Few bowlers have emerged to make a more sensational impact in the international cricket scene than Waqar Younis arrival at the end of the 1980s. Born in Burewala in the small city of Vehari region of Punjab near Multan, he was a day short of his 18th birthday when he was asked to make his Test debut against India, at Karachi in 1989-90.
Waqar Younis took 55 wickets in his first 11 Tests, capturing five wickets in an innings five times. In that time he provoked Martin Crowe, New Zealand’s captain, into saying that he had never faced pace and swings bowling of such quality. He also forced the great Kiwi batsman to wear a helmet grille for the first time.
An astonishing number of Waqar wickets have been clean bowled or have come from leg-before decisions. His lethal dosage depends on blinding pace and late swing, in which he either shatters the stumps, batters pads, or bruises toes. He is a master of ‘reverse swing’, especially using the old ball, and just over 60 percent of his victims in all international crickets have either been bowled or trapped lbw.
He joined Surrey in 1990 on Imran Khan’s recommendation and terrorized the county circuit. In the 1991 English season, he took 113 wickets in 582 over’s at a mere 14.65 apiece. In 1992 he was named one of Wisden Five Cricketers of the Year and, with the left-arm pace of Wasim Akram, formed one of world cricket’s most lethal spearheads. At the end of the recent Test-playing tour of Australia, where Pakistan suffered a three-nil clean sweep. Waqar had taken 363 wickets in 87 Tests at an average of 23.56 with career-best of 7 for 76.
He had claimed five wickets in an innings on 22 occasions and 10 wickets in a Test five times. His Test-playing history is laced with One-day International appearances also. He made 262 appearances for Pakistan in one-dayers and taken 416 wickets. He had claimed five wickets in an innings on 13 times. A staggering 23.93 runs apiece illustrates the problems he has posed over the years.
Only occasional form and Best of pals once, fitness troubles have hindered his career. In the same fixture as above, in Sydney, Wasim Akram became the first bowler in One-day International history to claim 400 wickets in a career. Waqar Younis joined Glamorgan on a two-year contract in 1997 and took a hat-trick against Lancashire a few weeks after making his debut, the first Glamorgan bowler to do so since Ossie Wheatley achieved the feat in 1968.
He recorded his best bowling performance for the Welsh club in his first season, taking eight for 17 against Sussex, at Swansea as Glamorgan swept to the County Championship. Beyond doubt, Waqar is an outstanding bowler. When Imran Khan recommended him to the Pakistan selectors, the captain had only seen him bowl on television.
Since then he has refined Waqar’s run and action, taught him the fundamentals of the swing, and persuaded the Burewala Bombshell’ to make life as uncomfortable as possible for the world’s best batsmen. For a whole year recently, Waqar didn’t represent Pakistan regularly.
Now that he has back, and though one doesn’t believe that he is pals again with his skipper, he is sure to feature in a good number of matches in the near future as he has set out to prove that his injury problems are behind him and he is still to be considered as one of the most destructive bowlers in the game. Last November, he turned only 28, and, as he feels himself, he may still have a year or two of good cricket left in him.
In early 2000, Waqar Younis was talking about his so-called rivalry with team captain Wasim Akram, Waqar said if Wasim had any grudge against him “the best place to settle that is inside a room and not the ground.’ The fast bowling great was also unhappy with the way he was under bowled in the Hobart Test against Australia in 1999. I fully respect Wasim Akram but the way he treated me during the Hobart Test was some of the reasons due to which Pakistan lost the match.”
About the process of team selection in Australia, Waqar Younis said it was a one-man show as “Wasim Akram completely dominates the selection of the team which is an injustice.” About the performance of the team, Waqar said “at present, there is no combination in the team and each player is concentrating on his own performance.
Waqar also sympathized with Aamer Sohail who he said was also being treated badly in spite of his brilliant performances in the domestic season. He questioned the value of the domestic season if players could not be picked for the national team despite performing outstandingly. About Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar said it was due to inexperience that the young fast bowler was not taking enough wickets. “After sometime, he will prove his mettle,” he said.
