KARACHI: Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis may have formed arguably the most deadly bowling partnership the world has ever seen but the similarities between the duo ended with their two monikers — the two W’s and the Sultans of Swing.
While both pacers employed pace and swing to devastating effect against the best in the world, the way they did it could not have been more different. Left-armer Wasim employed wit, guile and control to bamboozle the opponent, making the most elegant of batsmen look foolish and ungainly.
When the batsman has no way of knowing which way the ball will swing all he can do is make educated guesses. But there is only so long you can survive with educated guesses. In the end, Wasim got you. He always got you. It wasn’t a matter of if but of when.
Waqar, on the other hand, was a ferocious beast unleashed upon the realms of batsmen. He was the battering ram to Wasim’s wily fox. You knew what he was doing. You knew about the pace. You knew about the inswing. You knew about the yorker, that toe-crushing missile of a yorker. You knew it all.
It was just that there was no way to stop it. Waqar could walk up to any batsman in the world, look him straight in the eye and tell him the next ball was going to be an inswinging yorker and the batsman would still not be able to do anything.
So fruitless was any form of resistance that any hope the batsman had depended not on his own ability and technique but on the chance that Waqar wouldn’t get it right. Because if he did, and he more often than not did, you might as well start your long walk back to the pavilion before he even starts his run up.
Both bowlers were equally talented and mercurial, yet how they deployed those talents varied vastly. It is fitting then that the two champion Islamabad United sides were made in the image of these two men.
Wasim’s Islamabad, the one that won the first edition, had so many tricks up its sleeves that you never knew what would get you. It could be an unknown teenaged leg-spinner called Shadab Khan or a chubby left-handed opener named Sharjeel Khan. It could be the athleticism of Andre Russell. It could be the experience and know-how of Misbahul Haq and Shane Watson. It could be the pace of Muhammad Irfan, Muhammad Sami and Rumman Raees.
The opposition had no way of knowing and therefore had no way of defeat it. After all, how do you conquer something you cannot even understand? How do you dominate the unfathomable? And so they won the first edition; a team built in Wasim’s image.
Waqar’s Islamabad, the one that won the third edition, was more of a wrecking ball. You knew what it was going to do. There was just no way of stopping it.
A pattern developed somewhere in the second part of the group stages. Suddenly, ominously, everything just clicked into place. Luke Ronchi made the outrageous look embarrassingly easy, Hussain Talat and Asif Ali came of age, Faheem Ashraf kept taking wickets in the middle overs, even injuries to Rumman Raees and Misbahul Haq helped in a convoluted way by increasing the depth in the batting line-up.
One by one, teams were swept aside and Islamabad United surged up the league table. In their opening three games, Islamabad won one and lost two. Their next nine games resulted in eight wins; the only exception being the dead rubber against Karachi Kings in which they rested most of their main players.
Almost all of those wins were delivered in similar fashion. There was the blitz at the top of the innings by Luke Ronchi. There was the calming influence of the other opening partner. Hussain Talat guided the innings and Asif Ali launched it. The long batting line-up meant even the continuous loss of wickets didn’t necessarily curtail momentum. It was in the powerplay that they really got you; both with the bat and with the ball. Faheem Ashraf — arguably the weakest link in the bowling attack — finished as the tournament’s top wicket-taker because he was the only one the batsmen felt could be taken for runs.
The final was a Waqar Younis inswinging yorker. Peshawar Zalmi knew what was coming but still found it impossible to deal with. Barring a few overs of defiance in both innings, they had no answer for it.
In the end, like all the batsmen who faced Waqar in his prime, they found a raging storm brings even the mightiest of warriors to its knees.
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