There were a number of left-arm quicks in the recently-concluded World Cup who impressed the whole of the cricket world with their skills. Mitchell Starc (22), Trent Boult (22), Wahab Riaz (16), and Mitchell Johnson (15) are all left-arm pacers. Ask any of them who their ideal is and all of them will answer without a bit of delay, “Wasim Akram”.
There is no doubt that Wasim Akram has been the ideal, or maybe idol, of all the left-arm pacers in the world for the last three decades.
Once Allan Border, the highest Test scorer when he retired, said if he were to get one more life he would want to be born as Wasim Akram.
Similarly, Martin Crowe, one of the greatest batsmen New Zealand have produced, is always lavish in his praise when he is talking about Wasim’s bowling abilities.
Jacques Kallis and Brian Lara, the most prolific batsman in both ODIs and Tests after Sachin Tendulkar, are also among the admirers of our most talented cricketer. Both of them have said in interviews that Wasim was the toughest bowler they encountered in their long careers.
There was no wonder when in a recent poll, very scientifically organised by Cricinfo, Wasim was rated as the third best player in ODI cricket history. He was only two points behind Little Master Sachin Tendulkar.
Before that, when Cricinfo formed an all-time Test team through a similar poll, he was among The Eleven, beating many a world-class pace bowler such as Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Courtney Walsh and Ian Botham.
I have never seen any umpire of high stature moving from his place to shake hands with a player during an international match. But such is the respect that Wasim Akram enjoys in the world of cricket that Steve Bucknor, the most respected umpire in 1990s and 2000s, would move from his place and attracting Wasim Akram’s attention shake hands with him.
It is highly unfortunate in the light of all these facts that our authorities have never bothered to engage him for the betterment of our young players in a proper manner. He has been attached with the youngsters for a short camp or two but never considered for a long-term role.
It’s been more than 12 years since he left the international cricket arena. During these years, Pakistan cricket bosses hired many people to coach the national team who are no match for Wasim Akram’s expertise.
He is sought after by the teams in the Indian Premier League and cricket bodies around the world to coach their players, but the only people who don’t seem to know his worth are the ones heading the Pakistan Cricket Board.
He does want to do something for Pakistan cricket. He has expressed his desire to work for Pakistan cricket many a time. But of course a man of such stature wouldn’t beg the board for a job. The board has to request him to give his time and effort for the country that he so heartily served for about 19 years.
Ignoring him and choosing people like Waqar Younis is nothing less than a tragedy.