With life slowly returning to normalcy in the post-coronavirus era, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is all upbeat about fans in the Island Nation getting a dose of their favourite stars in action when the Lanka Premier League (LPL) gets underway. And as is the case with T20 leagues across the globe, it is an opportunity for youngsters to learn from the best in the business. For those in the Galle Gladiators outfit, it will be nothing short of a dream to work with the legendary Wasim Akram. Known as the Sultan of Swing, Akram has been a part of many T20 leagues as part of the coaching staff and he is really excited for the LPL to get underway.
Akram threw light on the LPL, the ongoing Indian Premier League, the constant comparisons between Pakistan star Babar Azam and India captain Virat Kohli and most importantly how he wishes that Indian and Pakistani players could have played in each other's T20 league -- IPL and Pakistan Super League.
Akram believes that T20 cricket has changed the dynamics of the game and comes as a huge booster for youngsters who not just get a platform, but also gain experience spending time with the stars.
"T20 leagues around the world have given exposure to many cricketers, both young and experienced. Thanks to T20 cricket, the game has become very fast now. Batsmen are scoring runs at a quicker rate, bowlers have become innovative and the standard of fielding have gone up by many notches."
"And you can see the impact of T20 cricket in the longer format as well. Test matches are producing results frequently than it used to and that is a good sign for the game. When you are playing cricket with a variety of players, on different kinds of wickets and against different kinds of attack on a regular basis, your game is bound to show improvement, and we have seen that with all T20 Leagues in the world and in cricket as a whole," he explained.
The former Pakistan skipper has also been an integral part of the IPL in the past and believes that the success of the league post the pandemic is proof that fans want live action.
"Over 90 per cent of global sport halted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. People now are hungry for any 'live sport' they can get during this crisis. Though matches are played in empty stadiums, there has been a huge spike in viewership numbers both in television and digital medium. Sports fans too are exploring new avenues to beat the virus and IPL is proof of this," he said.
"The opening match of the IPL this season was watched by approximately 20 crore people making it the most-watched opening day in any sporting league ever. Sri Lanka too has been devoid of any sporting events during this period, so what better way than to embrace the new normal with the most loved sports in the country. I have no doubt that response of fans to events like this is a huge boost to the sports and the organisers," he pointed.
T20 league have been embraced by fans across the globe, but Akram does rue the fact that the IPL doesn't see players from Pakistan and similarly, the PSL doesn't have Indian participation.
"I have always believed that sports shouldn't be a victim of politics but that is a government subject of both countries and it won't be apt for me to say anything. But as you said in the question itself, yes IPL is one of the most competitive domestic leagues in the cricketing world and I wish Pakistan youngsters get to be a part of it and I also wish to see Indian players playing in PSL," he said.
Speaking on India and Pakistan, a raging debate has been how Babar could be the next Kohli. While Akram doesn't like such comparisons, he wants the Pakistan star to take a leaf out of Kohli's book when it comes to consistency.
"I wouldn't like to make any comparison but having said that, I would like to add that Babar Azam is an exceptional talent, he has shown his excellence in all formats, but in patches. I would be very happy if he can see the comparison positively and becomes consistent in his performance like Kohli," he said.
Finally, asked if him working with the Pakistan players -- as seen during the lockdown phase -- could become a regular affair, the legend said he is always willing to help the cricketers.
"My services are always available for Pakistan cricket. The current lot is an exciting bunch and I love spending some time with them, guiding them if they fall short in any aspect and this is routine, I have been involved with the players on many occasions in the past whenever they needed some guidance and advice. I also think that Pakistan cricket is in very capable hands at the moment and I wish them luck for their future, I am sure they will do a good job," he signed off.