Akram wants Tendulkar to score century at Lord's

Wasim Akram said he would choose Suresh Raina over Yuvraj Singh for the first Test AFP

New Delhi: Jul 20, 2011

Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram said he would be extremely happy if Sachin Tendulkar scores his 100th international century in the first Test against England, starting at Lord’s on Thursday.

“I am excited for Sachin. I will be very happy if he can get his 100th century at Lord’s. It will be such a wonderful occasion, really,” Akram said.

“Brian Lara’s comment that Sachin is the best batsman on earth is like stating the obvious,” he added.

The former fast bowler, however, warned against too much hype surrounding Tendulkar taking the focus away from the game.

“The hype around Sachin must not take the focus away from the game at large. For India, it is all about getting their act in place for cricket can make a mockery of your reputation. The game against Somerset was a wake-up call for sure and the team management will now know what to do,” he said.

Insisting that India would miss Virender Sehwag, Akram said, “India will miss Sehwag for sure. Sehwag’s body language is so strong that it can unnerve the opposition. There are more chances of him scoring a quick and big one than he getting out to a lousy stroke. But his presence in the team in itself is a massive mental boost.

“Having said that, Gautam Gambhir has the technique and game to handle the English pacers. So he will have to play the leading role. There is not much one needs to say about Rahul Dravid, Sachin and VVS Laxman.”

The 45-year-old said that he would have chosen in-form Suresh Raina over experienced Yuvraj Singh in the first Test.

“If I were Dhoni, I would play a man in form. That means Suresh Raina will be my choice as he has got a ton in a tour game and thus knows the conditions better than a person who can be rusty and not in match fitness. I mean Yuvraj Singh may have greater experience, but Raina is the man to go for, simply because he is among the runs,” Akram told Mobile ESPN.

The Pakistani pacer said that England, despite having an edge over India in the upcoming series because of home conditions, could not be considered as favourites. In fact, Akram said he reckons Dhoni and co. would relish the challenges in England.

“Many see England having the edge because they play better under home conditions, but as far as I am concerned, there are no favourites. India are No. 1 and for very good reasons, and I reckon Dhoni’s team will relish the challenges and prove the critics wrong,” said Akram.

Speaking about England’s game plan against the No. 1 team in the world, Akram said that the first Test would be crucial.

“The first Test in a tough series is always crucial for both teams and it remains to be seen if England will attack India at Lord’s. The pitch will be the main factor and England will do well to prepare a seaming wicket, considering the fact that they have a good new-ball attack,” the former pacer said.

“Don’t be surprised if Lord’s provides a fast and bouncy track. That’s the only way England can put India under pressure. If England adopt defensive tactics and prepare a batting track, India will ruin them by its sheer depth in batting as it is an unbelievable line-up with so much experience,” he added.

Akram also warned England against India’s bowling attack as well.

“Don’t forget India’s bowling attack is quite good with all three seamers — Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar — capable of moving the ball around.”

On whether the Indian team should go with Amit Mishra or Harbhajan Singh as the spin department, Akram said, “That would be another question confronting the Indian think tank. While I must say Mishra is India’s best leg-spinner, I will still opt for Bhajji because he is far more experienced.

“Harbhajan is a feisty young fellow and he loves challenges. At this point in time, Bhajji must concentrate on his action as I feel his release is awry and he is not flighting the ball enough.”