Wasim Akram (Punjabi, Urdu: وسیم اکرم; born 3 June 1966) is a former Pakistani left arm
fast bowler and left handed batsman in cricket, who represented the Pakistan national cricket team in
Test cricket and One Day International matches.
Akram’s career was brilliant
Wasim Akram was the first bowler in the world to take 500 wickets in ODI cricket. Even today, the name of former Pakistani captain comes second only to Muttiah Muralitharan (534) in terms of taking the most wickets in ODI cricket. Akram made his ODI debut against New Zealand in 1984. In 356 ODIs, he took a total of 502 wickets at an average of 23.52. During this he took 5 wickets in an innings 6 times. In 104 Test matches, Wasim holds the record for taking a total of 414 wickets at an average of 23.62.
Akram was a great bowler, he also batted equally well. He scored 3717 runs in ODI cricket. During this, 6 half-centuries were also seen with his bat. Akram has 2898 runs in his name in Test cricket. He scored 3 centuries and 7 half-centuries in this format. His best performance in Tests was an unbeaten 257 runs.
Akram is regarded as one of the best fast bowlers in cricket. He holds the world record for most wickets in
List A cricket with 881 and is second only to Sri Lankan off-spin bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan in terms
of One Day International wickets with 502. He is considered to be one of the founders and perhaps the
finest exponent of reverse swing bowling. The revolutionary nature of reverse swing initially
resulted in accusations of ball tampering by cricket critics, although the skill of the reverse swing delivery
has now been accepted as a legitimate features of ability in cricket. Akram’s later career was also tarnished with accusations of match fixing by critics, although these remain unproven.
On 30 September 2009, Akram was one of five new members inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.
Akram began his sporting career in Pakistan playing for several cricket clubs. However, l
ike several other Pakistani cricketers during the 1980s, his talent was identified at club level
and he was selected into the national side, completely bypassing any domestic First-class competition during that period.
In 1988 he signed for Lancashire County Cricket Club in England and went on to become their most successful overseas players. From 1988 to 1998, he opened their bowling attack in their ECB Trophy, Benson & Hedges Cup and National League tournaments. He was a favourite of the local British fans who used to sing a song called “Wasim for England” at Lancashire’s matches. In 1998, with Akram as captain, Lancashire won the ECB Trophy and Axa League and finished second in the championship tournament despite losing only five matches in all competitions throughout the season. Apart from the National League second division title in 2003, this was the last time Lancashire won a trophy.
Akram made his Test cricket debut for Pakistan against New Zealand in 1985 and in only his second Test match, he achieved 10 wickets in the match. A few weeks prior to his selection into the Pakistan team, he was an unknown club cricketer who had failed to even make it to his college team. He came to the trials at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in Pakistan, but for the first two days, he did not get a chance to bowl. On the third day he got the chance and the observers around him saw his potential and was discovered by Javed Miandad and Akram was given an opportunity to play for Pakistan. Later that season he opened the bowling attack with Imran Khan, who became his teacher at the World Championship of Cricket
In the 1987 Cricket World Cup, when Pakistan played against the West Indies, Akram bowled to Viv Richards in the late overs of the innings but Richards, who is regarded as the best batsman during that period, struggled against Akram’s bowling performance.
Akram’s rise in international cricket was rapid during the late 1980s. When Pakistan toured the West Indies in 1988,
he looked to be the fastest bowler between the two sides. However, a groin injury impeded his career in the late 1980s.
Following two surgeries, he re-emerged in the 1990s as a fast bowler who focused more on the swing and accurate bowling.
One Day International
Akram was a significant figure in the 1992 Cricket World Cup held in Australia when Pakistan won the tournament.
In the final against England, his batting performance during his innings of 33 runs off 19 balls, pushed Pakistan to a respectable score of 249 runs for 6 wickets. Akram then took the important wicket of Ian Botham early on in the English batting innings and when brought back into the bowling attack later on, with the ball reverse swinging, he produced a devastating spell of bowling which led to Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis being bowled in successive deliveries in one over. His excellent performances earned him the Man of the Match award for the final.
