Obituary, 2007

Wasim Raja

ESPNcricinfo staff



Wasim Raja: full of daring. © The Cricketer International
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WASIM HASAN RAJA died during a match in Buckinghamshire on August 23, 2006. He was 54. A free-flowing left-hander and a useful leg-spinner, Wasim Raja played 57 Tests for Pakistan in a dozen years from his debut at 20 in 1972-73. He saved his best for West Indies, the hardest opposition of the period: the first two of his four Test centuries came at their expense, and he averaged 57.43 against them overall. However, he first attracted attention at Test level with two hard-hit innings of 24 and 53 on a drying pitch at Lord's in 1974, his first innings ended only by an astonishing catch by the towering Tony Greig, left-handed above his head on the boundary.

Despite a good overall record, Wasim was often seen as expendable, and received his fair share of rebuffs from the selectors. He was also uneasy with the hierarchical nature of Pakistan's dressingroom, once refusing to hang out a senior team-mate's socks to dry, and this may have cost him the chance of the captaincy. But Wasim's batting, full of daring highbacklift drives, always kept him in the running for a place, and he was rarely on the sidelines for long. His twirling legspin was often an afterthought, but he still claimed 51 Test wickets, and once took eight for 65 - and 14 wickets in the match - in an Under-25 Test in Colombo in 1973-74.

After his international career was over, Wasim moved to England, and studied at Durham University, anchoring them to the UAU Championship title in 1990 despite the after-effects of a near-fatal car accident the previous December. He also played for Durham in their pre-first-class days. He became a teacher, but maintained his cricketing involvement. Wasim had a brief spell as Pakistan's coach in 1999, and a stint as an ICC referee, overseeing 15 Tests. He also carried on playing, and was representing Surrey Over-50s in a match at Marlow when he collapsed with a heart attack and died. His brother, Ramiz Raja, also played 57 Tests for Pakistan (the first two in the same side as Wasim), and is now a TV commentator.

© John Wisden & Co.