The Wisden Cricketer - October 2003

Waqar Younis on growing up and not growing old

Duncan Steer
Reverse charge: Waqar Younis © Getty Images Did you come to Warwickshire with a view to winning your Test place back

Reverse charge: Waqar Younis
© Getty Images

Did you come to Warwickshire with a view to winning your Test place back?
Not really. I didn't really come to England this summer to play cricket. But I came to see Mushtaq Ahmed play at Edgbaston in May and Warwickshire asked if I was interested in replacing Shane Bond. I'd had a couple of months' break by then and it was a good opportunity.

Did you learn your cricket in Sharjah?
I was young when we lived in Sharjah. I used to go and watch Pakistan play and get their autographs. I never thought I'd be playing with Imran Khan and Javed Miandad a few years later. I didn't even really play cricket until I went back to school in Pakistan when I was 11 or 12.

What was life like off the field in England for a Pakistani teenager in the early 1990s?
The first few years I played county cricket, I just used to go out and play, then come back and sleep, get up in the morning and go out and play again. The players were friendly but I was nervous and struggled with the language. I spoke a little bit of English but it was hard to pick up the different accents in the dressing-room. But I enjoyed my time at Surrey and Glamorgan. Everything was different - different culture, different conditions every day. You learned so much so quickly.

Who taught you how to bowl reverse swing?
Nobody taught me but because we play on dry surfaces in Pakistan the ball naturally gets scuffed up and starts reversing. Most of the bowlers in Pakistan do it. I don't know when it started: I never saw Sarfraz play, for instance. But Imran and Wasim used to do it. You learn a lot from watching. I learned from both of those two.

Do you think English suspicions of your bowling methods were inspired by jealousy?
I wouldn't say it was jealousy. The thing is no one knew what we were doing, so everyone thought it was some kind of cheating. Once Darren Gough started doing it, it started to be called "reverse swing". When we were doing it, everyone was saying "what's going on here?"

What lasting damage has fast bowling done to your body?
I've had two stress fractures of my back - the first one kept me out of the World Cup win in 1992 - so I'll probably have a bad back when I'm older. And bad knees and sore ankles too.

How frustrating was missing the NatWest Challenge? You made some fairly scathing criticisms in the press.
That wasn't really about the Pakistan team in general, or being dropped. I wasn't saying "Pick me - I should be playing". But I won't allow people like Shoaib Akhtar, or anyone, to come out and say stupid things about my career and how I've got things wrong. They should keep their opinions to themselves. I just wanted to say Shoaib should concentrate on his cricket because he has a lot to prove and he hasn't really achieved what he could have done in his career so far.

Pakistan have changed captain 45 times in 10 years. Are you hoping for another turn-about?
I've seen the reports that they've offered me a farewell game but no one from the Pakistan set-up has spoken to me since the World Cup. I went and spoke to the chairman and gave him a report on the World Cup but after that I haven't heard a thing. No one told me I wasn't captain any more. I just heard that Rashid was the new captain.

The Pakistan dressing room is famously fractious but what was the best team spirit you've ever been part of?
We never had a bad dressing room. We had bad times. It happens in any dressing room. You live day in, day out together and you're bound to have arguments. The best moments? Winning the World Cup - I was injured for the tournament but I felt part of the celebrations when the team came back with the trophy. We won two series in England and came back to draw two years ago. We beat Australia a couple of times; that was brilliant.

What's next?
For the winter I have an offer from South Africa and one from a club in Australia. I'd like to play another season in England. I might go back and do something in the national academy when I finish playing. I definitely want to stay in the game.

Thirty-one is very young to be thinking about retirement. Are you really only 31?
Yeah. Everyone always had something to say about my age. I am only 31 but I've been playing for a very long time.

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