Wasim Akram’s journey to fame from tennis ball cricket


Sharjah: Former Pakistan captain and legendary left-arm swing bowler Wasim Akram has a special advice for budding cricketers.

“Start by playing with tennis ball. Many top cricketers started their career playing with tennis ball. I was once a professional tennis ball cricketer before playing with hard ball and went on to play for Pakistan,” he said.

 Akram, who is here as the director of Multan Sultans, which is the new entry into the Pakistan Super League team, is the brand ambassador of the 10 Premier League (10PL) to be held at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium from March 19-23. Through a colourful function at the Intercontinental Hotel on Wednesday night, Akram launched the second edition of the 10PL in the presence of the 16 team owners and organisers of the event.

Akram then went on to narrate how he became the much sought after tennis ball cricket star during his school days in Pakistan. “Before I played for Pakistan in 1984, I was a professional tennis ball cricket player. I used to be paid Pakistan Rs20 (60 fills approx) per game. That was a lot of money at that time and so if I played 10 games in a month I could easily make Rs200 (Dh6 approx). I learnt a lot by playing tennis ball cricket on the streets and on the terrace. Tennis ball cricket will always remain close to my heart.”

Wasim Akram

Akram even revealed that there were players much better than him in tennis ball cricket. “In school there used be a player called Nadeem. He was the star of tennis ball cricket. This cricket has very different skills but you can learn a lot from it,” said Akram, who is now known as the Sultan of Swing and surprised everyone once by swinging the tennis ball too.

Akram revealed that tennis ball cricket, which is called gully cricket, could be played by anyone. “We did not have the money to even buy proper stumps and often bricks and a branch from a tree were used to be the stumps. We did not have abdomen guards those days and hence we were very careful to play the sweep and reverse sweep shots for fear of being hit. I learnt a lot from it before moving to hard ball.”

Abdul Latif Khan, who conceptualised this tournament, said: “I am happy that we are able to stage the world’s richest gully cricket tournament here under the aegis of Sharjah Cricket Council and support from Waleed Bukhatir. The response has been so much that next year we will conduct an auction for players like in the Indian Premier League. The best of gully cricketers, based on their bio data which can be filed in our web site, will be categorised into A, B and C and owners can buy them.”

In this edition, Pakistan Test star Imran Nazir, Sri Lanka’s international players Thilan Thushara and Chamara Silva will be in action. The 10PL carries a prize money of Dh250,000 and players from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and various Middle East countries will be in action. Akram also unveiled the tournament jersey, anthem and the trophy.

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