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Salad days! Wasim Akram at the Pool Bar of The Trident hotel in Gurgaon
Salad days! Wasim Akram at the Pool Bar of The Trident hotel in Gurgaon

Wasim Akram on his acquired taste and natural skills

#8220;They don’t know that I have played cricket for so many years. They only know that I am famous for some reason.” The world knows Wasim Akram but at home he suffers from identity crises. His two sons want him to play every game but cricket. “My wife Huma is half-Croatian. Over the years she has only picked up that an over has six legitimate balls!” But Wasim is curious about her territory. “I have developed a keen interest in exotic recipes. I keenly follow the cookery shows on BBC World and NDTV Good Times for new recipes from around the world,” says Wasim settling for a quick bite at the Pool Bar of The Trident hotel in Gurgaon.

“When I started players of the subcontinent had little knowledge about foreign cuisines. For the first few years I kept on looking for ghar ka khana on overseas tours but slowly I developed taste. Now I can appreciate authentic Chinese, Japanese and Lebanese food. In fact, nowadays on commentary assignments, I search for exciting dining spots and then Ravi and I go together in the evening,” shares Wasim, who is in India to shoot for “Stumped”, a sports quiz show on ESPN.

A diabetes patient, Wasim takes a shot of insulin before sipping his diet cold drink. “It was diagnosed in 1997. It was unsettling in the beginning but I managed to dislodge the myth that diabetes tires you out. It does affect your vital organs but a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise can delay the side effects considerably. In October, I will visit smaller towns in India to spread awareness about the disease.”

Vegetarian variety

Opting for Caesar chicken salad, Wasim recalls how India made him aware about the variety in vegetarian cuisine. He doesn’t mind having a dosa once in a while for breakfast. It’s only sambhar that he has failed to fathom! “Before touring India I had no clue that there could be so many vegetarian options as in Pakistan even vegetarian food has something non-vegetarian.” Wasim likes Indian dal makhani. “They just can’t make it in Pakistan the way they do it here. I always take packets from here.” He wants to try Old Delhi food but has been told that he will be mobbed there. “I also like dhaba food on Chandigarh Highway but the problem is they don’t take money from me.” His female fan following doesn’t seem to be waning either. “Yes…, you know I am a natural. I don’t pretend. I don’t ask for security in India like Shoaib did! What’s the need? We aren’t film stars.” Perhaps this is the reason that Mahesh Bhatt offered him a film. “He and Pooja did call up a couple of years back but I said no. Acting requires training and I am not equipped. And I do follow Indian cinema. I know films starring cricketers don’t easily come out of cans!” A fan of Madhur Bhandarkar, Wasim is looking forward to his “Jail”.

Despite his penchant for recipes, kitchen is not his favourite haunt. “I cooked only when I was playing for Hampshire. For two months I prepared keema every day.” He is amazed by the importance people give to food in the subcontinent. “In Pakistan at breakfast they talk about what they will have at lunch and during lunch they plan for dinner.” Fast bowling is losing its sting in world cricket and Wasim feels it has to do with mindsets. “These days players concentrate on a two-year-long career. In my time players used to target 15 years. Your surprise value lasts only for a couple of seasons after that it is hard work and discipline that sustains you in the top league. It could be monetary influence, change in formats or excess cricket but nobody wants to go for greatness these days. Look at Sreesanth and Rohit Sharma, they have immense talent but underutilised.” Wasim feels ICC rules on sledging have turned the fast bowlers into sissies. “Aggression is key for a fast bowler and if you take it out it’s going to impact his potential. Steyn is the only fast bowler who is consistently taking wickets. More and more fast bowlers rely on slower delivery, which can give you a dot ball but not a wicket,” he says.

Finding tomato and feta burchetas exciting, Wasim says he never had a sweet tooth. “But when I learnt I have diabetes, I began to crave for it. What you are denied, you tend to yearn for. So at times I give in to the temptation.”

ANUJ KUMAR

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