Cricketers pick their favourites

'The most complete fast bowler I've seen'

Part two: Allan Donald on the most intimidating bowlers he has seen: Wasim Akram, the complete package

Producer: Gokul Chakravarthy, Interviewer: Nagraj Gollapudi

May 20, 2013


Wasim Akram

'The most complete fast bowler I've seen'

May 20, 2013

Wasim Akram bowls during a tour game, Lavina Duchess of Norfolk's XI v Pakistanis, Arundel, May 3, 1992

Wasim Akram When I first saw him was in the 1992 World Cup... I think that between him and myself, [we] probably ended up bowling the most number of wides in the whole competition but what struck me most about Wasim was his presence. And he was pretty, pretty swift at that stage... I think his greatest attribute was the way he swung the ball and how late he swung the ball. But having played against Wasim before that... and some of the Australian guys I [had] spoken to... especially Ian Healy said he was incredibly... he had a immense presence but he also had an immense presence in... in... in the area as I would call in the hot zone. And when I played against Wasim and I faced him for the first time in Pakistan, I found out how relentless he is...

And he bowled me a bouncer that hit me square on the side of my head which was... well, which was painful to say the least but the way he handled that, the way he came back in his second innings... And he bowled a spell that I'd probably never forget - in Manchester where he bowled really, really quick at me playing for Lancashire. And I think he nicked me off and the ball carried miles to the 'keeper. I just... everything about Wasim Akram was relentless... he swung the ball both ways. I think his greatest asset was... for me made him the ultimate bowler that he was... was being able to swing the ball when it was reversing both ways. He was the bowler for me that you could not tell which way it was swinging, you could not know what he was up to because he did it over the wicket and around the wicket and that to any batsman in the world was the most intimidating factor. And growing up in Pakistan on those really tough wickets, flat wickets, reversing the ball was their greatest skill and I think that that's for me why Wasim Akram was, I would say, the most complete quick bowler that I've ever come across and ever watched.

Gary Kirsten would be one of those who can testify for that because not only did he use the crease so smartly when he was coming over the wicket with the new ball, he found him very tough to line up because he swung the ball so late. I think that his stock delivery - swinging the ball out to the lefties - was a tough line to cover because he swung it from about middle and off stump and he'd use his in-swinger with the new ball very, very smartly because you just never knew when that was coming... and he'd drag you across the crease for some time. But also if anyone had probably one of the best bouncers in the game, it was him. There is no question about it... and that's why he would be my No. 1 most complete fast bowler that I've ever played against and watched.

Posted by harshthakor on (May 24, 2013, 5:55 GMT)

Combining test and one day Cricket Wasim was arguably the best of all paceman.However one factor exists that Wasim captured a great number of wickets of tail enders while Curtly Ambrose or Glen Mcgrath were more successful against the top order batsman or the prize wickets.Ambrose was a champion in winning games in the 4th innings after defending small targets while Mcgrath's consistency was phenomenal.Overall Lillee,Marshall and Imran posessed more match-winning agression tah Wasim.

I would rate Wasim Akram as the best of all Pakistan bowlers as he was outstanding in at trio of great paceman and was better than what Imran was in the first and final part of his career.Waqar Younus was quicker ,with abetter strike rtaebut did not posess Wasim's trajectory.If he had the same support from his fielders as Glen Mcgrath did Wasim would have performed even better.

Posted by harshthakor on (May 24, 2013, 5:47 GMT)

What is amazing is that Wasim was the best one day bowler of his era inspite of the fact that Ambrose was the most accurate and Mcgrath posessed the greatest control.It gives credibility to the one day game proving the need for innovation or inventiveness even in that form of the game.No bowler was as inventive or innovative as Wasim who resembled a musical composer.

Above all he mastered the placid sub-continent tracks where he took half his wickets.Where Ambrose or Mcgrath have the edge is their economy rate.Mcgrath was greatly helped by a strong Australian team,while Wasim was let down to some extent by his team -mates.

