‘Cricket is an industry now’

Showing the way… Sunrisers Hyderabad’s bowling coach Waqar Younis gives a youngster some tips during the team’s training session.-K. RAMESH BABU

“I admire cricketers of different eras. Tell me how many of the current generation have seen real cricket of the 1970s and 80s? For instance, the formidable West Indies of those times. And where are the fast bowlers now with the exception of say Dale Steyn,” asks Waqar Younis in a chat with V. V. Subrahmanyam.

Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram formed one of the most feared fast bowling combinations in the 1990s. Interestingly, Waqar, who posed a serious threat to the best of batsmen during his career (87 Tests: 373 wickets; 262 ODIs: 416 wickets), says that he never took the Indian Premier League seriously during its first five editions. “I was often under the impression, why this IPL?” he says.

In an exclusive chat with Sportstar, the pace ace of yesteryear says he has now changed his mind about the tournament and feels that it is like a carnival of great fun.

“I worked with the Pakistan team as coach but T20 is a different experience. The reception was terrific for me. It is incredible to see such big crowds come to the matches and enjoy the games. This is T20 at its best,” says the 41-year-old Pakistani, who is the bowling coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad.

“Yes, this is a format where you can never be in a comfort zone. You have to keep improving and look for different ways. It is all about coming up with innovative ideas. Any team is beatable on a given day, this is the beauty (of T20),” says Waqar.

“Definitely, it is great to work with head coach Tom Moody, Krishna Srikkanth and V. V. S. Laxman. Even the assistant coach, Simon Helmot, is a terrific guy who is rarely in the focus,” he adds.

What is the best part of being the bowling coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad?

“The team meetings have always been open forum to express ideas without any fear. This is something that every coach would look forward to. Even if you come up with an idea and it doesn’t find favour, it is not the end. The franchise owners are wonderful as they never dabble in cricketing matters,” says Waqar.

As for working with players such as Dale Steyn, rated the best fast bowler in contemporary cricket, Ishant Sharma, leg-spinners Amit Mishra and Karan Sharma too, he says: “Both Steyn and Ishant are very experienced, so, I can’t teach them the basics. They know their job pretty well. And I always believe that learning is a continuous process. Even now, I learn a few new things from both of them. And as far as spinners are concerned, they deserve credit for being so amazing in the middle-overs. This is a terrific bowling unit, not to forget all-rounder Thisara Perera.”

Does Waqar believe that reverse swing is not very effective today as it was, say, during his heyday?

“Well, there are many reasons for this. Firstly, the ball doesn’t get old during day-and-night games as quickly as during Test matches. There is also the dew factor in ODIs. Secondly, now you have two balls to operate with in a One-Day International. Besides, the bats have become bigger and fatter. Surely, the batsmen too now are better off, for they also train with this element in mind unlike in the past when it was more of a novelty as we, Pakistanis, started bowling reverse swing in a big way,” he explains.

“I have all sympathies for the bowlers. But then, people come to the shorter formats to see sixes. Not many really like to see five-wicket hauls,” he says with a smile.

What in his opinion is the right kind of wicket?

“All I can say is that the best wicket I had seen was in Jaipur with a tinge of green. If you hit the deck hard, the ball flies and it is also good for the batsmen. Any strip has to have some balance — it should suit both batsmen and bowlers,” says Waqar.

Does he think there is too much cricket nowadays?

“Honestly, I don’t think what I say on the subject matters. But you should remember that cricket is more of an industry now. You (players) have to carry on, work hard and stay fit,” says Waqar, who was renowned for his reverse swing and deadly yorkers.

“Yes, I strongly believe that cricketing careers will be much shorter. You cannot visualise someone playing for long like Sachin Tendulkar or many from my own era,” he adds. Having played with the best and bowled against some of the greats, whom would Waqar pick for special mention?

“Honestly, I don’t have anyone in mind. I admire cricketers of different eras; Viv Richards, Steve Waugh, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid are all class acts.

“Tell me how many of the current generation have seen real cricket of the 1970s and 80s? For instance, the formidable West Indies of those times. And where are the fast bowlers now with the exception of say Dale Steyn,” asks Waqar.

The soft-spoken former Pakistan fast bowler says that he enjoyed every bit of his career. “I am now settled in Sydney and have no regrets. I enjoy challenges even now. And I definitely cherished bowling with Wasim Akram,” he says.