Wasim Akram is sitting by a window on the 11th floor of a hotel room in Toronto, but he is imagining himself at the top of his bowling mark on a hot afternoon, with a belter of a pitch laid out for a T20 match. In this hypothetical game, Wasim has the new white ball in his hands and is up against two of the most dangerous batsmen in world cricket: Chris Gayle and David Warner.
Up in the hotel room, Wasim is sporting all black: a Nike T-shirt, a pair of shorts, and a 2XU cap. On his left wrist is an Apple watch - also black - and one wonders if the manufacturer is aware of the magical wrist around which their gadget is wrapped. That wrist. Containing more inventiveness and sorcery than any tech company has yet invented. Or maybe not, but that's probably how cricket fans of a certain vintage would like to think of it.
The first thing Wasim says when informed of who he would be bowling to: "Umm. They are both left-handers, so that's a plus for me. I felt really comfortable bowling to left-handers because of the outswing I used to bowl." The "umm" at the start of his response wasn't an uncertain "umm", by the way. It was an "umm" to activate the gears in his brain, to prime himself for the imaginary contest. An ultra-competitive "umm", one that was hatching a plot.
Of course, this is not reality. This is 53-year-old Wasim talking about a made-up scenario. And it's only natural that the competitiveness gives way to a mature assessment. "Both are giants of modern cricket. Chris Gayle is the biggest hitter. He hits long, he hits big, he is a big dude. And David Warner, one of my favourite players… the way he pulls, hooks, and hits on the up…"
This switch occurs all through the interview. Wasim seamlessly slips in and out of his role of a fast bowler taking on some of the best batsmen. One moment he is a shrewd craftsman in the thick of the contest; the next he is more measured, bringing forth some perspective.