Five reasons why Wasim Akram is the King of Swing
When it comes to swing bowling, there has never been any bowler in modern cricket history who has come anywhere close to former Pakistan great Wasim Akram. He debuted for Pakistan in an ODI in 1984, when he was 18 years old, and in the next 18 years, became one of the greatest exponents of swing bowling.
In Test cricket, he claimed 414 wickets while in ODIs, he was the record holder with 502 wickets before Muralitharan (503 wickets) eclipsed him.
As far as swing bowling was concerned, he could do everything. The out-swing, the in-swing, vicious reverse swing and everything in between. Other bowlers used to be menacing with the new ball but Akram used to be more devastating with the old one as he sent batting sides crashing to embarrassing collapses with his beguiling reverse.
Moreover, he swung it at pace and more often than not, batsmen found it incredibly difficult to handle him when on song with the old ball. Akram reinvented himself several times during his career but his mastery over swing never left him and here are five reasons why he will forever be the King of Swing.
#5 He could swing it both ways… and late
It is often said that batsmen don't like fast, short-pitched deliveries aimed at their head for a sustained period, but facing a bowler who can swing it both ways and make the ball swerve late can be just as discomforting.
Most bowlers are primarily in-swing bowlers or primarily out-swing bowlers, but Akram was a master at both and hence, it became incredibly difficult for batsmen to formulate a plan to counter him. However, that was not all. Akram had the ability to swing the ball late and that made the act of facing him even harder.
More often than not, batsmen were made to look like fools when Akram was on song.
#4 Akram was maddeningly accurate
Now, a bowler might be adept at swinging the ball both ways, but it is of little use if he is not accurate. However, if he is always at the batsman and makes him play, then it can turn into a bit of a nightmare. That is exactly what made Wasim Akram such a tough bowler to negotiate.
He bowled very few loose balls and batsmen almost always had to play the ball when he was bowling. Now, needless to say, the probability of getting the batsman out increases manifold if he is forced to play a larger percentage of deliveries and Akram ensured that batsmen did not have a free pass when he was bowling.
Moreover, his maddening accuracy hardly ever allowed batsmen to hit out and this particular aspect of his bowling made him a deadly swing bowler.
#3 He was an incredibly intelligent bowler
Athletes who reach the pinnacle of their respective sports are almost always great thinkers and this was the case with Wasim Akram as well. At the highest level, batsmen and bowlers are always trying to out-think each other, which is why the best among them are highly intelligent operators.
In that regard, Wasim was in a league of his own and in addition to possessing the ability to identify a chink in the batsman's armour quickly, he had the ability to confuse them. Akram could confuse the very best of batsmen with his variety but he did it in such a way that they often found themselves grappling for answers.
Watch how he takes Rahul Dravid's wicket by setting him up over the course of two deliveries and then delivering the killer blow with the third ball. Swing, speed and intelligence, all rolled into one.
#2 He did it all at pace
Former England batsman and possibly one of the best batsmen of the past two decades, Kevin Pietersen, once tweeted that 'pace causes indecision'. He was specifically talking about Mitchell Johnson and the devastation he caused during the 2013-14 Ashes in Australia.
Those comments could apply to Wasim Akram as well since, for all his swing and trickery, at heart, he was a fast bowler who could send down thunderbolts. When those swinging deliveries came at a searing pace, it became an almost insurmountable challenge for many batsmen. The time available to adjust to the swing reduces and the possibility of playing a meaningful shot goes down.
For instance, the yorkers that Akram bowled were not devastating merely because of the late swing but also because of the pace at which they were bowled. Batsmen often found themselves at sea.
#1 He was and remains the undisputed the master of reverse swing
That fine Pakistani art of reverse swing may have been introduced to the international game by Sarfraz Nawaz and then passed down by Imran Khan, but the bowler who used it to such devastating effect in both Tests and ODIs was Wasim Akram.
Akram, along with his partner-in-crime Waqar Younis, was the architect of some of the most spectacular collapses in Test matches in the 1990s and onwards. Around the 40-over mark, the ball used to start reversing and no one was more devastating with it than Wasim.
More often than not, fielders were reduced to mere spectators as most batsmen were dismissed bowled or leg before. Whether it was a Test match that needed to be turned on its head or the death overs in an ODI, Akram was absolutely unplayable at times with the old ball.