The master of reverse swing

Written by: Sajith Balakrishnan
Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2004, 18:36 [IST]
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Batsmen around the world can heave a sigh of relief as they need not face his toe-crushing yorkers again. Waqar Younis' decision to hang his boots didn't get the attention that it merited. Just like the way his debut was overshadowed by the presence of teenage batting prodigy Sachin Tendulkar, Waqar Younis' retirement was totally overshadowed as the Prince of Trinidad went on a record-breaking spree at the St. John's in Antigua.

At a time when reams of space (both in print and electronic) in media has been allotted to the brilliance of Brian Charles Lara, let us go down the memory lane to the life of this man from Karachi who gave a new dimension to the art of bowling with the old ball. The Burewala Bomber was as destructive with the old cherry as with the new ball.

Plunging in to the international stage as a tearaway fast bowler with raw pace and aggression, Waqar had to cut down on his pace owing to successive bouts of injuries, one of which robbed him of an opportunity to be part of a successful World Cup campaign in '92. However, the fighter in him came to the fore as he bounced back, cutting down on his pace and instead concentrating on length and line.

It is said that fast bowlers hunt and 'haunt' in pairs. Along with fellow paceman Wasim Akram, Waqar ruined the reputation of many a batsman. The two 'W's went on to become one of the deadliest combinations in early '90s. The England tour that followed their World Cup triumph was one of the highlights in their career. They sent shivers down the batsmen' spine with their nagging length and line and with their ability to swing the old ball. However, the Englishmen, true to their nature of looking for excuses instead of reasons, cried foul in the name of 'ball tampering', the ghosts of which continued to haunt them throughout their career.

Just like India is gifted with an array of strokemakers, Pakistan has always been blessed with a plethora of fast bowlers who are known to make life miserable for the batters. Waqar belongs to that elite club. The art and science of swing and swerve of the red cherry owes a lot to him. Also, he was no rabbit with the bat as his lusty blows at the end has been quite useful for the team. Unlike some of his illustrious predecessors, he had fruitful stints in the English counties too.

Since captaincy in Pakistan is a game of musical chairs, it wasn't a surprise when the mantle fell on him, that too at a young age. He did his best to rally the ageing warhorses as well as the budding talents under a single umbrella. However, he soon realized that it was too hot a seat to handle after two stints that was of mixed fortune for him. His first ascendancy to the throne itself was under dubious circumstances as he allegedly engineered a coup to unseat his swing partner Wasim Akram.

His second stint saw him being unceremoniously dumped from the team after its exit from the first round of the Quadrennial event in South Africa. He didn't call it a day at that time as he still nurtured hopes of a comeback, but ultimately couldn't delay the inevitable.

Cricket can never forget Waqar, and vice-versa. He may end up taking a coaching job, or maybe even a stint in the commentator's box as you can't keep him out of action for long. Youngsters can look up to him for inspiration. The fact that India's new pace hope Laxmipathy Balaji had a session with him proves that.

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