Hall of Fame: Waqar Younis — the toe-crusher

Published: April 9, 2014
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Despite over 400 ODI wickets and a reputation of being the most lethal Test bowler of all time, there are many who believe that Waqar failed to fulfil all of his precocious promises. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Despite over 400 ODI wickets and a reputation of being the most lethal Test bowler of all time, there are many who believe that Waqar failed to fulfil all of his precocious promises. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Perhaps Waqar Younis’s greatest performance came when he was written off — past his prime, plagued by back problems and no longer possessing the searing pace that made him so lethal in his heyday.

In a crunch match of the rain-hit 2001 Natwest tri-series featuring Pakistan, England and Australia, Waqar – captain of the side – had added responsibility on his shoulder as Waseem Akram was out injured.

Bowling the first ball of the match to Marcus Trescothick, one of England’s finest opening batsmen, Waqar marked his run-up — almost half of what it was in the 90s. His run-up lacked the aggression that once characterised him, but the arrogant swagger was still there. His pace, once dangerously close to the 150 km/h mark, sometimes even crossing it, now hovered around 135 km/h. Trescothick was not facing the beast that haunted many a batsman back in the day, he was facing its mere shadow.

The first ball, slower than 130 km/h, was a late swinging yorker, Waqar’s biggest weapon — once famously flooring Brian Lara. It was too good for Trescothick, the bat came down too late, the ball shattered the middle stump and Waqar, with just one swing of his slinging right arm, rolled back the years, bringing back images of an almost forgotten hero.

The wicket on the first ball was not where it ended though; the carnage, was just beginning. Nick Knight, Michael Vaughan, Owais Shah, Paul Collingwood, Alec Stewart and Dominic Cork all fell one after the other. In a remarkable 10-over long spell, Waqar claimed seven. Had England captain Alec Stewart not managed to negotiate him and briefly hold up one end, before ultimately perishing, Waqar may have had 10.

The English batsmen were completely at sea, every ball looked like it could deliver a wicket and balls which barely touched 130 km/h, seemed like 160 km/h to the hosts. That day, Waqar proved that while pace had traditionally been one of his greatest weapons, he was still one of the most dangerous bowlers in the world without it.

Waqar’s numbers, in terms of wicket-taking prowess, speak for themselves. Of bowlers with more than 200 wickets, he has the second-best strike rate in Tests (behind only Dale Steyn) and also the third-best in ODIs (behind Brett Lee and Saqlain Mushtaq), making him one of the most lethal bowlers in cricketing history.

Bursting onto the international scene in 1989, Waqar was one of the pioneers of bowling full and straight. With a penchant for swinging the ball ridiculously late, blessed with searing pace and the most dangerous yorker in cricket, the sight of Waqar reeling away in jubilation as the stumps went cart-wheeling was one that defined Pakistani cricket in the 90s.

Often seen furiously rubbing the ball on his trousers to shine one side, Waqar revolutionised the sport by revolutionising reverse swing, and hence was born perhaps the most deadly ball known in cricket — the reverse-swinging yorker.

While Waqar was often expensive, especially in contrast to the much more economical Akram, he was often Pakistan’s most reliable source of wickets. Usually bowling a six-over spell in the 15-over field restrictions and a four-over spell at the death, Waqar relished the challenge of facing batsmen that were looking to score runs against him. With a you-miss-I-hit philosophy and a reverse-swinging old ball, it was Waqar who, more often than not, came out on top in those duels. However, what made him all the more dangerous was his happy knack of taking wickets in chunks, and therefore turning entire matches on their heads. In ODIs, he has 13 five-wicket hauls to his name — Muttiah Muralitharan, who played nearly a 100 more ODIs than Waqar, is the only other player who has even reached double figures, with 10 five-wicket hauls. In only 262 matches, Waqar claimed four or more wickets on 27 occasions, yet another record.

Despite over 400 ODI wickets and a reputation of being the most lethal Test bowler of all time, there are many who believe that Waqar failed to fulfil all of his precocious promises.

