x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Akram hopes young cricketers learn from spot fixing scandal

The former Pakistan cricket captain, in town for a charity walkathon, talks on spot fixing and his battle with diabetes.

Wasim Akram leads a line of walkers yesterday in the Beat Diabetes Walkathon, Dubai.
Wasim Akram leads a line of walkers yesterday in the Beat Diabetes Walkathon, Dubai.

DUBAI // Four years after discovering a teenage bowling sensation, the former Pakistan cricket captain Wasim Akram yesterday spoke of that player’s fall.

Akram saw Mohammed Amir, then aged 15, at a bowling camp in 2007 and the young fast bowler soon cemented his reputation as a rising star.

Akram, speaking ahead of a charity event in Dubai, described Amir’s conviction in a spot-fixing scandal that led to him and two other players being handed prison sentences as a “tragedy” that had rocked Pakistani and international cricket.

“Of course it is a tragedy for the youngsters,” said Akram, 45, who was accused of match fixing after Pakistan’s heavy loss to Australia in the 2003 World Cup. The allegations were never proved.

“I feel for them. I hope the young generation coming up can learn from these guys’ examples.”

Akram said the sentences against the players would be a strong warning to budding cricketers, adding it was important for national team members to “play for the country and concentrate on the game itself”.

He said it was not for him to decide if the criminal convictions and long ICC bans slapped on the trio – Amir,  Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif – were harsh.

This month, Butt was sentenced to 30 months in prison, Asif to one year and Amir to six months.

“That’s a court of law and I can’t say anything about that particular issue. It’s huge for these boys and I do feel for them. But I think the young generation is learning very quickly from them.”

Akram was in Dubai yesterday to take part in the Beat Diabetes Walkathon in Dubai that saw scores of residents, young and old, participate in the early morning hours. The 3 kilometre-plus walk began and ended outside the Oasis Centre.

The fast bowler began his one-day international career against New Zealand in 1984 and made his Test debut the following year. He rose to fame with his pioneering reverse swing techniques, earning him the nickname “Sultan of Swing”.

He was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 31, during the peak of his career, compelling him to lead awareness campaigns on the disease around the world.

Yesterday, Akram said more people in Dubai and the subcontinent were aware of the problem.

“If people are coming on a Friday morning for a walk, it shows how much they care for the cause and awareness,” he said.

“I have been diabetic for 16 years and if I can motivate people from any walk of life, any field of life, it’s great.”

Akram told the thousands gathered for the walkathon in blue T-shirts: “Living with diabetes is a daily struggle but can be managed by following a disciplined lifestyle.”

Speaking on the country’s turbulent politics, the cricketer said fellow former Pakistan captain turned politician Imran Khan’s recent rally in Lahore was an “eye opener”.

“We Pakistanis, what we have realised after seeing that rally is that we need a change,” Akram said.

“We have been seeing these politicians from the last 60 years and we do need a change. We need fresh people into politics in our country.”

He also welcomed the return to prominence of the UAE as a cricketing venue after Sharjah became the target of match-fixing investigations more than 10 years ago.

“I am glad cricket is back because people who live here, expatriates – Indians, Pakistanis, Australians, British, South Africans and West Indians – they all love their cricket. This is the place. The interest is immense,” said Akram, who played several matches in Sharjah.

He was also in town to watch the one-day international between Pakistan and Sri lanka yesterday.

After the walk, people queued outside testing booths to check their blood-glucose levels. The free testing will continue today.

“The overwhelming turnout that the walkathon draws year after year is truly heartwarming,” said Renuka Jagtiani, the vice chairwoman of Landmark Group, which organised the walk.

“Through the annual walkathons, the blood-glucose tests and other activities that we conduct round the year, we encourage people to lead active and balanced lives.”

pkannan@thenational.ae