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'The quickest bowler I kept to'
Part three: Alec Stewart on the best bowlers he faced. This time: the other W (00:00)
Producer: Ranjit Shinde
October 31, 2012
'The quickest bowler I kept to'October 31, 2012
Wasim Akram was absolutely outstanding, and his partner in crime, Waqar Younis, was another champion.
I was very lucky because he came over to Surrey, where, in a way, he fast-tracked his cricketing education. He did a lot for Surrey, helped Surrey, but at the same time we helped strengthen Pakistan cricket by giving him the opportunity to fast-track his cricketing education.
Wonderful human being - I've had a lot of time for Waqar. I kept wicket to him; he would have been the quickest bowler that I kept wicket to. He was quick through the air, whereas a lot of quicker bowlers gain pace off the pitch. He did that as well. But through the air, from when it left his hand to when it hit you on the toe or just short of hitting your stumps or whatever, that was as quick as I've played against - or certainly kept to. Like Wasim, he had the ability to swing the ball both ways. Much like the [other Pakistani bowlers] where because of the pitches they play on, the ball gets roughed up quite early with the rough outfields and abrasive pitches. The ability to reverse swing the ball is a necessity on the subcontinent, because otherwise it goes gun-barrel straight and the batsmen just hit through the line and score plenty of runs.
Waqar almost learnt on the run as much as anything, because he came over as quite a raw cricketer to Surrey. But I was able to see him develop into this world-class quick bowler. Unfortunately he had a back problem at one stage, and he missed the 1992 World Cup, but he was as destructive as Wasim. To decide who was better, Wasim or Waqar, you're literally flicking a coin. They were that good. But because Wasim had the variety of being a left-armer, I'd just go in favor of him.
A standout performance? Probably too many to mention. But there was a Surrey game against Yorkshire at Guildford, early nineties probably. The game was going nowhere on the last day. Yorkshire were going to bat the day out - they were talking to me, I was captain, saying, what about if you give us a few easy runs, we'll declare and then try and set you something. I just said look, give us just 45 minutes after lunch on the last day, we'll try and bowl you out, if we can't, then we may have a chat about whether we can have a game going.
Waqar took the ball and straightaway he destroyed Yorkshire. We bowled them out. I think they were two down at lunch and inside the space of 45 minutes Waqar had bowled them out, and we went on to go and win the game. He actually hit the winning runs with the bat [Waqar was out for 31, batting at No. 10]. A match-winner. That's what you want. You want match-winners in your team. Wasim Akram was and Waqar Younis certainly was.
The duels I've had with Waqar were good ones, because as ex-team-mates (as in, Surrey team-mates), when we played against each other in England v Pakistan, there was always an added edge. I wanted to score runs against him, he wanted to get me out, and there was a mutual respect. The challenge was there anyway, but the fact that we're good friends as well added to it.
At The Oval [Lord's] in, might be 1996, Michael Atherton and I had a torrid time. We had to bat 40 minutes or so, the last 40 minutes of the day's play, at the start of our innings, and Wasim and Waqar, in particular, came steaming in. And it was torrid. We took some blows. I think I tried to hook a couple and got out of the way of a couple, and Waqar would follow through. He'd never say anything; he might just give me a nod and I'd give him a nod, and the challenge was back on again. End of the day's play, we're in the dressing room, he came in with Wasim, we shared an orange juice, and the next day the battle resumed. That's how it should be.
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