Strangely Wasim's best figures are 7-119 and that is the only time he has captured 7 or more wickets unlike Imran Khan who took 7 or more wicket hauls 5 times .He was not as much as a match-winner as Ambrose or predecessor Imran Khan.In the pantheon of greats overall he may be just below Lillee,Marshall,Hadlee and Mcgrath,just edging Imran.

Posted by harshthakor on (May 23, 2013, 17:04 GMT)

Wasim Akram is the most naturally talented paceman ever and the closest to the pace bowling genius.No paceman ever posessed a greater bowling repertoire or could do as much with a cricket ball as Wasim.He was simply a magician who could manipulate a cricket ball,like nobody else.He mastered reverse swinging a ball both ways in one delivery itself.

On figures Lillee,Hadlee,Mcgrath,Imran and Marshall were ahead.His figures never did justice to his skill or artistry.To me he lacked the aggression of Dennis Lillee and Malcolm Marshall .Glen Mcgrath and Curtly Ambrose were more accurate or Alan Donlad and Waqar Younus quicker but none had Wasim's variations or craft.

I would select Wasim in my alltime 11with his variation as a left-armer.

Posted by tony122 on (May 23, 2013, 5:57 GMT)

@Zsam. Was Donald a better bowler than Steyn? Did Tendulkar boost his average against Steuyn and it was easy? If Wasim is so good would tendulkar fared worse in 70's and 80's? Pitches in my opinion were the fastest in 90's. Watch youtube videos and how pitches in 70's, even likes of Gabba and MCG looked like dub continental pitches in a lots of games. I too cannot stand over hyping of past. But pat is long and not just the 90's.

Posted by   on (May 23, 2013, 1:32 GMT)

Wasim is without a shred of doubt most complete, intimidating and difficult fast bowler. He had killing yorker, dangerous bouncer, ability to generate awkward bounce, ability to make the bowl swing both way, equally effective with new and old ball, could destroy opposition on all type of surfaces and conditions. He is slightly under achiever in tests but never forget that in the initial part of his career, he bowled with Imran and later on with Waqar and Shoaib. He had immense variety and was exceedingly difficult to get away. I have seen him dominating all the batsmen who faced him. Most batsman of 90 and 00s have rated him as the most feared and difficult bowler of their era. Among the all time greats, he is surely among the very best with the likes of Imran, Lillee, Waqar, Marshal, Ambrose and Steyn etc.

Posted by Zsam on (May 22, 2013, 20:24 GMT)

@Jayesh, Sachin and Lara vs 90s attacks, Pakistan attack, with 2 Ws and Imran, both avg. in early 30s,Sachin 32 in 11 inngs, he batted, and Lara avg 30 in 13 inngs. .Again with Donald Sachin avg. 32 in 20 inngs and Lara 34 in 20 inngs.Not exactly all time stuff.I wonder how these two would have fared during the 70s and 80s era.Let me tell you, I am a big fan of Lara's artistry, and even like Sachin, but can't stand the hyping up!Both beefed up their avgs vs these teams post the retirement of these bowlers.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2013, 18:32 GMT)

Lara,Steve,Ponting told Wasim was the best they faced, But i never feel he had any edge over Tendulkar ,tendulkar had never rated him as best because he had never struggled against himn even in best swinging conditions..Both Akram and Tendulakr were the Best bowler and batsman especially in ODI in the 90's,Tendulakr would have faced Akram at his best more than any other good bastmen in that period because India vs Pak encouter used ot happen more often thhan not in 90s

Posted by johnal on (May 22, 2013, 13:08 GMT)

wasim is still the greatest left arm fast bowler to have played cricket many other players have rated him the best they have seen but the greatest accolade paid to wasim is by the west indian commentator mr tony cozier who called him the high priest of fast swing bowling.the closest to wasim is chaminda vas from sri lanka

