We in India say that Pakistan has a factory which produces top quality fast bowlers. One of the best was undoubtedly the great Wasim Akram. What is remarkable about Wasim’s career is that he continuously evolved and sharpened his skills. The Wasim who retired in 2003 was nothing like the lanky bowler who debuted in 1984. He added various tricks in his armoury which made life hell for the batsmen facing him. His trait of hiding the ball in his right hand during his run up is something that many fast bowlers are copying to this day!
During his playing days Wasim was a great competitor. He got a total of 917 international wickets, which is mind boggling considering that he was diagnosed with diabetes at the peak of his career. The way he accepted the disease and worked around it to make himself one of the fittest players shows his maturity as an individual. After all, not many fast bowlers can boast of successfully and consistently playing for a career spanning 18 years.
It is said that his arch-rival on the field Sourav Ganguly had requested Wasim to become India’s bowling coach in the mid-2000s. Wasim is said to have refused the offer. This again shows his maturity and awareness of the political climate. Wasim could have gotten the biggest of pay cheques to guide the Indian fast bowlers who at that point in time needed a good mentor. He realised that it wouldn’t be appropriate to accept the job given the relations between the two countries. However, he made up for it in part by guiding Indian bowlers whenever he got the chance in an unofficial capacity taking time out from his commentary duties.
When the Kolkata Knight Riders looked for a Bowling Coach in 2010, they got Wasim on board and talented Indian pacers like Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami got to learn the tricks of the trade from the master himself. Wasim has always stated that he is open to training young fast bowlers whether they be from India, his own country of Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. It is sad that he is not being utilised well by the PCB. In Wasim, Pakistan has probably the best guide for their fast bowlers that they can ever find. It’s a pity that they don’t recognise that. Very few stalwarts of the game show an inclination to share their knowledge with others. Wasim is a rare genius who has both the eagerness and ability to guide youngsters, a quality which very few possess.
Wasim has millions of fans around the world, even in India and for good reason. Irrespective of his nationality, he has traits — both professional and personal — that command respect and deserve admiration. I can happily say that I am one of his countless admirers. Happy 54th Wasim! Wish you well!