Amongst the plethora of fast bowlers that Pakistan produced two stand out. These two fast bowlers are Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Wasim is considered by many to be the greatest left-arm fast bowler ever to play the game while Waqar on the other hand was considered to be the pioneer of reverse swing bowling. In the 61 tests, Wasim and Waqar played together the duo picked 559 wickets. Only the Sir Curtly Ambrose-Courtney Walsh and James Anderson-Stuart Broad duos have picked more wickets while playing together.
There have been many bowlers who have taken more wickets than the duo but there have seldom been any fast bowler duo who looked as threatening as the Wasim-Waqar duo. Shoaib Akhtar was one of those who looked threatening but his off-field antics, injuries and other issues kept him out of the side for periods of long time. Both Wasim and Waqar could walk into any test team due to their fast bowling abilities, but who was the better test bowler out of the two Pakistani greats?
A master of swing and seam, Wasim Akram had everything any fast bowler would dream of. It is such a ridiculous thing that Wasim not only did not play any first-class cricket before playing internationally but couldn’t even get into his college team. He came to trials held at Gaddafi Stadium where he impressed another Pakistani great, Javed Miandad. Miandad then pushed for Akram’s inclusion in the national side. Akram who went on to be known as ‘The King of Swing’ appallingly admitted that he didn’t know how to swing the ball during the early phase of his career.
During Pakistan’s tour to New Zealand in 1985, Akram made his test debut shortly after making his ODI debut against the same opposition earlier. In February 1985 he became the youngest player to take 10 wickets in a match at the age of 18 years and 251 days. He held that record for nearly 20 years when he was overtaken by Enamul Haque.
Wasim Akram in Tests
Akram went on to pick 414 test wickets in 104 matches. He bowled at an average of 23.62 with a bowling strike rate of 54.36. Out of the 414 wickets he picked with the red cherry, 221 of those were either bowled or LBWs. He was at his best in New Zealand where he only played 7 matches but picked up 50 wickets at a staggering average of 17.18 with a strike rate of 41.
Nicknamed ‘Toe Crusher’, Waqar Younis was one of the few bowlers who brought a shift in the mindset of fast bowlers. Before Waqar came fast bowling was looked at as bowling fast and short, but Waqar changed that mindset. He started to bowl fast and full, aiming at the toes of his opposition’s batters. Waqar’s toe-crushing reverse-swinging deliveries got him the record for the best strike rate for a bowler with more than 200 wickets. This was later broken by Dale Steyn who later lost the record to Kagiso Rabada. Waqar’s peak was unfortunately cut short by injuries to his back.
Waqar Younis in Tests
Even though Waqar Younis only played 87 test matches he took 373 wickets at an average of 23.56 and a strike rate of 43.4. Just like Wasim, Waqar too was great while dismissing players through bowled and LBW. Waqar took 212 wickets as bowled or LBW. Waqar was at his best in Pakistan where he took 162 wickets in 33 test matches at an average of 20.29 and a strike rate of 38.7.
Wasim Akram or Waqar Younis?
Both Wasim and Waqar have pretty similar statistics. The duo could walk into any test team. Wasim with his longevity is an obvious choice for any test team but Waqar’s strike rate makes him a potent weapon for any side. It will be hard to make any all-time test XI without having Wasim and Waqar in it.