June 4, 2014

Everyone who watched Wasim Akram growing up has a favourite Wasim ball. For this writer, it was in a Test match against New Zealand in Wellington in early 1994, and opener Bryan Young was the victim. Wasim came charging in, left arm over the wicket, and beat Young’s outside edge a few times; then he got one to angle across Young and dart back off the pitch to hit off stump. Moments after hearing the rattle of the bails falling behind him, Young grimaced and shook his head, with one hand palm-up in front of him as if to say, “What can I do?” It was a cricketing lesson. No one could swing and seam a cricket ball like Wasim.

Wasim Akram is the only left-arm bowler in the Wisden All-Time World Test XI, a fantasy team comprised of the greatest players in history, and the quotes below go some way to indicating why he deserves his place. You have to have seen Wasim at his best to understood how fearsome he was, though, with that whippy action, genuine pace, and incredible control of line, length, and movement. Here’s a brief clip from what former England captain Alec Stewart called the best bowling spell he had ever seen, and here’s an ESPN Legends of Cricket program about him.

First we’ll hear from Wasim Akram himself, and then find out what others have said about him.

Wasim On Wasim:

  • On keeping those flowing dark locks out of his eyes:“Gel is more macho than a hair band.”

 

  • On the shock of a diabetes diagnosis at 30: “I remember what a shock it was because I was a healthy sportsman with no history of diabetes in my family, so I didn’t expect it at all.

 

  • On working out what to do with the next ball: “Most of the thinking happened while I was walking back to my run-up. I had a very short run-up, so in those eight or 10 seconds I had to visualise the next ball – where I was going to pitch it, what I would like it to do off the pitch, and anticipate how the batsman was likely to respond to it. It is a short time, but you have to be clear in your mind.”

 

  • On being prepared for bowling: “If Plan A doesn’t work, you must have a Plan B. […] Fast bowling is not all about fitness and power; it is not about big, dumb men with biceps and triceps. You need to be able to analyse the weaknesses of the batsman, read the conditions, use the conditions.”

 

  • On the importance of on-field experience: “Knowledge comes from playing in the middle.”

 

  • On his mentor: “I was lucky to have a great teacher. Imran Khan taught me how to use the conditions, the virtue of hard work and patience, and most of all the mental side of fast bowling. He taught me never to lose hope and never to be content.”

 

  • On practice: “Nets seem boring to a lot of people, but I enjoyed bowling in the nets. […] If you want to be a good fast bowler, you have to be prepared to work very hard.

 

  • On successful swing bowling being a team effort:“the whole team must know how to look after the ball. […] Looking after the ball doesn’t mean fiddling with it, but maintaining it in a certain condition so that it will reverse swing.”

 

  • On the value of swing bowling at the highest level of cricket: “if you want to take wickets in international cricket, learn how to swing the ball. Pace alone doesn’t get wickets at this level.”

 

  • On his rivalry with teammate Waqar Younis: “We had our differences, but they never came in the way of our performance. We competed with each other for wickets, but it fired us up to do better. It was a professional rivalry and it was good for Pakistan.

 

  • On keeping cricket separate from politics: “[Cricket] should be a private company with professional people running it.

Others On Wasim:

  • “No bowler in the modern age – Shane Warne aside – so broadened the scope and possibility of what could be done in his art as much as Akram.” -cricket journalist Osman Samiuddin

 

  • “As great a bowler as he was to become, he was in equal parts a greater worker and learner.” -Samiuddin

 

  • “Once or twice he merely rolled his arm over from a dead stop. The ball still shot through and swung around. It was the equivalent of Picasso casually slapping paint on a canvas, or Mozart tapping on some piano keys in boredom.” -cricket journalist Saad Shafqat on a training session at which the retired, ageing Wasim still wowed those in attendance

 

  • “The most complete fast bowler I’ve seen” -former South Africa fast bowler Allan Donald, a contemporary of Wasim

 

  • “Over my 15 or 16 years of playing international cricket in Tests and one-day internationals, Wasim Akram is definitely the most outstanding bowler I’ve ever faced.”-former West Indies batsman Brian Lara, the world record holder for the most runs in a Test innings

 

  • “The one player who really stood out for me was Wasim Akram. It was in that tournament that we realised just what a special talent he was and how much trouble he was going to give us and the rest of the world in the years to come.” -former England all-rounder Ian Botham on Wasim’s impact at the 1992 World Cup won by Pakistan

 

  • “The small things that Akram has taught me have made me a better bowler. -Indian fast bowler Mohammed Shami

 

  • “Akram’s genius and his ability to burst through batting line-ups is obvious from the fact that he has taken two hat-tricks in Tests and ODIs, the only bowler to do so” -statistician S Rajesh

Courtesy: ABOUT.COM



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