Wasim Akram was quick to hit back at the allegations Waqar Younis leveled at him. He denied having mistreated his fellow fast bowler and said he was not dominating all selection affairs. The Pakistan captain made it clear he had no personal ‘ grudge against Waqar. “The question of whether an injustice has been done to him or he is being mistreated by me can only be judged at looking at his performance in Test matches and One-day Internationals during the last one year,” he said.
Wasim Akram stated that instead of complaining Waqar should be grateful that despite poor performances, he (Wasim) had given him chances in the team. “As far as the Hobart Test is concerned, where Waqar believes we lost because I under-bowled him, decisions were taken in team-interest and everyone felt Saqlain Mushtaq should shoulder the main burden of the bowling with myself and Azhar Mahmood performing the role of stock bowlers.”
Wasim said that Waqar should ask himself if he deserved to be selected above Shoaib, Azhar, or Abdur Razzaq for the triangular series in Australia keeping in mind his performance in recent one-day games. “And I don’t run a one-man show in the team or in selection matters. I always consult the senior players and this can be verified from them.
But the captain is solely responsible for all team decisions.” By addressing the press conference and airing his grievances against the PCB and Wasim Akram, Waqar had violated the players’ code of conduct. The contract signed by the players with the Board before leaving for Australia (in late October 1999) forbade them to speak to the press on any subject until six months after the completion of the tour.
They can, however, only speak to the press after getting special permission from the Board or the team manager. The contract also covered the Carlton & United Series now being played in Australia. The team captain has a special status though regarding this embargo, as he is permitted to speak to the press in consultation with the team management and the Board. When proceedings against Waqar seemed to be under preparation, a bizarre string of events changed the entire scenario.
Shoaib Akhtar was withdrawn from the playing squad, although he had already traveled to Australia with the team, as the International Cricket Council (ICC) panel of illegal bowling actions had clamped a month-long ban on him saying that his action was not entirely legal. As an aftermath of this development, Waqar saw himself filling in the vacant position.
Waqar Younis had apparently asked for forgiveness for his press conference, and that’s how he returned to the mainstream. On the eve of the triangular series in Australia some good news that Shoaib Akhtar had been allowed to play in that one-day series pending a final verdict. Waqar was not excluded from the line-up. In fact, both fast bowlers have been retained in the party and both had played in the first four matches for Pakistan, until the morning of January 21, 2000.
Waqar Younis seems to be a man possessed. At least that’s how the live television pictures make him be. He had only taken three wickets in his team’s four games, but he was giving his one hundred percent where his effort was concerned. From the first match in Brisbane against Australia, he had shown that he meant business. After Pakistan had crashed to 60-6, wicket-keeper Moin Khan with 33 and skipper Wasim with an innings of 35 had performed the rescue act taking the score to 127-8.
At this juncture, Waqar joined Saqlain Mushtaq and the two added an undefeated 57 runs for the ninth-wicket stand which took Pakistan to an adequate-looking 184-8. Saqlain hit a career-best 37 not out; Waqar remained unbeaten with 23. In Australia’s innings, Waqar had bowling figures of 8-2-25-2 though he was overshadowed by Razzaq (4-23) and Shoaib (3-31). But he had earned the scalps of Mark Waugh and Shane Warne.
Australia was dismissed for 139 in 39 overs and lost by 45 runs. In the next match against India, Waqar (13 not out) made the winning run as Pakistan achieved a thrilling two-wicket win on the last possible ball of the game. His ninth-wicket stand (again unbroken) with Saqlain (27 not out) was this time worth 43 runs.
Earlier, he had started India’s slide when he had Venkat Laxman caught by Shahid Afridi. At Sydney on January 19, after achieving bowling figures of 7-0-32-0, Waqar excelled again in a batting role. At number 10, he scored a one-day career-best of 37 (which he actually equaled) but couldn’t save Pakistan from an 81-run defeat. By the end of the match, he was leading Pakistan’s batting averages in the C&U Series, with 81 runs in four innings that included two not outs.