Cricketing legend joins hands with Mastercard to play crusader for healthy lifestyle
Dubai: Wasim Akram, one of the most charismatic allrounders cricket has ever produced, just has two words of advice for Shaheen Shah Afridi – the Pakistan speedster who is being heralded as the best left-arm pace bowler in making. ‘‘Just bowl and bowl. The more he bowls, the better he will become,’’ he says.
If Pakistan had a memorable campaign in the recent T20 World Cup in the UAE, the 21-year-old Afridi is credited for setting the tone of the campign with that dream spell in their first Super-12 game against India. He ended up with haul of 3/31 with prized wickets of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli but the inswinging yorker which caught Rohit in front of the wicket is still being heralded as the ball of the tournament.
Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interview during his visit to the Mastercard’s pavilion Cube, of whom Akram is a brand ambassador, the Sultan of Swing refused to see much logic about ‘managing’ the workload of Afridi as he is their main weapon in all formats. ‘‘See, we hear a lot about this new word workload now. I have played county cricket for 10 years, so did Waqar (Younis) and Imran (Khan). The other day, someone gave me a statistics that I have bowled more than 27 overs in an innings 30 times in Tests – how many of the fast bowlers do it now?
‘‘He is 21 and trust me, the more he bowls, the better he will become – the stronger he will become. My advice to him will be to keep on playing cricket unless there are niggles and if he has to rested, do so against smaller teams but not against strong opposition.’’
An interesting observation from the master – who has been there and done that through the rigours of modern coaching himself including franchise cricket. ‘‘ Phrases like workload management, rotation have been more in circulation in social media and media. Whenever any youngster asks me on how to increase pace, I say only one thing – the more you bowl, your fast bowling muscles become stronger.’’
The rousing performance of Babar Azam’s men in World T20 has, like most, blown away Akram as well. Asked what would be his takeaway from their campaign, the 55-year-old said: ‘‘In general, they played unexpectedly well. We have a young captain who knows that the PCB and selectors are behind him. The other factor is please remember that nobody can do wonders in a week’s time – please remember that Misbah-ul Haq (former head coach and chief selector) and Waqar Younis (bowling coach) worked on them for two years to bring this consistency. The biggest thing that I liked about these boys is they are so humble and down-to-earth.
‘‘As far as I am concerned, Pakistan were the best team of the tournament apart from Australia, who eventually won the tournament. There will be, of course, the what-ifs like if they scored another 10 runs instead of three in the 18th over, it could have made a difference in the semi-final but anything can happen in cricket.
Come Friday, Akram will be hosting the first of Mastercard’s ‘Priceless Surprises’ series of events at Expo 2020 Dubai on Friday at their Sports, Fitness and Well-Being Centre at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Apart from being a shining example of being someone who conquered diabetes throughout his long playing career, Akram has turned into a crusader against this silent killer for several year – a mission which has seen walking the streets of Dubai on awareness campaigns in the past.
Mastercard’s initiative with Akram is an effort in that direction and Akram is extremely passionate about it. ‘‘You can say that this fight has become a part of me. When I see today’s generation being so hooked to telephones, laptops and ipads in the internet era, my worry is let them do it but they should also realise that health is important,
‘‘In countries like India, Pakistan and UAE – the diabetes ratio is rising and they are mostly type II cases, which are lifestyle diseases and not genetic ones. I try to create awareness and lead a very healthy life myself – being early to bed, a eight km walk daily, gym and eating healthy. My goal is if I can save one life a day, I have done by job.’’
Date: November 26, 2021
Time: 5 pm
Location: Sports, Fitness and Well-Being Centre at the Expo 2020 Dubai
Note: Open to all, no prior registration needed.
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