Wasim Akram: a man who inspired a generation of left arm bowlers

March 8, 2020

It is often said that in the field of sports a ‘legendry’ player always leaves a mark on the game and inspires many others to excel in the same trade through which he earned fame.

It is often said that in the field of sports a ‘legendry’ player always leaves a mark on the game and inspires many others to excel in the same trade through which he earned fame.

In the case of left-arm fast bowlers this theory fits perfectly. Never ever has the world seen so many left-arm fast bowlers as we saw in the last 25 years. There have been so many of them. The big names are Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Mohammad Amir, Zaheer Khan and Chaminda Vaas. There were many others who came, showed a lot of promise but failed to perform consistently. Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, and Rahat Ali are examples of this second category.

Shaheen Shah Afridi seems to be the most promising of currently playing left-arm fast bowlers. He might even become an all-time great in coming years.

The era of 1950s and 60s saw a touch of class in Australia’s Alan Davidson, known for his swing and sheer pace. He demolished India in 1959 series, taking 29 wickets on dead Indian pitches. He was considered the finest left-arm fast bowler of his time. But after him, there was scarcity of left-arm pacers as cricket continued to be dominated by right-arm fast bowlers.

In 1984, Lahore-born Wasim Akram made ODI debut against New Zealand and within a year he was among the top bowlers of the world. He took 5 wickets against a star-studded Australian batting line-up in the Benson and Hedges Cup and continued to smash records to let the world know that he was a man possessed with extraordinary skill and talent. He had the knack of terrifying batsman with sheer pace, to reverse swing the ball on dead pitches and to bowl toe-crushing yorkers.

He could produce moments of sheer magic like he did in the 1992 World Cup final. With 414 wickets in 104 Tests and 502 in ODIs, he is according to many experts the best left-arm fast bowler of all time.

There were many who followed him while he was playing. But since his retirement in 2003, the world has seen a generation of left-arm fast bowlers gracing the game. Some of them touched heights but no one has reached his stature uptil now.

In this piece I would like to mention top five left arm pacers who came after Wasim and earned laurels and prestige through some intriguing performances in all the formats of the game. That unique list would include former as well as current left arm pacers.

Chaminda Vaas: He is rightly regarded as the best fast bowler Sri Lanka ever produced. He was the first left armer after Wasim who mesmerised the world through his natural talent and smashed many records. Making his debut in 1994 he took 355 wickets in 111 Tests and 400 wickets in 322 ODIs. He recorded two ODI hat-tricks in his 15-year career. He also holds the record for best bowling figures in one-day cricket — 8 for 19 against Zimbabwe in the 2003 World Cup in which he was the leading wicket taker of the tournament with 23 scalps.

Vaas was known for his impeccable line and length and mastered the art of adding variations after his speed died down in the later part of his career.

Zaheer Khan: Arguably the best fast bowler produced by India after Kapil Dev, Zaheer in his 14-year, injury-hit career took 311 wickets in 92 Tests and 282 in 200 ODIs. He was the master of swinging the ball both ways off the wicket and even with the old ball he could reverse swing the ball with good pace.

Zaheer was the first bowler to bowl knuckle ball which he used to great effect in crucial moments in the 2011 world cup where he was the leading wicket taker alongside Shahid Afridi with 21 scalps.

Mitchell Johnson: He is perhaps the most ferocious bowler in this list of left arm quicks. Making his debut in 2007 he remained an injury-prone bowler but when he was at the top of his trade he was one off the most deadly bowlers to face. He reached his peak in the 2013-14 Ashes which Australia won 5-0. He was ferocious and nasty.

The England batters were a mere matchstick against his spiteful bouncers and yorkers. In that series, he took 37 wickets at an average of 13.40, and was rightly adjudged the player of the series. In 73 Tests, he took 313 wickets and 239 in ODIs before he retired in 2015.

Mitchell Starc: He is currently the best fast bowler in the world dominating in all forms of the game. He was the leading wicket taker in 2015 (22 wickets) and 2019 (27 wickets) world cups. He also holds the record for the fastest delivery in a Test match — he bowled at 160.4km/h against New Zealand.

In Tests, he has taken 244 wickets since making debut in 2011 and 178 wickets in ODIs. Starc seems to be well on course to become one off the greatest pacer ever to grace the game.

Trent Boult: Perhaps he can be regarded as Satrc’s greatest rival as they both emerged at the same time and possess similar skills. Boult, who idolized Wasim, has taken 267 wickets in 67 Tests and 164 wickets in ODIs. He also has two hat-tricks. He became the only Kiwi bowler to take a hat-trick in world cup last year.

He alongside Starc was the leading wicket taker in the 2015 world cup with 22 sclaps. He can also be regarded as a modern day great.

Wasim Akram: a man who inspired a generation of left arm bowlers