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The Sultan of Swing - Waqar Younis!

Sports and games are divine, inspiring and universal. It’s impact on sports-lovers is incredible and eternal. It ignites that great and unfathomable passion deep within us, giving birth to an adoring and adorable sporting child. It teaches us how to negotiate the woes of life, and is above parochial feelings of narrow nationalism and religious, racial and regional discrimination. I was initially a slave to the magical works of Javagal Srinath and VVS Laxman but sports gradually made me to come out of the social jackets of my society and admire the eternal beauty universally. It taught me about the Peles and the Maradonas; the Beckers and the Federers; the Mohammad Alis and the Michael Jordans; the Bothams and the Hadleys; and this elite list just goes on.

One such great character I came across in my short life lives on the other side of my international border, bestowed with the tags of “The Toe Crusher” and “The Sultan of Swing” – Waqar Younis.

Legends always leave an indelible impression on the minds of people; and so did Waqar. The spectators are silent till he removes his sweater and gives it to the umpire. Then an ascending noise would soon be audible as he marches ahead to the crease, schedules his perfectly timed jump, hurling at the batsman and releases the ball. Pace, knack, guile, placidity and attitude are required for a pace bowler and Waqar had all of these. One great thing about him was the pace with which he would land toe-crushing in-swinging Yorkers and even swing it reversely – a technique he taught the world.

Fancy yourself riding a bike on a rainy day. Your boss gives you a ring and you have to answer the call. The wind blows and unexpectedly your sight is blurred due to the dust targeting your eyes and you just try to wipe it off with your hand. All of a sudden you lose control over the bike. You should have that knack to hold the swerving bike and the luck to avoid a disaster. That is Waqar Younis’ reverse swing for you. Assume yourself working with a hammer and a nail. You mishit the nail and the hammer lands on your thumb. Imagine the pain. That is a Waqar Younis yorker for you.

Probably one of the greatest bowlers, Waqar had something in his swing besides being an ardent bowler of strength, stamina, style and substance. He would bowl with the same pace, intensity and oppression at any time of the day. But he is a totally different bowler when it comes to swing bowling. He had immense control over the ball when it was reversing. He would hold the seam straight, with the shiny side slightly looking towards the slip cordon. It would dip in at the right time, cross the visibility range of the batsman and would either dismantle the stumps or trap him plumb before the wickets. A high round-arm action facilitates a reverse swing and fortunately Waqar had that boon of action.

This ‘Burewala Express’ born in Vetari, a town in Punjab of Pakistan and raised in Sharjah, first appeared on the international scene in 1989 against touring Indians where the Demi God of today, Sachin Tendulkar made his debut. He bagged four scalps, including that of Tendulkar and Kapil Dev on his maiden international appearance. He was pivotal in strengthening the foundations of the Pakistan bowling department along with greats Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. It was the great Imran Khan who actually identified this talent in a local match between United Bank and Delhi XI. And the rest is history. It is believed that Sarfaraz Nawaz was the one who gave life to reverse swing and later passed on the baton to Waqar and Wasim Akram, who would later go on to dominate the world in their playing days.

If a batsman at his peak can build the game, a bowler can alter the situation in a short time. All that is needed are a few swinging deliveries and a couple of yorkers. Waqar was always ready to take the cake away from the batsman and make it in favour of the bowlers. He was adept at handling the deteriorating ball and bowling in the corridors of uncertainty on a consistent basis. The old ball has a bright side and dark side. He would use that to reverse swing, quite opposite to the conventional method, which aided Wasim Akram, a left hander. The pair clocked above 152 km/ph during their hey-days.

Interestingly, Waqar believed in bowling no–balls in the nets. He thought releasing illegal deliveries would consume more time and energy and also believed that a visit to a gym is only for a good shape. He trusted his long run up itself as his training. There were no forefathers and efficient coaches to teach him the technicalities of bowling. All he knew was to run and bowl fast and he did just that whenever there happened to be a ball in his hand.

Hope many young and budding bowlers today will imbibe the power and prowess of Waqar and perpetuate his name by becoming great pace bowlers specializing in swing and seam.

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