Akram is set to celebrate 100 Tests

Published: Tuesday, November 28, 2000, 23:53 [IST]
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Lahore: The scene is a news conference at The Oval cricket ground in London after a World Cup match last year.

Pakistan have just beaten Zimbabwe to reach the semi-finals and their captain Wasim Akram is fielding questions about his team selection and strategy.

''I have been getting calls from all over Pakistan, saying do this or do that, why are you playing this player or why are you not playing him, and I have to answer every one,'' Wasim tells the reporters.

Asked if the calls were from members of the public, he replies, ''No, the higher authorities...''

It was a telling insight into the demands on the Pakistan national cricket captain, a role Akram has filled on several occasions during a compelling career that reaches a significant landmark with his 100th Test on Wednesday.

Akram joins 22 other players, and becomes the third from Pakistan after Javed Miandad (124) and Salim Malik (103), to reach that milestone when the second Test against England starts in Faisalabad.

''When I started my career, let alone thinking of 100 Tests, I never thought I would play half of those,'' Akram, who is the only bowler with more than 400 wickets at both Test and One-day International, said.

He was taken to New Zealand for his first tour on the insistence of the then captain Javed Miandad, who had spotted his talent in the nets. In only his second test, at Dunedin in early 1985, Wasim burst into the spotlight with a match haul of 10 wickets.

He toured England under Imran Khan for the first time in 1987 and was immediately signed by Lancashire, marking the start of an association that lasted until 1999 and included a spell as the county's captain.

Akram honed his skills on the county circuit, developing into a left-arm fast bowler with the ability to move the ball both ways. From a short run up, he could generate high pace at the peak of his powers which, allied to a swinging yorker and a lethal bouncer, made him a formidable prospect.

Akram was at his outstanding best in 1992. At the World Cup final against England in Melbourne, he blasted 33 off 18 balls as Pakistan made 249 for six and then fired out Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis in a key second spell to help his country lift the trophy.

When Pakistan toured England, Akram and Waqar Younis grabbed 13 wickets in the Lord's Test and also showed their prowess with the bat when England threatened to snatch victory against all the odds.

Tottering at 98 for eight in pursuit of a target of 138, Akram and Waqar put on 43 for the ninth wicket to secure victory in a tense climax.

Akram toured as Test captain for the first time in the West Indies in 1993. However, his brand of captaincy resulted in a rebellion by 10 of his team mates, which subsequently forced him to step down.

He did not withdraw from the team and went to New Zealand in 1993-94 as a player. He shared 15 wickets with Waqar as Pakistan won the Auckland Test and in the Wellington Test he had match figures of 11 for 179, including a career-best 7-119.

At the end of the series, Akram had shared 43 wickets with Waqar, despite not being on speaking terms with his partner who had led the rebellion against him.

Akram was fined and censured following a Pakistan report into match-fixing earlier this year, but has always denied allegations of this nature, and remained willing to play for his country.

In 99 Tests he has taken 408 wickets at an average of 23.02 and scored 2,810 runs at an average of 22.66. His best Test score is an unbeaten 257 against Zimbabwe at Sheikhupura in the 1996-97 series, sharing a world Test record stand for the eighth wicket of 313 with Saqlain Mushtaq.

In 311 One-day games, Akram has a tally of 432 wickets at an average of 23.81 and has scored 3,256 runs at an average of 16.19 with 86 his highest.

Akram is set to celebrate 100 Tests

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