Waqar Younis: Remembering the Pakistani maestro
The 1990s was the decade which saw the emergence of a new superpower in the world of cricket - Pakistan. Added to the already frightening duo of Imran Khan and Wasim Akram was the name of the new kid on the block- a certain Waqar Younis. The man from Vehari, Multan, was spotted by Imran Khan, having played only 6 first-class games.
He made his debut in 1989, in the same game that saw the first glimpses of Sachin Tendulkar. There was no looking back from there. In 87 Tests, Younis took 373 wickets at a shattering average of 23.56. Waqar also went on to take 416 ODI wickets.
Waqar gave the art (or should I say science?) of reverse swing a new face. He found a way to destroy oppositions with the old ball for that is what he was given until Imran retired. The retirement of Pakistan’s charismatic captain turned politician marked the start of a new era.
Along with Wasim, he formed the greatest fast-bowling pair to have ever played the great game. They had the terrifying ability to swing the ball at a great pace. Watching Waqar Younis was like watching an artist at work. His dexterity with the ball put him a notch above the rest.
Younis took to County Cricket like fish to water. English pitches seemed tailor-made for him. Eat - Sleep - Roll Over Oppositions – Repeat. Playing for Surrey, he took his wickets for a jaw-dropping average of 14.65!
To the average spectator, he was a pleasure to the eye but standing 22 yards away from him with a bat in hand was a completely different story.
His in-swinging toe-crushers were a sight to behold. Waqar Younis made history when he first captained Pakistan aged 22, becoming the youngest captain Pakistan has ever seen.
Younis has the best strike rate in test cricket after Dale Steyn. The fast bowler also boasts of a staggering 22 five-wicket innings in a mere 87 Tests.
His career was not short of controversies. In July 2000, he faced a one-match ban for alleged ball-tampering, becoming the first cricketer to be banned for the issue. That was not all. In a league match against Australia, Waqar was taken off the attack for bowling a beamer at Andrew Symonds in the first over. Under his captaincy, Pakistan faced humiliation in the 2003 World Cup. Shortly after, he decided to hang his boots. Waqar Younis retired from all formats in April 2004, leaving forever a mark on the world of sport.
The world's fastest sprinter and runner Usain Bolt once replied while being asked about who were his heroes when he was a child: "When I was really small I loved the Pakistan cricket team. Waqar Younis was one of the greatest bowlers ever, and I was a bowler so I really enjoyed watching him. I was a big Pakistan fan until I got older when I noticed that I should actually support my home team."
Such was the aura of the great man. His very sight made the world’s best batsmen shiver. No batsman seemed at ease in front of him. With Waqar, there was never any respite. The Burewala Express will go down in history as one of the greatest. The living legend of Waqar Younis will forever be drilled in our minds.