Posted by tony122 on (May 22, 2013, 8:01 GMT)

I am an Indian and am a huge fan of Akram. And I am not unique,most genuine Cricket lovers in India are. But I do not rate Akram as highly. For one thing his record is actually better in sub continental wickets than outside. With all that swing and reverse swing bowled at a high pace and often ball keeping low. He was not that great in bouncing out the batsmen or bowling awkward length deliveries.That shows he will not have benefited all that much had he been born in Australia,Eng etc. His style was made for sub continent. Then how can you look past the great West Indians if you are to select the best fast bowler that ever was? Ambrose was no less. Neither was Marshall. But the only fast bowler who can claim to be best ever is none other than Michael Holding.

Posted by vinjoy on (May 22, 2013, 7:52 GMT)

Akram had been the most 'skillful' bowlers over last 30 years but that does not make him the 'best or complete' bowler. Just as statistics do not make somebody best (Walsh was not the best in the world when he held the record), skill alone does not make a bowler the best.

Based on what I saw him from 1989 onwards, he often lacked the temperament for test cricket and hence an under-achiever in test. Considering his skills and variety and that he was a left-armer, he capitalised more in ODI cricket and not really in test cricket. As for joy to watch, he is definitely one of the best to see bowling!

Posted by   on (May 22, 2013, 6:45 GMT)

It's such a great relief that I (being a fan of team India) do not have to watch our batsmen facing Wasim. The feeling of relief was greatest when Wasim was out of the 1996 World Cup Quarter finals against India.

Many cricket followers would have heaved a sigh of relief that Alan Donald corroborated their feelings with his expert opinion. No one has to tell any further about how great Wasim was - just tell them to refer to Alan Donald's perspective about this topic. Period!.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2013, 4:43 GMT)

He bowled some brilliant Pakistani inswinging yorkers but with Donald talking about his bouncer, and rightly so, we need to appreciate that it was a regular wicket-taking delivery for him. And he used it to get wickets even more frequently than perhaps some of the bouncer-driven fast bowlers who used their bouncers to push batsmen on the backfoot. In Wasim's case, it would be fended to a short square leg or the gully or slips. That magic bail-clipper, swinging away late from in front of the lefty's leg-stump was his SOP and he could mirror it too as Rahul Dravid came to realise. Another point: At times he was hell bent on getting a tail-ender caught behind and now yorked and would still do it. Fast bowlers have been known to blast tail-enders away - Akram blasted them away on his terms. I, for one, would never forget his 5 for 21 against Australia as a teenager: Of course, stumps flew but the Kim Hughes dismissal with a bouncer was the pick.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2013, 1:30 GMT)

The greatest bowler in the history of the game of cricket. Period. Every player (batsman or bowler) who has played with or against him rate him the best ever. Lara, Steve Waugh and Ponting rated him the best they faced, but more importantly Ambrose, McGrath and now Donald say that he was the one.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2013, 1:06 GMT)

I think that SRT is above Don Bradman, I am one of those people. And I can make a rational case. If there was ever a bowler I was scared of, it was Wasim Akram. Great respect for this man. I wish he chose to come and live in India. He will not miss a fan-following there; it is huge for sure!! This tells you a lot about cricket lovers in India, we appreciate good cricket. It also tells about the man, Wasim Akram.

Posted by Asad_Khan1 on (May 22, 2013, 0:55 GMT)

For me Wasim Akram is arguably the best fast bowler of all time if you consider both Test and ODIs. He had the armory to succeed in both formats of the game. He had inswinger, outswinger, reverse swing, lethal bouncer and toe-crushing yorker and he bowled these deliveries at quick pace. As a fast bowler, you can't ask more than that. He bowled those yorkers at will in ODIS at the death. He's not only a complete fast bowler, he's also the best.

