20 Nov : Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s leadership has changed the face of Indian cricket, according to Pakistan’s pace legend Wasim Akram who believes it is a matter of time before India upstages Australia as the number one team in the world.
Akram said Dhoni has completely transformed the team ever since he took over the mantle of captaincy and that Indian cricket was on the right track with a number of talented players in their ranks.
"Dhoni has changed the face of Indian cricket, there is no doubt about that. He leads from the front, he has charisma and players like him. You can’t ask for anything more," Akram said in a telephonic interview.
"He has given the team the confidence. The players now believe that they can go and beat any team and it is this confidence that has helped India to bring about the desired results," the former Pakistan captain said.
Akram, regarded as one of the finest left-arm speedsters with 414 Test and 502 ODI wickets to his credit in a career spanning nearly 17 years, said Dhoni had also brought about a refreshing change in his attitude and approach to matches.
"It does not matter whether Sachin Tendulkar is resting or some other players are injured, the Indians are so confident that they go out and do the job. It was not the case about six or seven years ago, India did not have that confidence," he observed.
"If the captain leads from the front, half the job is done. That is what I like about Dhoni. He is cool, comes out with few quotes and gets the best out of his players," Akram said.
"Leading the Chennai team in the upcoming Champions League will be a good challenge for him since there will be a lot of international teams," he said.
Asked whether India would be able to topple Australia as the number one team in the near future, Akram said "India is the new Australia. I think they are on the right track to achieve that".
Akram also lavished praise on India’s new pace sensation Ishant Sharma saying the Delhi youngster had improved by leaps and bounds in the last few months.
"Ishant has been a revelation. He has really improved in the last few months and I think he is a real asset to India," Akram said about the pace man who emerged as the man-of-the-series in the recent Test series against Australia.
"After the Australian tour late last year, his length was slightly short. But he has now rectified that and was simply brilliant in the recent series against Australia. The way he bowled, it seemed he had been around in Test cricket for five years or so," he said.
The cricketer-turned-commentator said Ishant will only get better with time but also cautioned that the youngster needed to be handled well to prolong his career.
"He (Ishant) will get quicker and better with time, there is no doubt about it. He just has to keep himself fit as fast bowling is hard work," Akram pointed out.
He said the Indian bowling line-up looked quite balanced at the moment and the presence of an in-form Zaheer Khan has provided a lot more sting.
"Zaheer has been fantastic. He has bowled the reverse swing well, got the ball to swing in and out he has become a complete bowler now. He really provides that cutting edge to the attack," he said.
"India always had good spinners but I am happy to see these pacemen developing. They are winning matches for India", Akram said.
The ex-pacer said Harbhajan Singh was capable enough to shoulder the responsibility in the spin department following the retirement of champion leg spinner Anil Kumble.
"Harbhajan is a good spinner. It is now upto him to take upon the responsibility in the spin department. I think he is capable of doing it and also has the experience," Akram added.
Akram also credited India’s rise as a cricketing nation to the planning done by the BCCI over the last few years.
"Credit must also go the BCCI for India’s rise in recent times. They have planned and implemented everything well. The results have started coming now," he added.