The peerless Wasim Akram talks Wisden Cricket Monthly edit0r-in-chief Phil Walker the definitive moments of his cricket career – the highs, the lows, and everything in between.
Big name on campus
First Hundred | Islamia College, Lahore | 1980
I studied in a cathedral school in Lahore, with a couple of massive churches in the middle of the school and an English principal. I was in Class 9, we had a game against the Class 11 kids, I opened the innings and got a hundred. It was a small ground but when I was 14 it didn’t look small! I smacked them everywhere! Afterwards I became an instant hit in my school. Everyone knew about ‘this guy who plays cricket’, because I wasn’t a great student! It made me think this is the game I should pursue, and it was with the bat not the ball.
The first-class bow
7-50 & 2-54 | Patron’s XI v New Zealanders, Rawalpindi | 1984
The most important game of my career was my first first-class game. New Zealand were touring Pakistan, and my name was picked up out of the blue. The captain was Javed Miandad, who was also Pakistan captain at the time, and he’d seen me in the nets. I was just under 17 years old, had big hair, and was very skinny. It was played out in Rawalpindi, and so I got on the plane with the rest of the team, we stayed at a five-star hotel, and as we came down to nets the next morning, we got given some cash. I said, ‘What is this for?’ They tell me it’s my daily allowance! You get money to play this game? Awesome!
New Zealand were a very strong side – Martin Crowe, John Wright, Jeff Crowe, John Reid – and I got 7-50. I didn’t know how. I just ran in and bowled. Second innings I got 2-54, so nine on debut. A few months later I was in the Test team.
10-128 | New Zealand v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Dunedin | 1985
My fourth first-class game was a Test match in Auckland. Green pitch! Sir Richard Hadlee was playing, so of course he got lots of wickets. And I got hit, batting at No.11, right on the knee – in those days protection was not that great. I was in agony, but I couldn’t tell anyone. We only bowled once, and I got 2-105 as we lost by an innings. But in my second Test, the third of the series, I got 10-fer. Five and five, and I’d arrived.
Triumph at Leeds
3-36 & 2-55, 43 | England v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Headingley | 1987
This tour of England was a massive deal for me, but a year before, in ’86, Imran Khan had organised for me to play league cricket in Durham for Burnopfield CC, Colin Milburn’s club. I left Pakistan at 4pm with my sunnies on, and arrived in England, and it was pitch dark and freezing cold! I got paid £50 a week, but the money didn’t matter, it was not why you played cricket. I couldn’t get hold of one thing – if we don’t practise for four days, then what should I do with myself?! I got my first hat-trick, first eight-fer, and my first hundred that season. So when we arrived in ’87 I was ready for English conditions.
I loved that tour. I had a roommate in Ijaz Ahmed, and our routine was to go to Angus Steak House every second night. Pepper steak and a salad. And every now and then we’d go to an Indian restaurant – buttered chicken, daal, and a bit of rice. Headingley was the big match for us. I got the great Mike Gatting out first innings leg-before, and then in the second innings with a nick to second slip. I also got 43 runs, four sixes! A hook each off Dilley and Foster, and then two slog sweeps against Phil Edmonds. That was a fiery series, and we clinched it at the Oval, when we got 700 in our first innings to bat England out of the game.
31 first-class wickets at 21.48 | 1988
In ’88 I joined Lancashire. I embraced their culture and they embraced me. I was one of them. Straight away I thought, ‘I’m going to make friends here’. Fairbrother, Atherton, Allott, Fowler, David Hughes, our captain. Alan Ormerod, our coach, picked me up from the airport, dropped me off at the place I was staying and said he’d be back later to pick me up because we had a meeting that evening in the bar. ‘What? In the bar? That can’t be right! I come from Pakistani culture!’
I walked in there that night expecting there to be talk about cricket and the opposition. I didn’t even know who we were playing, I didn’t even know the names of most of my own team, and I turn up and everybody had a pint of lager in their hands! ‘Hey, Wasim! Welcome!’
The first trophy
3-30 | Lancashire v Worcestershire, B&H Cup Final, Lord’s | 1990
We had a great one-day side and we won a lot of trophies, but for me the first one stands out the most. It came against Worcestershire at Lord’s, and I remember the excitement, not just at the ground but all over Lancashire. Suits were made to travel in, suits to get to the ground, suits for the party afterwards, for me it was something very new. Graeme Hick was a phenomenon then, newspapers were saying it was Wasim versus Hick, and I got him in the first over. I was first change, it was a hot day and a dry wicket. And it started reversing, even though no one knew what reverse swing was back then. It was ‘ball tampering’! First ball to Hick was a bouncer, two balls later the outswinger, and a nick straight to Warren Hegg.
33 & 3-49 | England v Pakistan, World Cup Final, Melbourne | 1992
Those two deliveries were totally planned. It was always the plan to come around the wicket to Allan Lamb and bowl outswing, because he never faced me in county cricket when it was reverse swinging, he usually batted No.3 or No.4. He must have thought, ‘Left-arm, round the wicket, going away? I don’t think so…’ It started on middle stump and went away from him against the angle. That ball was absolutely one of the top five balls I ever bowled.
When Chris Lewis came out to bat, I was about to bowl a yorker. But Imran said he will be expecting a yorker, an outswing full-length ball, so just bowl an inswing length ball, and that’s exactly what I did. The right pace, the right swing, a little bit of inside edge onto his stumps. At that moment I didn’t realise what we’d done. But after about a week in Pakistan, we realised that we had really done something.
Lord’s of the manner
2-49 & 4-66, 24 & 45* | England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Lord’s | 1992
We always enjoyed beating England. The British invented this game and they thought it belonged to them, so we had to make sure we beat them. It was the ultimate for Pakistan. We needed 138 to win, and were 95-8. I got 45 not out. Hitting the winning runs at Lord’s, in my lime-green World Cup helmet, that was the ultimate.
Cut before time
0-5 | Bangladesh v Pakistan, 1st Test, Dhaka | 2002
The only regret I have is how the Pakistan Cricket Board treated me towards the end. The last Test match I played was against Bangladesh. I got injured and afterwards the chairman of the PCB, who was a serving general – I don’t know what he was doing running cricket – said: ‘You’ll retire from Test cricket’. No send-off, because Pakistanis don’t do send-offs. I wasn’t mentally or physically ready to retire. But in the end, it’s 14 years ago. It’s done now.