COLOMBO: Former Pakistan captain and bowling great Wasim Akram kicked off a coaching frenzy in the Sri Lankan capital where he met with retired bowlers and raw pacers looking for international breakthrough. At the hugely popular Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) ground in the heart of Colombo, Akram yesterday launched SLC’s latest initiative aimed at developing a battery of fast bowlers who could go on to serve the national team in the future. The workshop was also attended by former Sri Lankan pacer Chaminda Vaas, fast bowling coach Champaka Ramanayaka and retired batting star Aravinda de Silva. “Today in the morning, there were a lot of bowlers including the great Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and it means everybody wanted to learn. The coaches, some of them I have played against, Champaka Ramanayake, Chaminda Vaas and Ravindra Pushpakumara, they were all there,” Akram said. “The idea is to work with all the coaches here so that they can follow up with whatever I have been teaching the boys and to pinpoint a few young bowlers who can go on to play for Sri Lanka,” Akram added. Akram, the Man of the Match in the 1992 World Cup final in Melbourne, said he was impressed by raw pace exhibited by some of the fast bowlers, insisting Sri Lanka must prepare pitches that support swing bowling. “Sri Lanka played cricket in the real spirit. They are quite calm but deadly,” he said. He also praised schools cricket in Sri Lanka, saying it was “unmatched” anywhere in the world.
Giving his assessment after the first session, Akram said Sri Lankan fast bowlers must learn new tricks to get batsmen out at the top level. “The idea of fast bowling is to get the batsman out on a slow wicket. In our part of the world, in the sub-continent, we get lots of slow wickets. So the idea in the long run is to teach them how to believe in themselves and how to fox out the batsman,” Akram said. Akram said swing is more important when it comes to fast bowling. “A good batsman like Aravinda, would always love to face pace, rather than a medium pacer who swings the ball. Today, I saw the under-19 and 18 boys, they all had pace. They just need a little bit of teaching and I think that’s where I come in,” Akram said. Commenting on when he would visit Sri Lanka next, Akram said: “The (SLC) President (Thilanga Sumathipala) showed me the calendar. So whenever we get time, I will be here. I’m only three and half hours away. From Sri Lanka to Karachi, there are flights every day.” Akram added: “So it all depends when the national team is going to be here, or either we’re going for high performance or either we’re going for youngsters.” Akram who is no stranger to Sri Lanka, having played in 19 Tests and 59 ODIs against the Lions between 1985 and 2002, recalled many memories of the matches between the two countries since his first visit to the country with Imran Khan’s Pakistan side in 1985. “We had many major battles on and off the field, but lots of them off the field. Sri Lanka is a memorable place for me. It’s a ‘Heaven on Earth’ and we call it the Pearl Island. What I like about the country is the positive energy that generates from the people. Everyone in Sri Lanka is happy and with a smile on their face. When I walk on the road I feel safe and it’s like my second home. People smile and say hello and some want to take selfies,” Akram said. Sri Lanka returned home victorious from their Zimbabwe tour on Tuesday and will depart for South Africa where their fast bowling capabilities will be put to test on pace-friendly pitches.