Happy Birthday, Wasim Akram: The best left-arm quick of all time
June 3, 2020 marks the 54th birthday of the original Sultan of Swing, Wasim Akram. In an international career spanning 19 years, Akram has grabbed 916 international wickets, making him the most successful left-arm fast bowler of all time. In October 2013, Akram was the only cricketer from Pakistan to be named in an all-time Test World XI on the 150th anniversary of the Wisden Almanack.
Akram is next only to Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan as the leading wicket-taker in ODIs but is the first bowler to breach the 500-wicket mark in one-day internationals. He was the first bowler to grab four hat-tricks in international cricket – two in Tests and two in ODIs. With a quick arm action, good pace and the ability to generate reverse swing, no one pacer has been a better exponent of swing bowling than Akram.
Akram is the ninth highest wicket-taker in Test history with a haul of 414 wickets. His tally of wickets is the highest for any left-arm bowler. He had a successful First-Class debut against an international team. At 18 years of age, former Pakistan captain Javed Miandad fast-tracked him into the reckoning and Akram represented the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan’s (BCCP) Patrons XI against New Zealand at Rawalpindi in November 1984. He took seven wickets in the first innings and made his international debut just a few days later.
Wasim captained Pakistan in 25 Tests and 109 ODIs, of which the team won 12 and 66 matches respectively. Under him, Pakistan beat England 2-0 in a Test series at home in 1996 and also reached the final of the 1999 World Cup. He had a successful captaincy stint with county club Lancashire as under Akram, the team won the ECB Trophy and Axa League and finished second in the championship tournament despite losing only five matches in all competitions throughout the season.
Besides his exploits with the ball, Akram 3717 runs in ODIs and 2898 runs in Tests with a best of 86 and an unbeaten 257 respectively. During his knock of 257* – which is the highest score for a No. 8 batsman in Test cricket – against Zimbabwe in Sheikhupura in 1996, Akram hit 22 fours and 12 sixes, and added 313 runs with Saqlain Mushtaq for the eighth wicket. Even though he retired after the 2003 World Cup, following coaching stints, Akram continues to entertain fans through his commentary.