Waqar was not always able to channel his aggression positively and often found himself in the midst of pavilion politics. At loggerheads with Akram for most of his career, they were a devastating duo on the pitch. However, off it, the two were at times barely on speaking terms.

As cricket becomes more and more batsman friendly and dead pitches become the norm, there is a chance that a bowler like Waqar may never be seen again — a terrible loss for the sport.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany
    Apr 9, 2014 - 12:49AM

    WOW! What a great bowler he was.

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  • Fawad
    Apr 9, 2014 - 1:38AM

    No doubt Waqar, Wasim and Shoaib world’s most dangerous fastpacers of all time.

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  • Muhammad Atif
    Apr 9, 2014 - 2:27AM

    when in full swing Waqar was more exciting then Wasim. Both were greatest bowlers of my lifetime.

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  • Irtiza
    Apr 9, 2014 - 9:27AM

    Great bowler, I remember watching him play against Australia at National Stadium, Karachi, and he was lethal at that time. Even as a coach, he was instrumental in polishing Umar Gul’s skills who has now turned into a run machine.

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  • AamPaki
    Apr 9, 2014 - 9:37AM

    WW, the best bowling combination in cricket history, enough said!

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  • daniyal
    Apr 9, 2014 - 10:25AM

    ” the toe crusher ” I like it . I remember another stance when he blow ” Head or Toe ” .

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  • Zeeshan Ali
    Apr 9, 2014 - 10:32AM

    Waqar Younis was one of the greatest all-time bowler. The amount of pace and reverse swing generated by him with the old ball was simply fantastic and no other bowler has managed such a reputation. The toughness has also brought out in him a very good coach. I hope he should be restated as Head Coach of Pakistan Team.

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  • baig
    Apr 9, 2014 - 12:18PM

    yes he is indeed a legendary cricket and whatever i write couldn’t match the status of this man as a fast bowler

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  • Adnan Siddiqi
    Apr 9, 2014 - 1:57PM

    Unarguably one of the very best to have graced a cricket field, ever! Just watch the videos of 1992 Pakistan’s tour to England and even a novice would realize as to how devastating Waqar Younis was in unison with Wasim.

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  • riz
    Apr 9, 2014 - 2:07PM

    The all time great 2 W’s (Waseem and Waqar), of which Waqar was the deadliest. Love the time when he was in his prime time in 90s.

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  • Adnan Siddiqi
    Apr 9, 2014 - 2:14PM

    Ironic that such meritorious and great traditions of fast and swing bowling is followed by trundling and poor excuse of fast bowlers like Umar Gul, Junaid Khan and Sohail Tanvir.

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  • True Karachiwala
    Apr 9, 2014 - 2:48PM

    After Waqar and Waseem’s exit, world has never seen genuine fast bowlers.

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  • Lalit
    Apr 9, 2014 - 3:01PM

    one of the greatest artistes of the skill that is balling….master of death overs.a sight of whom was enough to sink the hearts of opponent fans.in unison with other legend Akram he was truly a world beater.Pakistan has an uncanny knack for producing unusually high number of raw talent,which more often than not ends up as underachievers,all due to a lack of mature attitude and proper grooming.Mohammad Aamir,Salman Butt,Mohammad Asif and even Shoib Akhtar went down the drain only because they couldn’t handle the easy fame unlike those Icons of yesteryears.

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  • A Pakistani
    Apr 9, 2014 - 3:25PM

    Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram, man those were the days. These bowlers wreaked havoc over other team’s batsmen. I still remember how i really enjoyed Wasim, Waqar and Shoaib Akhter’s bowling.

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  • PML N
    Apr 9, 2014 - 4:09PM

    A tribute to the our new fall-of-fame entrant. The great Sir Waqar Younis.

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  • Fahad Yousuf
    Apr 9, 2014 - 4:09PM

    That golden age of fast bowling is ended now. We haven’t seen flying stumps from a long time. The likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Alan Donald, Glann McGrath, Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshal can be seen in that era. After that, the only genuine fast bowlers are Brett Lee, Shane Bond and Dale Steyn but not that much lethal.

