Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sultans of Swing

Yup. The original ones. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

Together, they formed the most lethal opening bowling pair I have seen. My first memories of cricket have these guys in them. India was playing Pakistan in the Australasia cup final in 1994. The Pakistani bowlers ripped through our batting and of course, we lost. I always felt that India was constantly at the back foot when playing Pakistan in the 1990's. Sharjah was the ODI destination of choice then and both countries played a lot there. The finals of the tournaments were held on Fridays and if one of the team was Pakistan, the other team invariably ended up on the losing side. India bore the brunt a number of times.

I was a big fan of Pakistanis' raw aggression - fighting until the last delivery had been bowled. On the other hand, Indians looked and played timidly - rarely did I see the spirit and aggression which has become visible only lately. I think it is the fast bowlers which Pakistan had at that time which differentiated the two teams. The batting was more or less equally adequate and the fielding equally below-par for both the teams. India's record against Pakistan when Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were operating together bears testimony to this. India lost 60% of the clashes in 1990's.

Of course, India won the world cup ties in 1996 and 1999 and in my opinion victory against Pakistan then meant to us (to me at least) more than our recent victories against them. One reason is India v Pakistan matches were a rarity then; the other is that Pakistan was the stronger team back then. Look at some of our current cricketers going gaga over beating "the strongest team in the world" after the CB series and you get the idea. And who can forget the classic test series when Pakistan visited India in 1999. They had a new weapon in Shoaib Akhtar. The eerie silence at the jam-packed Eden Gardens when he cleaned up Dravid and Tendulkar in successive deliveries was a heart breaking sight.

The reason I am reminicising about all this today are these pioneers of cricket videos on youtube. Some trivia from the videos:. 1) Waqar Younis lost the smallest finger of his left hand while swimming in a canal when he was a teenager. 2) Wasim Akram was a practice bowler for net practice until Imran Khan noticed that he was better than the fast bowlers in the team. Go watch these videos for some breathtaking swing bowling. Especially the inswinging yorkers of Waqar Younis. Its impossible not be awed.


Anonymous said...

I agree that Wasim and Waqar were great bowlers. But pakistan's good record against India during 90s has more to do with a bad indian team than a great pak team. The reason that I say this is the following.
If you consider pakistan's test record against other good teams like australia in 90s, it is pathetic. Against australia,in 1990s, pak won only 15% of their matches and lost heavily.

On the other hand India's recent good record against pakistan has to do with good Indian team because we have been doing well against others too. If we compare our test record against australia in the past decade, Indians have almost equaled them.

There lies the difference according to me.

Huzefa Mukadam said...

interesting observation and one I pratially agree with.

The current good record for India against Pakistan has equally to do with continually changing Paksitani team with players getting injured and fighting and being banned one after the other, not least the PCB being highly influened by the government of the day and the current state of the country resulting in no western team willing to come there.

The Pakistan team might not have been great after Imran Khan but these two bowlers are no brainers in any great paksitan team.