Wasim Akram – a magnificent bowler, a man shrouded in mysteries and a controversial cricketer, yet regarded as the Best Left Arm Fast Bowler ever. He was able to generate bounce and movement on any kind of track, which is remarkable. Be it off a short run or a lengthy run, he could generate the same amount of pace and is very difficult to hit around. His bowling was mysterious. One could never predict which way the ball would swing. And he had an extensive armoury. From the well-disguised slower ball to the toe-crushing yorker, Wasim Akram practiced every nuance of the art of fast bowling.
Born in Lahore on June 3, 1966, Akram is a product of the Cathedral School where he learnt the tricks of the trade fast. At 12, he was opening the bowling and batting for his school. At 15, he was captaining the side. The streets of Lahore were where he honed his skills. With a brisk, eager run-up and whippy action, the left-armer was the discovery of the 1984-85 domestic season. And as so often happens in Pakistan, induction to the national squad came about with a generous slice of luck. In fact it so happened Akram, just 18 and bowling in the nets of the U-19 Pakistan camp, was called upon to bowl to ace Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad, who was seeking some practice. Miandad was impressed with the youngster’s ability to move the ball at speed and insisted that young Akram be included in the squad of 14 for a three-day Patron’s XI match against the touring New Zealanders at Rawalpindi. The rest is history. Although, Miandad got Akram his entry into international cricket, but it was when Imran Khan took him under his wings that he really learnt to skillfully grip and bowl the ball.
Wasim Akram made his debut in one-day international cricket on November 23, 1984, against New Zealand in Faisalabad. He took none for 31 in his four overs. His first wicket came in his next one-dayer in Melbourne on February 24, 1985, when he bowled the Aussie opener Kepler Wessels and finished with 5 for 21 in 8.1 overs. His successful partnership with young Waqar Younis in 1990 had several top batsmen nursing broken toes and battered egos. Between 1990 and 1994, Wasim and Waqar took 10 or more wickets between them in 18 of the 24 Tests that they played together. Together, the two Ws have taken 1,705 international wickets, more than any other bowling pair in the history of the game.
Akram’s finest hour came in the 1992 World Cup when he took 18 wickets, including three in the final, to finish as player of the tournament and help Pakistan win the title after having been bowled out for a measly 74 by finalists England in the league phase.
If there is one area where Akram failed to realize his potential, it was his batting. He never quite managed to hone his technique to become the all-rounder Imran Khan had predicted he would become. His highest Test score, an unbeaten 257, contained 12 sixes, the most in an individual Test innings. Likewise captaincy never rested easily on Akram’s shoulders, though he was a good leader of men. In January 1993, he was appointed to succeed Javed Miandad as Pakistan’s captain, with pace partner Waqar Younis as his deputy.
” I want to be remembered as someone who for 18 years bowled with a smile on his face… Wasim Akram”