Wasim Akram was a nightmare for batsmen till the time he played the game for Pakistan  © Getty Images
Wasim Akram was a nightmare for the oppositon batsmen © Getty Images

The Pakistan cricket team has been struggling to find its feet in international cricket of late, with disastrous performances in the Asia Cup 2016 followed by ICC World T20 in India. They often rely on their pacers to provide the impetus. Mohammad Amer, who made a come back into the national team after serving a 5-year ban, has performed exceedingly well since then. However, except him, no one has been consistently taking the team over the line. This comes as a shock as Pakistan have been famous for producing quality seam and swing bowlers. In 1980 and 90s, Pakistan made mockery of many reputed batting line-ups. They had the likes of  Waqar Younis, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, among others in their bowling arsenal. Akram, especially, was an instrumental performer for his nation. On the eve of his 50th birthday, here is a look at some of the splendid spells of the ‘Sultan of Swing’: READ: Wasim Akram bowls Pakistan to victory with a magical hat-trick against West Indies at Sharjah

Wasim Akram’s 5 for 38 against West Indies: Akram’s first contribution as a bowler came when he took his first hat-trick, claiming scalps of Jeff Dujon, Malcolm Marshall and Courtney Walsh. He showcased his impeccable talent of bowling outswingers and inswingers, which left the WI’s players dumbstruck. Because of his efforts, Pakistan defeated West Indies in a thriller by 11 runs.

Akram’s second hat-trick against Australia in 1990: The ‘Sultan of Swing’ became a sensation in his early days due to his devastating spells and reverse-swinging abilities. He not only knew a lot of variations but used them to lethal effect to outplay the opponents. His second hat-trick in ODIs came against Australia in the Australia-Asia Cup final. He dismissed Merv Hughes, Carl Rackemann and Terry Alderman and helped Pakistan lift the trophy by virtue of a 36-run win.

Akram’s first Test hat-trick: The wait for his first Test hat-trick ended his 1999’against Sri Lanka when the pacer dismantled the Romesh Kaluwitharna’s defence and then dismissed Niroshan Bandaratilleke and Pramodya Wickramasinghe on consecutive deliveries in the Asian Test Championship. He knocked over as well as trapped the batsmen in front. He ended the match with 5 wickets to his name.

Second Test hat-trick in the same series: Akram became the first player to take two consecutive hat-tricks in back-to-back Test matches. In the second match of the Asian Championship, he wrecked havoc with the ball, especially in the second innings of the match. After already having taken a lead of 363, Pakistan enforced follow-on against Sri Lanka. In the second innings, the southpaw went all guns blazing as he sent back back Avishka Gunawardene, Chaminda Vaas, Mahela Jayawardene to the pavilion, as Pakistan went on to win the match by an innings and 175 runs.

Akram’s all-round show in ICC Cricket World Cup 1992: A young Wasim Akram reached new heights in his career with an all-round performance in ICC Cricket World Cup 1992. In the final, he helped his team reach 249 for 6 in 50 overs and later on struck with two vital blows to help his nation win their maiden World Cup. When England was struggling at 67 for 4, Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother started the repair work, adding 72 runs in the next 14 overs. With every run, Pakistan came closer to defeat but Imran Khan’s decision to bring in Akram swung the match in their favour. He dismissed Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis on consecutive deliveries to put Pakistan in a commanding position. His vicious swing balling turned the match in Pakistan’s favour. This victory is considered Pakistan’s best performance in the mega event, till date.

Akram had all the tricks up his sleeves when it came to swing bowling. He bowled brilliant yorkers which were unplayable. Moreover, he was especially dangerous under the lights. Many bowlers tried to emulate his success but failed to do so. He put up stellar performances even in tough situations.

Plus, he was a handy left-handed batsman, which made him the most valuable player for his team. Later on, Akram dropped his pace a bit as he aged, but was equally effective, thereby, depicting that it is not brawn but brain that fetches you wickets. Indeed, he proved the cricketing arena that cricket is not only a batsman’s game.

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)