Legendary fast-bowler Wasim Akram has voiced his sentiments on the continued exile of international cricket in Pakistan, claiming it will affect the growth of cricket in the sub-continent nation. Akram agreed with the concerns of current Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who last week feared for the future of international cricket in Pakistan.
Akram, who took 414 wickets in 104 Tests and 502 scalps in 356 One Day Internationals (ODIs) for Pakistan over a 19-year career, was spotted by former cricketer Javed Miandad and went on to make his national cricket debut at the tender age of 19. Such a situation he said is not feasible now, considering the disconnect between the crowds and the players due to Pakistan playing cricket at the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
"It's impossible now. My fourth game was a Test match, and that won't happen now. Javed Miandad saw me, then Imran Khan met me when I went to play for Pakistan and took me under his wing, then Waqar came along and we ruled the world for ten years. But that opportunity is not there for youngsters anymore", Akram told ESPNCricinfo.
Barring Zimbabwe, who visited the country for a brief tour in 2015, Pakistan have not witnessed other national teams land on their shores, with many cricket boards refusing to let their teams play in the country. Over the past years, Akram feels that youngsters are slowly losing interest in cricket as they do not get to watch their heroes and top players in person.
"There's been no cricket in Pakistan for seven or eight years and cricket is struggling in Pakistan in general. Imagine when I was young, I used to go to Lahore's Gadaffi Stadium. They motivated me but for Pakistan's budding cricketers, there's no cricket there. Everything is played in the UAE on bland, placid wickets and nobody is watching cricket there. One-day cricket gets a bit of support, and T20s over three hours, but for Test cricket it is mostly empty stadiums, so it has affected Pakistan cricket big time."
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are in talks to host some part of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) at home, but much would depend on whether the big stars would be willing to visit the country. West Indian T20 superstar Andre Russell admitted he would be willing to go, but would be "scared" due to the situation in the country.