Posted by FieryFerg on (May 21, 2013, 22:14 GMT)

Bowled the best ball I've ever seen. From round the wicket it swung in and hit Robert Croft full toss just above the ankle. The umpire (think it was Merv Kitchen) gave it not out as to the naked eye it looked to be going down the leg side. BUT when you saw the replay, it straightened up and swung back out in the last 6 feet of flight and would have demolished middle stump 4" up from the bottom. Astonishing to move the ball both ways without it hitting the deck to cant the seam. He played for Lancs against Scotland at our club ground once and we used the same pitch later that week - his final stride was enormous. Most of our team couldn't have long jumped that far! But that pivot and the arm speed was so much to do with his success. Also signed autographs and had time for everyone (unlike some of his team-mates, PJW Allott to name one).

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 22:02 GMT)

this is so brilliant from Allan Donald. Thanks Donald for your compliments for Waz. This is so refreshing, it took me back to 1990s where I witnessed that golden era of cricket with Wasim's presence.

Posted by Desihungama on (May 21, 2013, 20:59 GMT)

@ IPSY - Wasim Akram probably has the most dropped catches and LBW decisions that went against him. He could have easily ended up at 700 Test Cricket had he not played for Pakistan.

Posted by the_blue_android on (May 21, 2013, 19:14 GMT)

He's one of the greatest if not the greatest fast bowler in the history of the game. Only blemish in his career would be how he tried and was successful in blocking Waqar, another magicial in having a longer career.

Posted by MichealT on (May 21, 2013, 18:45 GMT)

I must say I agree with all these comments. I have not seen any batsman who struggled against him at some time in his career. Martin Crowe, Des Haynes, Lara, Tedulkar, Dean Jones and some other greats played him better at some times but whenever he started swinging usually than it is a different story. Whenever he has the ball at any stage of any format and when the ball is swinging than it is just a waiting game for batsman. Martin Crowe who played him better than most said he only played for his inswinger as he know that outswinger is gonna miss his bat and he missed a lot. Anyone who came close is Mohd Aamir but sadly he destroyed his career.

Posted by nade123 on (May 21, 2013, 18:27 GMT)

I have said this since Akram mesmerized the batsmen from the early 90's. He is the greatest fast bowler period and is a worthy candidate for best bowler ever! He was simply magical. He had so many ways of getting a batsman out and we have never seen anything like that before. Having grown up from the baron pitches of the sub-continent, If he had played for Australia, I shudder to think the matches he would have won and the records he would have created. There are other fast bowlers who have better records and stats over Akram. But, when you consider the circumstances, the talent level, the stability of their teams, the solidity of the batting lineups they played with, the fielding ability of the sides, etc, you will realize what a genius bowler Akram was, because Pakistan was terrible in most of these areas.

Posted by IPSY on (May 21, 2013, 18:01 GMT)

Wasim Akram was great because he bowled at any stage or any time in the match when his team wanted him with, excellent success. He was never uni-positional as a player; and the needs of his team usually preceded his own cause at all time. These are the necessary ingredients in the player that we must look at, when we are determining the best!

Posted by IPSY on (May 21, 2013, 18:01 GMT)

Wasim Akram was great because he bowled at any stage or any time in the match when his team wanted him with, excellent success. He was never uni-positional as a player; and the needs of his team usually preceded his own cause at all time. These are the necessary ingredients in the player that we must look at, when we are determining the best!

