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'Zaheer is best left-arm pacer now'

Last updated on: January 16, 2009 19:16 IST

Impressed by Zaheer Khan's splendid performance, former Pakistan bowler Wasim Akram on Friday rated him as the best left-arm pacer in the game in the present times.

"Without doubt Zaheer Khan is the best. He has improved his bowling. He can swing the ball both ways and also get it to reverse swing. He can also bowl close to the wicket, wide of the crease and round the wicket," Akram was quoted as saying by the Gulf News.

Akram, who bagged 414 wickets in Test matches and 502 wickets in one-dayers, has in the past helped Zaheer with tips on the art of swing bowling. 

Zaheer finished with a seven-wicket match haul against Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy final that ended in India on Friday.

The former Pakistan captain also felt India presently was the strongest team and felt his country should not severe cricketing ties with the neighbours. 

"With India becoming the best team in the world, Pakistan should play against them. Sporting ties should never be cancelled," he said, expressing concern over the lack of international cricket matches in Pakistan. 

"India have won against Australia at home and away, and beaten England and South Africa. I will admit that South Africa are the best only if they do well in India during their tour," he said.

Akram also feared Pakistani players' exodus in the absence of international cricket in the country.

"If Pakistan does not get to play international cricket, they may lose more players to the Indian Cricket League (ICL). If cricketers do not get enough opportunity to play the game they will leave.

"So Pakistan should play international cricket either at home or abroad at any cost. Pakistan will find their tour to Australia in October really tough as they have not played Test cricket for close to one year," he said.

On Shoaib Malik, who has been given extension as the captain, Akram said, "He has improved a lot. Cricket captaincy is something you learn over the years. You have to learn to handle the media, the senior players and how to act off the field. He has to learn to take advantage of senior players because without their support you cannot go a long way."

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