situation by ESPNcricinfo where he was opening the bowling in a Twenty20 match against West Indies powerhouse Chris Gayle and Australia big hitter David Warner first up, Akram revealed that he would feel “comfortable” bowling to them since they are both left-handers.
“Umm. They are both left-handers, so that’s a plus for me. I felt really comfortable bowling to left-handers because of the outswing I used to bowl,” he said.
“Both are giants of modern cricket. Chris Gayle is the biggest hitter. He hits long, he hits big, he is a big dude. And David Warner, one of my favourite players… the way he pulls, hooks, and hits on the up.
“Starting out, I would have warmed up properly, because against these guys you can’t just rock up and bowl your first delivery. In T20 you don’t have time.
“First six overs – I would have bowled it on middle and going away. No variations. Just outswing from middle stump, going away.”
When asked if he would pepper them with short-pitched bowling, Akram said: “Again, that’s taking a risk because you are only allowed two fielders outside the circle, and I would have had fine leg up and square leg maybe just in front of the leg umpire. And it would have been the same field for Warner.
“The idea would have been just to bowl outswing from middle and leg and let them play towards third man. I would have kept it back of a length. Not length.
“Warner would have probably charged at me. As a bowler you need to keep an eye on what the batsman is trying to do till the last moment. Nowadays bowlers tend to forget that when they run in. Are the batsmen using the crease? Are they charging? Are they giving themselves room? That’s how you change your length and bring in the variations.
“It doesn’t matter which era you play in. Wickets are the only way you can contain. Restricting the batsmen to six runs in the first over may look okay but in the next over they will hammer the other bowler. Giving ten runs and taking a wicket – I’ll take that any day.”
BOWLING TO KOHLI AND BUTTLER
Akram was then told to imagine that he was bowling to India captain Virat Kohli and England batsman Jos Buttler in the 10th over of the imaginary match, where the batting side are 82/2.
Akram was told that he was only brought back on for one over in order to try and get a breakthrough.
“Ah ha ha ha ha,” he said. “Okay. It depends on the pitch, on the conditions. If it is reverse-swinging, I would have been comfortable. I probably would have gone around the wicket to Virat and just bowled these awayswingers from middle. And Jos Buttler – probably, I’d have gone over the wicket, had third man up and bowled the slower ball just outside off stump.
“Easier said than done, though. Two dangerous players, two match-winners. And all these batsmen – Warner, Gayle, Virat, Buttler – they would have been great 20 years ago as well.
“It depends on what sort of form they are in. Have they just walked out to bat? Are they well set? You have to assess everything and have your best fielders where their favourite shots go. All these little details matter.
“Nowadays bowlers tend to forget this. When I coach bowlers, I tell them, ‘Before every delivery just have a quick glance around the ground and check where your fielders are. Is that where you want them to be? It’s not the captain’s job. It’s the bowler’s job. Because you’re the one who is going to deliver the ball and you know where you are going to bowl. So that’s how you decide where to have your fielders.”
BOWLING TO RUSSELL AND DHONI IN THE DEATH OVERS
Akram was then placed in a situation where he would return for overs 18 and 20, where he would be bowling to West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell and India wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni.
“Both are match-winners. Big hitters. Finishers,” he said. “I would have asked my square-leg fielder or point fielder for a sign – to tell me if the batsmen are standing inside the crease or outside. That matters a lot.
“If they are inside, you have to bowl slightly fuller. Maybe a low full toss. If they are outside the crease, then you bowl a different length.
“If it’s swinging, then it would have been slightly easier for me. I’m not saying I would have been okay with it, but at least I would have had more confidence. If it was swinging, it would have been trouble for the batsman, but again, these two, in the last two overs, they would have been winners most of the time.
“To Russell, I would have had fine leg back and slightly wider, square leg in front of the umpire, and a deep midwicket. I would have bowled inswing into his pads. Not starting from outside off but starting from middle stump into his pads. Sometimes the best thing a bowler can do is to give the single and get the other batsman to face you.
“For Dhoni – I would have bowled outswing yorkers, not inswing. Because if anyone bowled inswing to him, he would have gone there (points to midwicket) with his famous helicopter shot. With the awayswinger, I have a chance. Probably he would have top-edged.”
AKRAM FANCIES HIMSELF AS A T20 BATSMAN?
Akram noted that he may have been handy in the last couple of overs as his aim would be to come to the crease and smash everything.
“I would have been handy in the last couple of overs,” he said while laughing. “Just go in there and whack it… whack it towards midwicket.”