Waqar Younis Maitla, the man they called the Burewala Bomber, has announced his retirement from international cricket in a simple function organised by the Pakistan Cricket Board, ahead of the third Test between India and Pakistan at Rawalpindi. "I could have still played for one more year," said Waqar, reading from a written statement, "but the hunger was gone and after talking to my wife and family I decided that it was the right time to say goodbye and start a second innings."
He was relaxed, casually turned out in a figure-hugging brown T-shirt. "This is the first time I'm coming to a press conference without any pressure on me," he began. "Whatever I am today is only because of cricket. It's just a game but also a lifestyle. I've had a lot of ups and downs, several injuries and lots of happy memories."
After 15 years of international cricket, beginning with the Karachi Test against India in 1989, where he took 4 for 80, Waqar has come a long way. In his early days his toe-crushing yorkers put the fear of God into batsmen. But, he was just as dangerous many years later, even after his pace and youth had deserted him. A master of conventional and reverse-swing bowling, Waqar ended with 373 wickets from 87 Tests at 23.56 and 416 wickets in 228 one-dayers. He was one half of the feared two-Ws partnership alongside Wasim Akram, and was gracious enough to concede: "I got more than 50% of my wickets of my wickets because Wasim was bowling at the other end. He was a big help and support, the burden was always shared."
Waqar brushed aside the controversies of match-fixing and ball tampering, but admitted he had a few regrets in his career - including being let down by several teammates in the 2003 World Cup. "I trusted the wrong people," he said, refusing to elaborate, simply saying that he would reveal all in his forthcoming autobiography. Missing the 1992 World Cup because of injury and not playing enough Test cricket against India at his peak were the other big regrets he spoke about.
But the regrets were a sideshow. Waqar preferred to recall his great spells, including his 7 for 36 against England at Headingley in 2001, which remains the best one-day bowling by a Pakistani. But, Waqar admitted that the wicket that gave him most pleasure was that of Ajay Jadeja. "After being smashed around in the 1996 World Cup by him, every time I got Jadeja, that was the ultimate."
When Waqar and Wasim first demonstrated their ability for prodigious reverse-swing, there were immediate allegations of ball-tampering from the cricket world. Waqar admitted that this hurt him. "The whole world knows how it is done. But, just because Wasim and I did it successfully it doesn't mean it is easy. We had to work really hard to master it. The allegations of ball-tampering did hurt, but the great Geoffrey Boycott paid us the ultimate compliment when he said we could have bowled out England with an orange. We always had the talent and I am only glad that what was then called ball-tampering has now been given universal approval with the name reverse-swing."
When asked whether injuries ruined his chances of taking 500 wickets, Waqar was phlegmatic. "Injury is part of a fast bowler's life, I can't say I would have taken 500 wickets if I had not been injured and missed so many matches. I believe in destiny and luck and am pretty pleased with whatever I achieved." And, what Waqar achieved will take some emulating. "I want to be remembered as a decent cricketer," he concluded. "Whenever they talk of reverse-swing they'll talk of me - that's a great achievement."