Wasim Raja, the former Pakistan batsman who went on to become an ICC match referee, has died while playing for Surrey Over 50s at Marlow in Buckinghamshire. He was 54.
"Wasim had a big heart attack on the field," a Surrey spokesman told Cricinfo. "He felt dizzy, and mentioned this to the slips, saying that he felt he had to go off. He was carried off but then collapsed on the boundary."
Wasim, the brother of Rameez Raja, was a bearded left-hand middle-order batsman, whereas Rameez was a clean-shaven right-hand opener. Wasim could bowl, too; brisk, flat top-spinners rather than legbreaks, pioneering the style followed by Anil Kumble and Shahid Afridi. Wasim also had one outstanding series when he proved himself the most effective of some very fine Pakistan batsmen in the West Indies in 1976-77.
He might have made a good Pakistan captain in a rather old-fashioned amateur swashbuckling fashion, but coming from the country's elite, studying in Durham and marrying an Englishwoman, he tended to be above the political battle. This, however, stood him in good stead in later life, when he was appointed as one of the ICC's elite panel of match referees.
"It is a very sad and heart-breaking news. As a teenager, I used to go and watch all the games in which Wasim Raja used to play," former captain Wasim Akram said. "He was a crowd favorite not only because of his hard-hitting abilities but because he was a charismatic character. He was an idol of most of the youngsters in the 70s and 80s."
"We grew together and played our cricket not only as team-mates but also as opponents," said Javed Miandad. "He was not only a true sportsman but a thorough gentleman. We have been involved in some of the best matches. It is sad to lose a great cricketer, a good sportsman and a true ambassador of the country."
Wasim played 57 Tests between 1973 and 1985, scoring 2821 runs at 36.16 with four hundreds, the best of which was 125. He also took 51 wickets at 35.80 with a best of 4 for 50. Both his career-best performances came against India at Jalandhar in 1983-84. He also played 54 ODIs. He was subsequently a match referee in 15 Tests, the last of which was in 2003-04.