Only days ago Waqar announced his retirement from international cricket and one of his few regrets is that he played just four Test matches against India. His failure against the archrivals in the World Cup semi-final atBangalore in 1996 is one of the lows of his career.
One of the greatest fast bowlers in the history of the game, Waqar took a Test wicket every 43.4 balls giving him the best strike rate amongst the top bowlers. In 87 Tests, he has a tally of 373 wickets and in 262 One-dayers he took 416, giving him a fabulous record in both versions of the game.
Looking back on his 15-year-long international career, the 32-year-oldWaqar said that he was in contention to play against India in the recent series but was not picked up by the selectors. But that did not hasten his decision to retire because "one should go when one is running in and not jogging".
"Bonding" is a word he repeatedly used to describe the Indian team that beat Pakistan recently. "Look at the incident of the declaration when Sachin Tendulkar was on 194. It would have been a huge issue in Pakistan or England. Sachin did not like it, but he came out saying please do not make an issue of it. This brings out the bonding between cricketers."
"The Indian dressing room was excellent. You win matches from the dressing room. The way you behave in the dressing room is the way you play out in the middle," said Waqar.
The Indian batting, he acknowledged, is definitely a top line-up because even Yuvraj Singh who is "as dangerous as others" has to work hard to get into the team. "India's top six are all capable of making big runs, not 105 or 110 but 280 or 300. India has the batting that can always put 600 runs onthe board."
Of Dravid, Waqar said that he is one of the few batsmen in the world who are technically very correct. "His feet movement, his body, his elbow are all text book. He is a top player but I will not call him great at the moment," he said.
"I would rather bowl to Virender Sehwag than to Dravid because Dravid is a teaser. He just milks you. If Sehwag and Dravid go into a bad patch, there are more chances of Dravid coming back because he is technically more sound," said the former Pakistani captain.
Even Tendulkar gives the bowler a little more chance. "If I continuously bowl four or five good balls to him I will probably create a chance but Dravid has such a good temperament also. He does not mind even if you bowl 20 balls in a good area. He will still block you," he said.
As for the Pakistani team, Waqar said its bowling against India was a "big let down" and he had no idea why there was no sting in it. Shoaib Akthar, Mohammed Sami and Shabbir Ahmed all have great potential but seemed like going through motions, probably because of pressure of playingagainst India.
"There have got to be some problems with our bowlers now. We have to put our brain behind the bowling. I think they are not putting their brain behind bowling. They are not really thinking what they are doing," he said.
Waqar said that the Pakistani bowlers bowled well in patches but were not consistent enough nor did they bowl well in tandem. "If you have to swing, you have to release the ball with timing just as the batsmen has to time his shot. (Umar) Gul swung it so nicely in Lahore because his wrist position and action were just going right for him. I would say the same for Balaji and Irfan. You see the seam coming off their hands".
Did he think that Shoaib has an attitudinal problem?
"I do not really know. It will be very harsh of me to say anything like this because he is my team fellow. But definitely, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should look into it. There is something wrong but I cannot say what," he replied.
Waqar said the recent Indo-Pak series had created a lot of friendship that was really required. "The bonding was very important. Both the teams behaved really well on the field and the crowd behaviour was just excellent. Pakistan and Indian cricket is much better than the Ashes or any series inthe world."
"During this series cricket intensity from the Pakistani side was missing which was not good for the game. They were not the Pakistani side that I knew. They did not have aggression. They murdered New Zealand and South Africa but it is probably tension when you play against India," he said.
Speaking of Pakistan's inexperienced batting line up, Waqar said that either Yousuf Youhana or skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq should have batted at No. 3 to give the youngsters a little protection.
When reminded that Pakistani cricket had always been plagued by infighting, Waqar said, "not all the time. At odd times, we used to have problems. When you live together more than you live with your family you are bound to fight, you are bound to have arguments."
About differences with another Pakistani great Wasim Akram with whom he formed a formidable bowling combination, Waqar said, "we never took to the field any differences. Even if there were differences these were healthy."
Analysing Indian players, Waqar said that Sehwag had a great eye and that is why he picked up balls from even Shoaib bowling at 100 miles per hour and hit them over extra covers without even moving his feet. He should not change his game but has to improve his defence failing which the bowlers will "sort him out".
About Irfan Pathan and L Balaji, two of India's bowling finds in the just-concluded series, he said they were very good bowlers who wanted to learn. "They are nice guys also and I have spoken to them. But please do not overdo them. Indians have made such mistakes in the past. When Ajit Agarkar had done 20 matches everyone in India thought another Kapil Devhad arrived. Kapil Dev comes once in a century."
Both Pathan and Balaji were putting their heart and soul in their bowling. "They are bowlers who bowl with their hearts and deserve their success."
He candidly admitted that he was not made for World Cup cricket. He had missed the 1992 Cup because of back injury, had not done well in the 1996 Cup semi-final against India in the semi-final, had played only one game against Bangladesh in the 1999 cup which Pakistan had lost and had not done well against India in the 2003 Cup in South Africa.
Recalling the 2003 match against India, Waqar said that his team's 270-plus should have been pretty good for a pressure game but Tendulkar won it for India in the first 10 overs.
Asked about the pressure on players during India-Pakistan matches, Waqar said that there is always tension in international cricket and sometimes one cannot sleep at night. "But with India there is a little bit extra pressure because the nation is expecting a lot from you."
Looking back on the changes in the game, the former Pakistani great said that One-day cricket had changed everything and Test cricket was now being played like the shorter version. "The wickets have gone flatter and they arenot friendly to bowlers."
He favoured certain standards for pitches as well as for umpires. "They should have younger people as umpires and their age limit should be 50," he said.
Asked if he would accept the job of Pakistan's bowling coach, Waqar said nobody had spoken to him from the PCB in this regard. "If they ask me to do this job they will have to accept my terms and conditions. I do not want to hear two months later or six months later that I have been sacked. But I will definitely think about it as I would like to give something back to cricket, may be as a coach."