Welcome to the first edition of Retrospect where we will take a look back at the volatile history of Pakistan Cricket; the events, the rivalries, the controversies and victories which played a significant role in establishing Cricket as the premier sport in Pakistan. The idea is to pay homage to the enigma that is Pakistani cricket and what better way to kick off the series than by looking back at perhaps two of the greatest fast bowlers in the history of the game; Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.
Pakistan Cricket has been known for its bowling. In a game where batsmen tend to hog the limelight, Pakistan cricket is almost an anomaly due to its bowling prowess. Back in the 1980’s a similar duo which was in several ways a precursor to Wasim and Waqar had established a reputation for decimating the opposition with their aggressive pace. We are obviously referring to Sarfaraz Nawaz and Imran Khan. The latter is obviously a legend in the world of Cricket and it was under his captaincy that Wasim Akram made his debut, at the behest of Javed Miandad, in international cricket in the year 1984. The lanky kid certainly impressed the great Khan and in the years to come would go on to become the go-to bowler for the team in times of crisis. Five years later would mark the debut for another speedster in the team when Waqar Younis started his international cricketing career, once again under the captaincy of Imran Khan. The two would collectively be regarded as the successors to Imran Khan and were widely regarded as the future superstars of Pakistan Cricket.
At this point, there were no signs of conflicts that would eventually drive a wedge between the two resulting in detrimental effects upon the national team. In fact, the two were cohorts in the mutiny against Javed Miandad’s captaincy in the year 1993 which would result in Akram becoming the captain and Younis the vice-captain of the team. The irony of this incident was the fact that it was Miandad who had insisted upon Akram’s inclusion in the team back in 1984. The backstage politicking would become a staple throughout the career of the two bowlers.
The first signs of conflicts arose during the South African tour of the team in the year 1993 where the entire team was bowled out for 43 in an ODI against the West Indies. The embarrassment resulted in Akram demanding the players to spend a more time at the nets. The decision was met with hostility primarily from Waqar Younis who led a mutiny against Wasim Akram resulting in Saleem Malik becoming the captain of the team. Wasim Akram has stated in his autobiography that Waqar was uncooperative and was politicking with his friends for the post of captaincy. The seeds of the rivalry had been planted. By all accounts, the two players had started maintaining their distance from one another and their competitive nature resulted in both of the men trying to upstage one another.
The next couple of years would go on where the relationship between the two would go through several ups and downs. Things came to head in the year 1999 when the two men once again got into an argument following a loss in a test match being held at Delhi. The conflict resulted in Waqar Younis being sent back to Pakistan. The decision also resulted in Waqar being replaced in the 1999 world cup with Shoaib Akhtar taking his place. The one match in which Waqar did play resulted in a loss for the team against Bangladesh. Waqar’s fortunes turned when in the year 2001 he was appointed as the captain of the team following a string of great performances. The campaign for the 2003 world cup was initiated with great fanfare but the frequent disputes within the team had reached unprecedented heights.
During this period Akram and Younis were frequently at loggerheads. The relationship had reached a point where the two men spoke to each other via an intermediary who in this case was Inzamam ul Haq. The team had also been divided into two separate camps with one-half supporting Akram and the other half supporting Younis. The two men literally hated each other and the team was caught in the crossfire. A divided team, frequent backstage conflicts, and abysmal performances resulted in the team being ousted from the world cup in the first stage. It was truly embarrassing and the two pacemen were sacked from the international side along with several others which marked the end of their illustrious careers.
While the two men are fondly remembered for their fast bowling talents, they were equally responsible for causing the divide within the team. Former Pakistan cricketer Mudassar Nazar has stated that the two men were never really able to keep their dislikes and prejudices away from the field and as a result of that, they both played a role in the decline of Pakistan cricket. The two men played a role in disrupting the harmony within the team by leading mutinies, first against Miandad, and then against each other. This also resulted in the creation of a trend where players conspired together to rebel against their captain which adversely affected the team. It was a dangerous precedent which would, unfortunately, continue over years during the captaincy of Younis Khan and Inzamam ul Haq. Followers of the game widely believe that the team in the 2003 world cup was probably the best team that Pakistan ever had and yet the constant bickering and politicking resulted in people contemplating what could have been as opposed to what actually happened.