believes Pakistan's win over India in the 2021 T20 World Cup
has made them believe "they can compete against India day in and day out". He feels what was once a one-sided rivalry at World Cups has suddenly come alive.
"Pakistan team is on the rise for the past couple of years," Akram said during a media session organised by Star Sports. "They've been consistent, and I think the win against India, although that was a year ago during the World Cup, gave them a bit of confidence that they can compete against India day in and day out."
When Pakistan won their opening game of the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE by ten wickets, it was their first win against India in six attempts at the competition
. It was also the first time Pakistan had won a men's World Cup fixture in any format against India, across 13 matches
. It was a win that spurred their impressive run to the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champions Australia
As they look to finetune their preparations for this year's T20 World Cup in Australia, Pakistan will look to channel that spirit of 2021. This weekend, India and Pakistan will lock horns
for the first time in a year when they meet in the Asia Cup in Dubai. In fact, over the next two weeks, they could potentially meet three times, ahead of their high-stakes T20 World Cup fixture in Melbourne on October 23.
Akram is optimistic of Pakistan's chances, but is aware that the team's strength - the top order - could become a weakness. Since the start of last year's T20 World Cup, Pakistan's top three have scored 67.53% of all the runs made by the team in T20Is. This has largely been down to Babar Azam
, Mohammad Rizwan
and Fakhar Zaman
"The only thing I'm worried about is the middle order," Akram said. "There is no experience apart from Iftikhar Ahmed
coming in at No. 4, and then you'll have probably Haider Ali
, a young sensation who hasn't been consistent. Babar Azam and Rizwan are the key as far as the T20 format is concerned.
"I think in general they're confident, but it depends on how they feel or what sort of mindset they're in when they arrive before the India-Pakistan game because that game can make or break the Asia Cup for either side."
Akram agreed that comparisons between Babar and Virat Kohli were inevitable, given the kind of impact they have had on their respective teams, but it's best avoided. To him, Babar is not yet there, but has all the makings of being a modern-day great.
"It's only natural," Akram said of the comparison. "When we played, people compared Inzamam-ul-Haq with Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar. Before that, it was Javed Miandad versus Sunny [Sunil] Gavaskar. Gundappa Viswanath and Zaheer Abbas. So [the comparison] is only natural.
"Babar has been very consistent because he has the right technique. He enjoys his batting, is still very hungry, physically fit, still young and is the captain across formats. He's learning and learning very quickly. As far as comparisons go, he's on the right track to be where Virat Kohli is. It's a bit too early to compare him to Kohli at this stage, but he's on track to be one of the modern greats."