The man who made the cricket ball dance to his tunes, a mean machine, one of the most complete fast bowlers to have graced the game and one of the greatest cricketing minds ever – there’s not much about cricket that Wasim Akram doesn’t know.
If you can impress Akram, a leader par excellence, with your captaincy, you must be good. Hence, it is perhaps time for Gautam Gambhir to stop undermining his role as a captain with use of the line, ‘A captain is only as good as his team’. Because Wasim Akram thinks Gambhir is the best captain in Pepsi IPL 2014.
The praise didn’t come from Akram the bowling mentor of KKR. It came from a former fast bowler, who knows what impact your captain’s leadership style has on you as a player. In a chat with IPLT20.com, Akram explains what makes Gambhir a special leader for the bowlers. He also talks about his fast bowling wards at KKR, especially Umesh Yadav.
Here are excerpts from his exclusive interview:
Second IPL win for you with KKR.
Oh, it feels out of this world. When we won it for the first time, in 2012, we were all really excited and over the moon. We still are, but this time we’re a lot calmer as well. According to me, the credit goes to the captain for the way he led this group for the entire tournament. The best thing about this team is that every member is enjoying each other’s success and company. The foreign players and the Indian boys are really close, and that’s great to see as a mentor.
What did you tell the team to cause such an amazing turnaround?
Nothing. Our job is to keep things simple. We talk to the point and don’t have long meetings. We just try to keep them relaxed and lend any assistance they need. That is the mantra that Trevor Bayliss and I go by. The credit goes to the captain and his team. We are here just to support them.
The moment Gautam started scoring runs, KKR looked a completely different team. He does have a very big impact on the team’s performance.
It means a lot to the team when the skipper is performing well. It adds to the security and the self belief. He has led his troops very well. I believe he was the best captain in this IPL. Tonight, from the 11th to the 15th over of the KXIP innings, instead of looking for dot-balls – which most captains do during that phase of the innings – he encouraged his bowlers to bowl for wickets. That aggressive mindset and the belief he puts in his players makes him the best captain in the tournament.
Spin has always been KKR’s strength, but this time your pace attack was beefed up considerably. Did you enjoy having so many pace bowlers around?
Yes, we’ve had a number of pace bowlers this year. They are all intelligent bowlers and hard working cricketers. It has been special working with so many pacers who are all so different from one another. There’s not much more you can ask as a coach.
Was promoting Robin Uthappa up the order the masterstroke that changed everything for KKR?
Yes, it was. This was a new team with new combinations, and it took us five-six games to get it right. We realised that this guy would be better opening the batting and he proved us right. He was consistency and class personified.
A word on Umesh Yadav.
I don’t know why he hasn’t been picked for the Test series in England. Every county in England has medium pacers who swing the ball, so the batsmen can pretty much deal with them easily. What is difficult is to handle swing with pace. That’s what Umesh has got. It is unfortunate that he is not going. But I’ve told him not to worry and that he will come back to the Test team soon.