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Waqar Younis: Who revolutionised fast bowling in modern era

Waqar Younis

Waqar Younis…  the master of the reverse swing © Getty Images

A great fast bowler at work often resembles a tiger on the prowl for his kill – studying his victims and setting traps to deceive them. For batsmen, survival is often the foremost thought. Great fast bowlers in history have often hunted in packs, which heightened the misery of the batsmen.

In the assembly line of great fast bowlers that Pakistan has produced, Waqar Younis has been a marvel – a man who revolutionised fast bowling in modern day cricket.

Waqar Younis, born on November 16, 1971, was Pakistan’s cricketing version of the nuclear weapon in the 1990s and early 2000s. His partnership with the legendary Wasim Akram was lethal. Waqar made his debut against India at Karachi on November 15, 1989 – a day short of his 18th birthday. It was a memorable occasion for cricket as Waqar walked into Test cricket alongside 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar. While their promise and talent was evident, little did anyone know the effect and the influence they would have on their respective sides in the years to come.

In his first innings in Test cricket, Waqar scalped four wickets – which included quality batsmen such as Mohammad Azharuddin and Sanjay Manjrekar. Tendulkar too was dismissed by Waqar in his very first innings in Test cricket. Waqar also hit the young Tendulkar on his face in the fourth Test at Karachi during a fiery spell at Sialkot.

As the years progressed, Waqar perfected the art of reverse swing and gave it shape. It added a new dimension to cricket as the fast-bowlers could trick their opponents even as the modern game tilted in favour of the batsmen. He would often target the base of the stump – deliveries that would swing late, leaving the batsmen with no time to adjust. With such deception, he could make the best in business look silly and awkward in the middle. The toe-crushers would present batsmen with only two options – either risk fracture of their foot, or let the ball hit the stumps. The dismissal of Brian Lara in the below video is a classic example:

Waqar boasts of a phenomenal record in Tests and One-Day Internationals (ODIs). Here are his numbers:

M

Wkts

Avg

SR

5WI

10WM

Innings Best

Match Best

Tests

87

373

23.56

43.4

22

5

7-76

13-135

ODIs

262

416

23.84

30.5

13

7-36

7-36

In all parameters, it is an outstanding record. The average and strike-rate in particular reflect his effectiveness and the ability to pick wickets. Irrespective of the format, he maintained an average around 23 – and the batsmen weren’t given much of an opportunity. The tally of match hauls is also impressive – a phenomenal 13 fivers in ODIs

An analysis of the way in which he dismissed his batsmen makes an even more interesting reading. He has a high percentage of bowled and leg-before victims, which shows the number of times he attacked the stumps.

Total

Bowled

LBW

Tests

373

102

110

ODIs

416

151

73

It is evident that the majority of his dismissals were in the said mode as he beat the batsmen with pace. Either they were too late to react or would get in line and fumble. These numbers truly tell the story of the kind of bowler he was. Instead of relying on the batsman to play a false stroke, he would take matters into his own hands and aim to shatter the stumps.

Wasim Akram (L) with Waqar Younis

Wasim Akram (left) who forged a lethal partnership with Waqar Younis (right) © Getty Images

Waqar’s career didn’t end the way one would have imagined. He was Pakistan’s captain during their disastrous campaign at the 2003 World Cup and lost that responsibility and his place immediately after the tournament. A year down the line he called it a day as a comeback looked a distant dream. He is now a respected figure in the commentary box where his pearls of wisdom on fast bowling is great education..

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)

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