Features FeaturesRSS FeedFeeds

Women's World Cup 2009

King of swing falls for the girls

Wasim Akram is in Australia to commentate on the Women's World Cup and now he knows all about the top women and their rankings

Jenny Roesler

March 24, 2009

Text size: A | A

Karen Rolton launches the ball over the bowler's head, Australia v South Africa, Group A, women's World Cup, Newcastle, March 10, 2009
Karen Rolton quickly became an Akram favourite © Getty Images
Enlarge
Related Links
Tour and tournament reports : The Women's World Cup, 2008-09
Players/Officials: Wasim Akram
Series/Tournaments: ICC Women's World Cup

For the last fortnight, the king of Pakistan cricket has been striding around North Sydney Oval, looking predictably suave in well-fitting shirts and purple-tinted sunglasses. Wasim Akram is in Australia to commentate on the Women's World Cup for ESPN Star Sports and, ever too cool for school, he refused to do his homework.

He arrived here not knowing the names of any players, realising that his co-commentators would give excellent assistance. He notes that he never even studied his opposition when a player, then again when forming a powerful alliance with Waqar Younis, he didn't have to.

Now he knows all the top women and their world rankings. "I've been impressed by the standard of the cricket ability, the standard of the fielding, the standard of the talent - they've got every shot," he enthuses. "The fielding was phenomenal. For England, New Zealand and Australia, the fielding was mind-blowing, I was amazed."

It didn't even take a fortnight for Wasim, who had never seen women's cricket before - unless you count a brief hour at the World Cup final at Lord's in 1993 - to become a big fan and an important, if unofficial, ambassador.

From the moment he began commentating on the opening Australia-New Zealand match, it was obvious he was impressed, and perhaps even surprised. As Karen Rolton smoked a bullet through point, Wasim asked his co-commentator: "Is Karen mainly an off-side player?"

That instant she cracked a sweet pull to square. Within overs, Wasim was confidently announcing, as if he had always known, "Karen, of course, can play shots all round the wicket." He was smitten.

His favourite players are Rolton, Mithali Raj, Suzie Bates, Claire Taylor, Laura Marsh and Holly Colvin - notably all batsmen or spinners. One thing he would like to see is batsmen going after the slow bowlers. "I haven't seen anyone attacking the spinners, playing with the spin, using their feet, apart from a few of the seniors."

The absence of pace bowlers in Wasim's list of notables is attributable to the fact that they could be even stronger, and so have more speed. "They're not genuinely sharp, but they can become sharp if they play a longer version of the game - at least two-day cricket where they can bowl a lot more overs and, by doing that, their bowling muscles will get strengthened and their pace will increase.

"That's what happens with fast bowlers. If you've got to play one tournament in two years or five one-day internationals, you're not going to improve your pace."

But his dream is likely to remain such. If anything, more one-day and Twenty20 cricket is being played than ever before - with no winds of change on the horizon. For years the only country to play two-day domestic cricket, Australia finally wound up playing such long matches a few years ago, while Tests have been waning.

I turned briefly to Wasim's fellow commentator Belinda Clark, the manager of Australia's Centre of Excellence, for her comments. "As a player, I think that developing that opportunity to play in all forms of the game is really important," she agreed. "I think, really, in terms of international exposure, it's going to come through one-day and Twenty20 cricket for the girls.

"I agree with him that [longer cricket] plays a very important role in developing not only bowling skills but the ability to bat for long periods and actually learn the game is done in the longer form of the game. The harsh commercial realities are that that's going to be difficult to do going forward."


Wasim Akram with the victorious Indian women's squad, India v Sri Lanka, women's Asia Cup final, Karachi, January 4, 2006
Wasim Akram, the unofficial ambassador of women's cricket © AFP
Enlarge

Finances have played a pointed part in this World Cup. The best-funded team, England, won the US$45,000 prize fairly comfortably - sending a clear message to other boards.

But as well as monetary assistance, the game needs prominent advocates such as Wasim. Australia has an official ambassador in Ian Healy, a perfect fit, as his niece Alyssa is a junior Australia player, and he even flew himself in for the final. More big names actually discovering the game is a big aim, however, which is where Wasim's opinion really counts.

So impressed has he been that he is keen to spread the women's word among the male bastions. "Of course I will be saying the standard is really good and we should support it - and I will support it all the way.

"They just need to play a bit more cricket to get more exposure and then they'll improve as players as well," he says. "I think that women's cricket has a future for sure."

Jenny Roesler is a former assistant editor at Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Jenny Roesler

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Jenny RoeslerClose

    'I'm 31 but I feel 51 and look like 61'

Netherlands captain Peter Borren on his fictitious nicknames, beating England twice, and how he scares his neighbours

'Hard work, not natural talent, has made me'

Rohit Sharma on his frustrating road back from injury, and the need for young cricketers to be disciplined

    Top dog of the underdogs

My Favourite Cricketer: Jack Russell brought a neatness to the keeper's art that was matched by his meticulous scruffiness in other regards. By Scott Oliver

    Rewarding times for Hashim Amla

Numbers Game: The rate at which he has accumulated ODI hundreds and MoM awards is among the fastest in history

ODI overs analysis using ball-by-ball data: part 3

Anantha Narayanan: Analyses of the scoring trends in ODIs, beginning with the 1999 World Cup

News | Features Last 7 days

Manic one-day chases, and daddy partnerships

Also, most brothers in a Test XI, and the fastest to 20 ODI centuries

Rewarding times for Hashim Amla

The rate at which Amla has accumulated ODI hundreds and MoM awards is among the fastest in history. And his runs-per-innings figure is easily the best of the lot

Well worth the wait

Zulfiqar Babar missed five seasons between his first two first-class matches, and was 34 when he finally made his Test debut, but he is quickly making up for all the lost time with his artful left-arm spin

Has international cricket begun to break up?

The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing wider, and the disenchantment is forcing a devaluation of Test cricket among weaker teams

Australia outdone in every way

Surviving into the final session of the last day cannot disguise the fact that Australia's continued inability to play spin contributed to an all-round thrashing

News | Features Last 7 days

    Has international cricket begun to break up? (83)

    The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing wider, and the disenchantment is forcing a devaluation of Test cricket among weaker teams

    Rewarding times for Hashim Amla (57)

    The rate at which Amla has accumulated ODI hundreds and MoM awards is among the fastest in history. And his runs-per-innings figure is easily the best of the lot

    Australia outdone in every way (51)

    Surviving into the final session of the last day cannot disguise the fact that Australia's continued inability to play spin contributed to an all-round thrashing

    Lyon low after high of 2013 (51)

    The offspinner was Australia's highest wicket-taker in 2013, but his form has dipped sharply this year

    Well worth the wait (36)

    Zulfiqar Babar missed five seasons between his first two first-class matches, and was 34 when he finally made his Test debut, but he is quickly making up for all the lost time with his artful left-arm spin