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Cricket star pitches for IT

PAKISTAN cricket captain Wasim Akram has signed up as a student at a Birmingham further education college. With allegations of match-fixing reaching boiling point back home, Akram has been struggling to co-ordinate his defence while holding down cricket commitments with the local league team Smethwick. Now, he has enlisted South Birmingham College's help.

The all-rounder will be taking a distance-learning course in basic information technology skills with South Birmingham, where he was made an honorary fellow this week, to try to harness the power of modern communications to help clear his name.

Raja Khan, a former liaison officer for the Pakistan team, said: "Wasim is totally IT-illiterate. He has seen his team-mate Said Anwar, who is always using his laptop computer, and he has suddenly realised that he is totally out of touch with this thing. With all these malicious rumours flying around in Pakistan, the big problem has been the expense and difficulty of communicating with home."

Mr Khan, a qualified teacher now taking an education PhD at Cambridge University, first met Akram during a visit to Pakistan with a group of youngsters in 1995. Since then, a close relationship has flowered between the cricket star and schools and colleges in the city, inspiring hundreds of local children and young people.

Mr Akram, who will do some occasional lecturing, said he hoped his relationship with South Birmingham would develop. "Apart from playing cricket, I want to help motivate these young people. There are a lot of Pakistanis in the area and I want to tell my version of life, how I have achieved things, how you can do whatever you want to do."

Mr Khan said:"He is not just coming for one-off visits. We are trying to integrate him into the school life. He is telling the kids if they work hard he will come back. It is having a big impact."

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