He also captained Pakistan with some success. The high points of his captaincy were the 1996-1997 victory in the World Series Cricket in Australia, two Test match wins in India in 1998-1999 and in 1999 when Pakistan reached the 1999 Cricket World Cup final. The low point was the 1996 Cricket World Cup in Pakistan and India when he had to pull out of the quarter-final match against India, citing injury. After Pakistan’s defeat, there were angry protests outside his home and riots across the country from angry fans who accused the team of throwing the match and a government inquiry was launched into the failure.
In 1999, he led Pakistan to the brink of victory in the World Cup before they capitulated and was defeated by Australia in the final, by eight wickets with almost 30 overs to spare. This was the start of the match-fixing controversies, as critics believed Akram had set up the match for Australia. However, none of the allegations could be proved.
He was Pakistan’s best bowler in the 2003 Cricket World Cup taking 19 wickets in 7 matches. However,
Pakistan failed to reach the “Super Six” phase of the tournament and Akram was one of the eight players
to be sacked by the Pakistan Cricket Board as a result.
Akram was diagnosed with diabetes at the peak of his career, but despite the initial psychological blow,
he managed to regain his form and went on to produce fine cricketing performances. Since then he has
actively sought to be involved in various awareness-raising campaigns for diabetes.
Akram retired from cricket in 2003 after playing for Hampshire County Cricket Club in England
Skills in Cricket
An immensely talented player first discovered by former Pakistan batsman and captain, Javed Miandad,
Akram played for his college team as an opening bowler and batsman. During his professional career he bowled with genuine speed and hostility. Akram possessed accurate control of line and length, accompanied by seam and swing bowling skills, who could bowl inswingers and outswingers in the cricket pitch.
With a very quick bowling action, he could bowl equally well from both sides of the wicket. His mastery of reverse swing with the cricket ball, meant he was at his most dangerous towards a bowling innings and earned him the nickname of the “Sultan of Swing”.
As well as often being able to find the edge of the bat, Akram would also focus his bowling attack on the stumps and had a particularly lethal inswinging yorker. Of his 414 Test wickets, 193 were taken caught, 119 were taken leg before wicket and 102 were bowled.
In partnership with Waqar Younis, he intimidated international batsmen in the 1990s. Together Wasim and Waqar, known as “the two Ws” of the Pakistani team, were one of the most successful bowling partnerships in cricket.
Akram was also skilled with the bat and was regarded as a bowling all-rounder. He was especially effective against spin bowlers. However,he liked to slog and was criticised for his lack of high scores and giving away his wicket too cheaply for a player of his talent. He did silence his critics and the media in October 1996 when he scored 257 runs not out, of the team’s total of 553 against Zimbabwe at Sheikhupura.
He also achieved good scores for the Pakistan team such as his 123 runs against Australia and his 45 runs not out to take Pakistan to victory in a low scoring match. He was also a valuable member to the Pakistan side, such as his match winning performance in the Nehru Cup,when needing six runs and two balls to win the match; he hit the first delivery he faced for six runs and secured the cup.
In 1992, after he had been successful against the English batsmen, accusations of ball tampering began to appear in the English media, though no video evidence of foul play was ever found. Akram and Younis had been able to obtain prodigious amounts of movement from both new and old cricket balls. The skill of the reverse swing delivery was relatively unknown in England and around the cricketing world during that period.
A far larger controversy was created when he was alleged by critics, of being involved in match fixing.
An enquiry commission was set up by the Pakistan Cricket Board headed by a Pakistan high court judge,
Malik Mohammad Qayyum. The judge wrote in his report that:
This commission feels that all is not well here and that Wasim Akram is not above board. He has not co-operated with this Commission. It is only by giving Wasim Akram the benefit of the doubt after Ata-ur-Rehman changed his testimony in suspicious circumstances that he has not been found guilty of match-fixing. He cannot be said to be above suspicion.