Akram takes up the cudgels for beleaguered Ganguly

Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Karachi:Former Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram today backed Sourav Ganguly and advised the Indian cricket selectors to be "extremely careful" before sealing the fate of the embattled captain.

"There is no doubt that Sourav Ganguly is passing through the worst batting form which leaves his career in doldrums. I also fear that his career might be reaching dead-end but I would still back him and advice the Indian selectors to be extremely careful and watchful while deciding his future," Akram told PTI shortly before leaving for a week-long tour of Mumbai.

"If I were a selector, I would have definitely given him one more chance before really thinking about his future as an Indian cricketer," he added.

Ganguly has scored 9,945 runs, including 22 centuries, in 270 one-day internationals and 4,949 runs for an average of about 41 in 82 Tests.

But in the recent three-match Test series against Pakistan, the Indian skipper scored only 48 runs in six innings while his ODI score was 0, 9, 4 and 18 before he was slapped with a six-match ODI ban by ICC Match Referee Chris Broad for India's slow-over-rate at Ahmedabad.

"Naturally, we didn't see the same aggressive and attacking Sourav we are used to watching. To add insult to injury, India drew the Test series and then also lost the One-day series to Pakistan, that meant knives were out for him ", the 39-year-old Akram, who played 104 Tests and 356 ODIs for Pakistan during his illustrious career, said.

Akram said such lean patches were part of the game and came in every cricketers' career.

"We have to realise that all the top batsmen pass through a period where the ball does not make any contact with the bat. It has happened to the best before and it will happen to the best in days to come. You see it is inevitable," he said.

The former Pakistani captain said Ganguly was among the best products of Indian cricket and one should be cautious before passing any judgement on him.

"Sourav has been a great servant of Indian cricket and his contributions to the Indian cricket team in the last five years cannot be denied. Everyone will have to see Sourav's career in 360 degrees before the judgement on his career is passed."

"And I tell you it is going to be one hell of a decision because Sourav is definitely one of the best Indian cricket has produced," Akram, who took 414 Tests and 502 one-day wickets said.

Akram also believes that absence of captain Ganguly's magic in the last two games was one of the several reasons behind India's loss in the One-day series.

"Pakistan was a fitter and younger side. But India missed Sourav because he is a true leader who has matured nicely as a captain. When the chips are down, everyone looks at the captain to lift them and Sourav has that magic," he said.

"Sourav, I think, should get his mind away from cricket for the time being, take a breather and come back with a bang. He should take this as a challenge," Akram, one of the greatest ever, said.

Akram praised the young and confident Pakistan team for its performance in the recent series against India and predicted a bright future for it.

"I always backed them and I am so happy for Inzamam-ul-Haq and his team because now I see that Pakistan cricket will be on a rise from here," he said.

The cricketer-turned-commentator specially appreciated the team for handling the pressure well despite being the underdogs.

"I think the difference between the two teams was fitness. The other crucial factor was the pressure and I think the Pakistanis handled that extremely well while the Indian team could not tackle the home pressure."

"After the Mohali Test, I could see the Pakistanis targeting for the kill while the Indians were just trying to survive and hang in there. They (Indians) won in Kolkata but I think Pakistan was a better team. And when they got the win at Bangalore, it was the start of a historic tour for a young Pakistan team," Akram, who captained Pakistan on a successful 1999 tour, said.

Akram, who was also a member of the 1987 team under Imran Khan that won the Test series 1-0 and the ODI series 5-1, said "I was particularly pleased with the way Inzamam handled the team. Trust me it's not easy when you have a young bunch of players at your disposal and you are playing in the backyard of your traditional rivals."

"But Inzamam proved that he is not only a great batsman but is also maturing fast as a captain. The way the team responded to him shows the respect and command he enjoys," he said.

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