Free Press Journal

Yusuf Pathan is still our trump card: Wasim Akram


KKR, Wasim Akram

New Delhi: Yusuf Pathan may not have set this edition of the IPL ablaze with his powerful batting just yet but Kolkata Knight Riders bowling consultant Wasim Akram feels the swashbuckling all-rounder is still the team’s “trump card” and one of the biggest hitters in cricket’s shortest format.

After making an impression in the cash-rich league for Rajasthan Royals in the first three seasons under skipper Shane Warne, Yusuf was taken by KKR in 2011 for USD 2.1 million. The destructive batsman has since stuck with the Shah Rukh Khan-owned unit, playing a crucial role in the team’s title triumph in 2012 and 2014. The Baroda-born player may not have fired in this season so far, but he played the sheet anchor’s role to perfection with his 28 not out in the 95-run partnership with Andre Russell (66) in the team’s four-wicket win against Kings XI Punjab, and Akram backs the big-hitter to come to the party and get big runs soon.

“Yusuf is only 32, he is still our trump card. He is still one of the biggest hitters in this format. He is enjoying his confidence. It is really handy to have a playerlike Yusuf Pathan. He can bowl, he can bat and he can field as well,” Akram told PTI in an interview. The Sultan of Swing is also impressed with off-spinner Sunil Narine’s remodelled action after the mystery bowler’s doosra was questioned in the Champions League Twenty20 event last year.

The West Indies player may just have picked up a wicket in the three games so far but Akram said the champion bowler will soon get used to his new action.  “I am very impressed with Sunil Narine. Even with his remodelled action his bite is the same. Of course, it takes a little while to adjust to your new action. I think let him play another two or three matches and he will only get better. I don’t think the change has affected his effectiveness,” the former Pakistan captain said.

In a team full of spinners, Akram has still managed to make an imprint, with the bowlers speaking highly of the pace legends mentoring ways. Akram is just too happy to help a bunch of talented youngsters. “See, spinner or fast bowler, the bowling psyche is the same. My job is to work on their psyche, give them confidence. We give them different scenarios in nets. We do the nets like a match and there is a free ball if they bowl a no ball. How to set a field to a particular kind of bowling, all these drills are carried out. We have some quality spinners in the side.

“There is Shakib (Al Hasan), Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla,two young spinners in Kuldeep (Yadav) and (KC) Cariappa and then there is (Brad) Hogg and (Johan) Botha. The young spinners talk a lot to the two senior spinners and they bowl together in the nets and they learn a lot from each other,” said the left-arm pacer. With Pakistan players barred from participating in the popular league, former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mehmood has managed to seal a deal with KKR after holding a British passport. Akram insists that his former teammate has a definite role to play in this edition.

“Look, it will be a team decision. Gautam Gambhir, the coaching staff and I believe in horses for courses. Where the wicket will be seaming a bit Azhar can make an impact. He is a very useful and match-winning all-rounder,” he opined.