Toe-crushing, Pakistan skipper Waqar seeks Cup of Joy

Published: Monday, February 3, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Karachi: Pakistan skipper and ace fast bowler Waqar Younis craves for a "cup full of joy" in South Africa after having had nightmarish experiences in previous World Cups. "I have never had a good World Cup and that's why I seek a cup full of joy, for my team and for myself so that I can savour it when I retire from cricket," said Waqar, apparently playing his last World Cup. The 31-year-old, known as 'Burewala Bombshell' for his skill to produce wicket- taking deliveries on any surface, is the second-highest wicket-taker with 409 in 256 One-dayers.

Only compatriot Wasim Akram is ahead of him with 490 scalps in 350 matches, but Waqar has rarely tasted success in his previous three appearances in the biggest One- day event. He was considered Pakistan's main weapon in the 1992 World Cup in Australia, but returned home in tears without playing a match due to injury. "Not being able to play the 1992 World Cup was the biggest disappointment of my career. It was like the end of the world," recalled Waqar, who was soon to gain international fame for his toe-crushing yorkers.

Ironically, Waqar's disappointment coincided with his nation's most memorable moment as an Imran Khan-inspired Pakistan whipped England in the final for its only World Cup triumph. The 1996 World Cup also was jinxed for one of the most talented Pakistani pacemen as Waqar conceded 22 runs in his penultimate over to free-stroking Indian batsman Ajay Jadeja. Waqar's expensive over proved crucial as Pakistan went on to lose the tense quarter- final to its arch-rivals by 39 runs at Bangalore. "That was one of those days when I couldn't control the aggression, but we could still have won the game had the batsmen capitalised on a good start," recalled Waqar.

His Cup of woes was full in the next edition in England when Waqar played just one match, which eventually put him in deep trouble. "Again, it was horrible. I could play only one match, against Bangladesh, in 1999 and that too landed me in trouble," Waqar said, referring to the match-fixing probe that followed his team's shock defeat against the minnows. Waqar never gave up and came back strongly the following year to resurrect his career. Named captain in 2001, he proved he had not lost his skill to severely test the best batsmen. He grabbed 7 for 36 and 6 for 59 in a tri-series match in England the same year and then led his team to a stunning 2-1 victory in Australia last season.

Waqar, one of the three aces in the fearsome Pakistani pace attack along with Akram and Shoaib Akhtar, hopes he will be fourth time lucky despite his team's recent poor run against Australia and South Africa. "The recent results have been a cause of grave concern for us, but I am confident the boys will forget everything and focus on the goal - winning the Cup," Waqar said.

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