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  • riz
    Apr 9, 2014 - 5:24PM

    The best bowler Pak have ever produced. The great Wiki

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  • Gurion
    Apr 9, 2014 - 5:28PM

    @Adnan Siddiqi:

    Ironic that such meritorious and great
    traditions of fast and swing bowling
    is followed by trundling and poor
    excuse of fast bowlers like Umar Gul,
    Junaid Khan and Sohail Tanvir.

    Curiously, the downfall of Pak pace bowling coincided with the abundance of cameras in the cricket ground.

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  • IndianFan
    Apr 9, 2014 - 5:28PM

    Waqar was even more deadly than Wasim but he couldn’t take more wickets than Wasim. So i would say Waqar is the best Pakistani bowler. Just because Wasim played more ODIs, he got more wickets than Waqar but Wiki undoubtedly is the best of the world.

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  • Aslam Butt
    Apr 9, 2014 - 5:52PM

    He was also the victim of infighting and professional jealousy by Akram. Who used him in way to dry up his wickets. Had the players of the 90s were honest and sincere Pakistan would have dominated the decade like Australia did in 2000s

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  • MJ
    Apr 9, 2014 - 11:40PM

    @Gurion … and when BCCI fully starts complying with the World Anti Doping Agency ( WADA) there is a chance that Indian batting dominance and newly found pace bowlers will suffer as well.

    BCCI has kept the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) completely out of the picture, but the samples will be tested at the National Dope-Testing Laboratory (NDTL) in the Capital.
    The BCCI has not given NADA the authority to conduct dope testing, which itself is against the WADA code.
    Article 5.1 of the WADA code says: “Subject to the jurisdictional limitations for in-competition testing in article 15.1, each National Anti-Doping Organisation shall have testing jurisdiction over all athletes who are present in that National Anti-Doping Organisation’s country or who are nationals, residents, license-holders or members of sport organisations of that country.”

    When Shoaib Akhter was rightly banned for using steroids, BCCI was not letting their cricketers to be tested at all.

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  • Muhammad Atif
    Apr 10, 2014 - 12:31AM

    @Gurion

    yes, shoaib, shane and brett were all spin bowlers of modern day cricket. off-course wasim also retired in 90’s.

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  • Jehangir Jawaid
    Apr 10, 2014 - 9:19AM

    @True Karachiwala:

    Amir was also a Genuine fast/Swing Bowler bowler. He also got all the varieties to become the greatest fast bowler which Pakistan ever produced. Asif was also genuine swing bowler both got the tremendous record in all formats of the game in their short career but unfortunately both become the victim of Spot fixing. now you got the Irfan.

    Paksitan has the history of producing greatest fast bowlers but i completely disagree after WW exit pakistan never produced good fast bowlers.

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  • Apr 10, 2014 - 10:52AM

    So happy to read about my most favorite bowler. And yes I remember that match against England. 7 wickets and all of the best batsmen of the side (excluding Cork).
    Long live Waqar younis. Stay blessed.

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  • Apr 10, 2014 - 11:07AM

    @Adnan Siddiqi:
    Please don’t insult fast bowling by listing Sohail Tanvir among fast bowlers :P

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  • Apr 10, 2014 - 11:11AM

    @Gurion:
    LOL- Strange comment.
    Waqar, Wasim, and Shoib did not bowl in stone age :D There were cameras.
    Don’t be jealous. Just appreciate whoever is good.

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  • Gurion
    Apr 10, 2014 - 3:45PM

    @MJ:
    @Muhammad Atif:
    @Ali:
    I pretty much repeated the words of the former captain of Pakistani cricket team, Aamer Sohail.
    Sorry to burst your bubble!

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  • Irtiza
    Apr 10, 2014 - 4:08PM

    @Gurion:
    You should have the guts to accept the skills rather than looking for excuses. Waqar was a great cricketer (not saying Pakistani cricketer) and his replacement is hard to find, accept it my friend.

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