As the first ever bowler to capture more than 400 wickets, Wasim Akram is one of the greatest bowlers of all time. With 502 players falling prey to his skills, he is the highest ODI wicket taker. Akram has played a key role in Pakistan’s development over the last 15 years, encouraging its status as a formidable cricketing nation.
Wasim Akram was born on the 3rd of June 1966, in the Pakistani town of Lahore. At club level, Akram remained relatively unknown. However, at the special recommendation of Javed Miandad, he was included in the Pakistani national squad. He managed to bypass selection as a result of his outstanding performances. He soon made his international debut against New Zealand in January 1985, teaming up with another legendary fast bowler, Imran Khan. He lived up to the hype in his second test match appearance, by claiming the first of his five career 10-wicket hauls.
In the early stages of his career, he was regarded as a fast bowler, able to bowl with incredible speed and accuracy. After sustaining a groin injury which required surgery in the late 1980s, he made his comeback as a swing bowler in the 1990s. Between 1988 and 1998, Akram enjoyed a large amount of success at domestic level, whilst playing for Lancashire.
World Cup and career highlights
The crowning moment in Akram’s career was probably his performance at the 1992 cricket World Cup in Australia. In the final against England, he contributed with both bat and ball. His quickfire 33 off 19 deliveries, and a bowling spell in which he captured 3 wickets, including the crucial dismissal of Ian Botham, Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis, (the latter two being dismissed by 2 fabulous deliveries by Akram) ensured Pakistan’s very first World Cup victory. Akram was rewarded for his efforts with the Man of the Match award.
The following year, Akram had his first stint as captain of the national side, when Pakistan took on the West Indies; Pakistan went on to lose the match. Following the sacking of Salim Malik (the Pakistan captain at the time), due to his involvement in a betting scandal, Akram was re-instated as captain just before the 1996 World Cup. He led the side to the quarter-final stage, in which Pakistan lost to arch rivals India. Much controversy surrounded the match as Akram did not participate in it; this later led to a government inquiry. That same year, however, Akram captained his side to a successful 3-0 whitewash of the Windies. Another significant achievement of his captaincy, was Pakistan’s tour of Australia in 1996-1997, where Akram’s side defeated the West Indies in the final of the Carlton Series Cup.
In 1999, he successfully led his team to the World Cup finals. Pitted against Australia, the Pakistan team were dismissed for a measly 132 runs, which Australia comfortably chased in 20 overs with 8 wickets to spare. This led to accusations that Wasim Akram was involved in match fixing and that he was responsible for throwing away the match. He was later pardoned. At the following 2003 World Cup, Pakistan was unable to qualify for the ‘Super Six’ stage, which resulted in the sacking of Akram, even though he was Pakistan’s leading wicket taker of the tournament. He retired from international cricket soon after.
Wasim Akram was a left handed batsman and bowler. Being an adequate batsman, he was considered a bowling all-rounder. His trademark short run-up, and style of delivery, in which he covered the ball (so that he did not give away his grip to the batsman), enabled him to bowl speedy deliveries that were very accurate and quite deceptive in their pitch and swing. He also possessed a lethal yorker. It was said that he had the ability to bowl four different types of balls that pitched in the same area, such was the variety of deliveries he had at his disposal. In ODIs he was one of the most successful bowlers during the end stages of each match, where a bowler has to be very precise and quite economical. Akram would regulate the scoring so much so that it was near impossible to score any cheap runs. This made him a regular match winner. He also mastered the art of bowling with reverse swing, which made him very dangerous during the stages where the ball had accumulated a lot of wear. His swing bowling ability earned him the nickname ‘The Sultan of Swing’.
Many people are under the impression that Akram never lived up to his potential as a batsman. Although he possessed a stylish batting technique, he lacked patience, and would often prefer to slog the ball instead of using his technical ability. This may have been responsible for his record of having the 2 nd highest number of ducks in ODIs. He does, however, have the ability to play match winning innings, for instance his innings of 257 not out, against Zimbabwe in 1996. He is also famous for winning the Nehru Cup for Pakistan in 1989, where when he came in to bat, 6 runs were required off 2 deliveries and he scored a six.
Statistics and achievements
- ODIs - Akram has played 356 matches, in which he has claimed 502 wickets at an average of 23.52. Best figures 5/15
- Tests - Akram has played 104 matches, in which he has claimed 414 wickets at an average of 23.62. Best figures 7/119
- ODIs - 3717 runs in 356 matches averaging 16.52 with a top score of 86.
- Tests - 2898 runs in 104 matches averaging 22.64 with a top score of 257 not out.
- He is the first player to capture more than 400 wickets in both test and ODI cricket.
- He has a tally of 4 hat-tricks. Two of these were from test matches, making him one of only 3 players to do so. He is also one of only 2 players to have hat-tricks in the test and ODI forms.
- Akram is one of 3 people who have captured 4 wickets off of 5 deliveries. He achieved this during the West Indian tour of Lahore, Pakistan in 1990-1991.
- His score of 257 not out against Zimbabwe, is the highest by a number 8 batsman.
- He holds the record for most number of sixes (12) in a test match.
Life outside cricket
Since his retirement in 2003, Akram is involved in sports media and has been a regular cricket commentator. He has also been an advisor for various cricket boards. He is married to Huma Mufti, with whom he has had two children. Wasim Akram was diagnosed with diabetes in the middle of his career. Since then, he has been a regular campaigner for raising awareness about diabetes.