The sporting world is often full of fleeting legends, often based on singularly fantastic feats in an important game or seemingly magical mastery during a given tournament. However, truly remarkable players are far rarer but are clearly identifiable by their ability to repeatedly perform and prove their unique abilities.
In the Cricketing world, Wasim Akram was one of those rare talents. Born in 1966 in Lahore, Pakistan, Akram’s big break came in the 1980’s when after taking part in trials at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore his talent was recognized by one of the senior Pakistan player, Javed Miandad.
Miandad’s recommendation ensured Akram’s future as he went from spectator to being a member of the national team. Whilst Akram has openly admitted that he did not even know how to swing a ball when he first started playing professionally, he clearly learned his craft quickly.
Under the tutelage of great players such as Imran Kahn, then Pakistan’s top fast bowler, Akram developed his style and skills at a phenomenal pace earning him a revered reputation across the cricketing world.
Playing his first International game was made at the tender age of 18 in 1984 against New Zealand on his home turf. His first Test was also against New Zealand, though this time in taking place in Auckland.
In both these games his performance was outstanding and throughout the remainder of the 1980’s, he was a regular member of the national team. He had rewarded the faith that Miandad and Kahn had invested in him and proved his worth as a top-class player.
Dramas & Controversy
Toward the end of the decade, Akram suffered injuries to his groin that saw him pull out of competition for some significant time. Following a number of successful surgeries, he was able to return to the field as a swing bowler. His new focus on swing bowling earned him a crucial role in Pakistan’s success at the 1992 World Cup.
It was at this time that Akram and his teammate Wagar Younis were accused of ball tampering by the English Media. Whilst nothing was proved, it is likely that a large reason for the air of suspicion was their spectacular use of reverse swing in their attack. This type of swing bowling technique was relatively unknown in England at the time and managed to produce a prodigious amount of movement from the ball.
Dedication to mastering the art of swing bowling led to Akram being the bowler that batsmen dreaded. His ability to surmount defences through his deft control of the ball through the air and off the pitch troubled batsmen for years.
However, the controversy of alleged ball tampering was followed a few years later by the more grave accusations of match-fixing.
The first indication that something was amiss surface following Pakistan’s unexpected and arguably unwarranted loss against Australia in 1994. This was performance was repeated in the Pakistan-New Zealand game in Christchurch in the same year. The evidence was sufficient for the Judge to ban Akram from captaining the Pakistan side again.
Retirement from the Game
Akram announced his retirement from the ODIs in 2003. He was 35 and had already quit Test cricket a year earlier. He was a regular and key figure on the English domestic circuit playing first for Lancashire and later for Hampshire.
Subsequently, Akram moved into the commentating business offering his insight on players and teams becoming a regular voice on many television and radio shows.
For a number of years, he has led the Kolkata Knight Riders to victory in the Indian Premier league in both 2012 and 2014 showing that his love for the game and keen attention to skill development have not lost their edge.
Despite the controversies, Akram’s performance over his career has firmly established him as perhaps the best swing bowler of all time, and will long be remembered for his far greater number of highs rather than his unfortunate lows.