Posted by IPSY on (May 21, 2013, 17:49 GMT)

I agree with anyone who thinks that Wasim Akram is the best fast bowler of All Time. He's the best I've seen and I've been seeing them long before Donald. We have lots of them from the WI, but Mr Akram is the best I've seen. He DESERVES the accolade. However, I don't think he needs all the unnecessary descrptive phrases such "most complete QUICK" bowler, whatever that means, to establish he is the best ever. All this "MOST COMPLETE" descriptive nonsense is not for a straight forward case like Akram. You use those questionable phrases for players whom you know don't deserve the accolade but you still want to rate them -hence, you have to find questionable terminolgies to make your point. I am also glad that Mr Donald recognized Akram, even though he does not have the world record for "THE MOST WICKETS". He choose Akram because of his INTIMIDATION which made him so successful. And it is true that the INTIMIDATING PLAYERS who were/are successful would always be the best players.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 17:08 GMT)

Wasim Akram Diabetic left arm fast bowler. Legend :-)

Posted by KK47 on (May 21, 2013, 17:02 GMT)

His greatest asset was how he managed himself and kept on dishing out superlative performances in-between umpteen number of controversies he faced as a captain and as a player. In his early days as captain, when the players rebelled against him, he had to rise above his doubters and had to unnecessarily prove himself. Wasim's reply? "I am better than you all, I will continue to fight and show my worth". He did that and how!

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 16:27 GMT)

I have always felt that Waqar was an equally brilliant bowler, if not better than Wasim. No doubt, Wasim was the king of swing and made the ball talk his way. As a left arm fast bowler you can walk into any World XI of any era. In addition, passing on his skills to young bowlers is indeed a great service that he is doing. Who knows that tomorrow we may get an equally brilliant bowler in the shape of Junaid or some other person. We salute you Wasim !

Posted by Simoc on (May 21, 2013, 14:29 GMT)

I to reckon Akram is the best I have seen and that includes everyone from Wes Hall onwards. He seemed to run in from any distance and could make the ball talk. He played with the batsmen at times (none more obvious than an over to Ian Healey) beating the bat comprehensively each time then knocking him over inevitably. Others have fine tuned their bowling actions but it all seemed to come naturally to Wasim Akram.

Posted by nareshgb1 on (May 21, 2013, 13:15 GMT)

A great successor to the great Imran Khan - Imran was no doubt the greater cricketer, but Wasim was no doubt more fascinating.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 13:00 GMT)

Arguably the best fast bowler PAKISTAN has ever produced, A was…(Wasim Akram) . His accuracy and consistency of being able to bowl an awkward length ball on or just outside off-stump claimed the wicket of many of the greatest batsman. Wasim Akram was absolutely devastating.

The ability to bowl very fast and good bouncers could terrorize any batsman. With a bowling average in the 20's, and a phenomenal strike rate of just 49, even the greatest of batsmen were worried when Wasim came in to bowl. On top of this, he wasn't a bad bat, an average of 27, a highest score of 257, and 6, 100s, he became a very handy batsman for PAKISTAN.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 12:33 GMT)

Wasim Akram the finest bowler of all time. As the great Don said " the best left arm bowler ever to grace cricket after allan davidson" itself a credit to the great legend. He is one bowler who most batsman feared due to his ability to do the walk and make the ball talk at the same time.

His toe crushers which he would bowl at will were mostly un-playable. Keep in mind that he was diabetic and to come and bowl quick with a small run up shows that all the young bowlers of today do need to re-visit his old cricketing footage and learn a lot from there.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 11:46 GMT)

I agree with Allan Donald.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 11:13 GMT)

well said allan Donald,another grat. I fully agree with him. W.Akram is the greatest left arm fast bowler the world has seen.

Posted by volmitius on (May 21, 2013, 11:07 GMT)

well. i didnt have the privilege of watching him but yes as a young cricket fan of mid 2000s i have heard about his heroics not only with the ball, but with the bat as well. him along with waqar was the deadliest combo, and too hot to handle 4 every1. wasim akram "the best swing bowler in the world" !!!

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 9:49 GMT)

Wasim Akram was a wizard indeed, there could be no better description about him what Donald said

Posted by MansoorKoondhar on (May 21, 2013, 9:04 GMT)

No doubt the greatest left arm fast bowler ever! If a country like India had had a bowler like him, they would have worshipped him! And if he had fielders like those of South Africa, 100 more wickets would have been there in both his stocks of test and one day apiece. sometimes he used to bowl with a spinners run up leaving the batsman mind boggled to see no difference in his effectivness. he would often leave a batsman good for nothing on the pitch, wishing to get out.

