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

    'When I became an umpire, I didn't realise how complicated this game was'

Peter Willey on suiting up against '80s West Indies, and umpiring in England

    'Saqlain was like an English spinner with a subcontinental touch'

My XI: Erapalli Prasanna on a spinner whom even Sachin Tendulkar found hard to bat against

Anjum on the spot

How well does one of Indian women's cricket's leading lights know her career?

    Last ball, last wicket, and Northants' parched spell

Ask Steven: Also, Vijay Manjrekar's nickname, Abid Ali's no-ball, oldest double-centurions, and this decade's leading players

The thing about Australia's superiority to Pakistan

Ahmer Naqvi: Despite their record, the fact that they haven't played in Pakistan for 16 years weighs against them

News | Features Last 7 days

How India weeds out its suspect actions

The BCCI set up a three-man committee to tackle the problem of chucking at age-group and domestic cricket, and it has produced significant results in five years

A rock, a hard place and the WICB

The board's latest standoff with its players has had embarrassing consequences internationally, so any resolution now needs to be approached thoughtfully

Kohli back to old habits

Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala

Twin Asian challenges await Australia

What Australia have not done since returning a fractured unit from India is head back to Asia to play an Asian team. Two of their major weaknesses - handling spin and reverse swing - will be tested in the UAE by Pakistan

West Indies go AWOL

West Indies may have formally played the fourth ODI in Dharamsala but their fielding suggested their minds were already on the flight back home

News | Features Last 7 days