Posted by RP225 on (May 21, 2013, 9:02 GMT)

The Greatest left arm fast bowler the world has seen in Test cricket. Once they use to say it was Allan Davidson, but that must be before Wasim came into bowl.

Posted by ImpartialObserver on (May 21, 2013, 8:16 GMT)

Yes; Wasim was a terrific bowler. Personally I've always liked pace bowlers who exuded aggression. You (Allan Donald), Dale Steyn, Shane Bond and Wasim being the top bowlers. Wasim was wonderfully aggressive. I've watch Wasim right from his debut. Unfortunately after a time, he did not play too many matches against us (India). However, one can never forget the match-turning balls of WC1992 Finals, with which he got Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis. OH! Were they magic! And having seen him in commentary later, I also feel he is a wonderful person.

But, currently I guess Dale Steyn is the greatest! We Indians are lucky that we also get to watch him in IPL. And though he does not play for Bangalore, I support him. Even if he is playing for SA against India, I'm drawn into supporting only Steyn. His duel with Sachin when Sachin made 146 and saved the match for India, was supremely absorbing. He let it rip 1/2 an hour either side of lunch and even Sachin had to use all his experience.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 8:10 GMT)

Wasim Akram was talented and great in swing, he has troubled the batsman i remember Russel Arnold from SriLanka was beaten all the 6 balls he couldnt defend or play a stroke. In TOTAL Tri nation series against West Indies he use to get out LARA the first ball of the match, if he was dropped then lara scored well. Undoubtedly he was the best picked by Miandad & nurtured by Imran Khan.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 8:03 GMT)

I was at the Oval in 1996 when he captained and got his 300th test wickets. Pakistan won the test because of him. He was great after Imran Khan.

Posted by smalishah84 on (May 21, 2013, 7:15 GMT)

Well said Allan Donald. Indeed Wasim Akram was the most complete fast bowler that I ever came across. Cricket has not been the same for me since his retirement.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 6:40 GMT)

Allan Donald says it all.....The Ultimate, The Most Complete Fast Bolwer Ever......He had it other fast bowler could lay the claim......Beautiful description by the White Lightning!!!

Posted by shuvo_bba on (May 21, 2013, 5:56 GMT)

Have to go 100% with Donald in this regard. Nobody does this "complete" thing better than Wasim Akram. He had everything.Nipped so many would-have-been great innings in the bud! Hats off Wasim & Donald

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 5:51 GMT)

That proves the point that how generous and genius is the great Allan Donald that he admired a legend in true spirit, Wasim Akram is indeed a living legend and a fabulous asset of our great home land, God bless Pakistan and its people aameen!

Posted by YogifromNY on (May 21, 2013, 5:42 GMT)

I am an Indian cricket fan based in the US and would 100% support what Allan says about Akram. One of my fast bowling heroes (alongside Glenn McGrath and the tireless Kapil Dev)!

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 5:38 GMT)

He is the best bowler..there is no doubt abt that. Coming from Allan Donald only adds to the veracity of the claim...whenever he comes to bowl you can sense something is gonna happen.. one of the very few bowlers who can create this sensation

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 5:12 GMT)

The most complete fast bowler

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 5:06 GMT)

Great to see white lightning , appreciating the SUN of fast bowling.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 4:26 GMT)

To get such praise from a peer like Donald shows how talented Wasim was. Undoubtedly the best Pakistan cricket has produced.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 4:10 GMT)

100% agree with you Mr. Donald, if he was not diabetic he would have played till the age of 40+, Muhammad Aamir had the glimpse of akram, best oh him was 1992 World Cup Final... Never did justice to his batting otherwise could be one of the best all rounder! May God give you the strength to produce someone like you in future!

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