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Akram and his toe-crushers will always be remembered

If Wasim Akram does not change his decision to retire from international cricket like he has done in the past, then we have seen the end of a truly inspirational career.

He has his place among the pace bowling giants of any era and the fact that he is a left-armer makes this Pakistani more special. I don't like comparisons between cricketers of the past and present, however, I am certain that none from the years gone by would have been a better bowler than Akram.

I mean this man could do just about anything with the ball. He could be quick and could swing the delivery at that pace — both the old and new balls. And he could move the ball both ways, which, given the fact that Akram was a left-arm bowler operating mostly from over-the-wicket, made him extremely dangerous.

After Dennis Lillee, he was perhaps the most complete fast bowler who knew every trick of the trade. What could he not achieve with the ball?

Nineteen years of international cricket and over 400 Test wickets and 500 ODI scalps throw light on his enormous achievements and durability.

Given his natural ability harnessed by hours of practice, he was bound to excel in both forms of the game.

Akram possessed an extremely deceptive short ball that surprised many batsmen and his deadly yorkers could crash through most defences. I remember Akram's toe-crushers very well.

It was with those deliveries that he changed the course of one India-Pakistan duel in Sharjah during the mid-80s. We were coasting at around 200 for one and were soon bowled out for 240-plus after Akram's yorkers started finding their target.

There have been plenty of occasions when a side had been cruising before Akram returned to slice open the line-up. The point is no team could afford to relax at any stage of the game when Akram was operating. He could run through sides on placid tracks and did not require green tops.

If his inswinging yorkers posed a distinct threat, especially to the righthanders, his change of pace did not make it any easy for the men facing him.

He had a rather slippery quick arm action and it was not the easiest of tasks to pick Akram. Each one of his six deliveries in an over could be different.

Akram was part of a great pace bowling combination with Waqar Younis and I would rate Akram much higher than Waqar for his sheer versatility.

Many tend to forget his displays with the willow. A fearsome striker of the ball, Akram bailed Pakistan out of trouble on quite a few instances.

Any cricketer who has a Test double hundred against his name and a Test century against Australia in Australia has to have some ability as a batsman. Akram's achievements as a batsman could have been a lot more had he not concentrated so much on his bowling.

His performances become even more praiseworthy if you consider that he battled diabetics for most part of his career. A less determined man would have given up but not this Pakistani.

Akram has had his share of problems as well. There was a time when he did not enjoy the best of relations with the Board, there were reports of rifts between some of the senior players and him, and his name figured in the match-fixing scandal.

I always believed that this man gave more that 100 per cent on the field. Petty politics could never keep Akram down.

I know him personally and he is someone who will always have a smile on his face even after a hard day's cricket. Gentle off the field, destructive on it. That's Wasim Akram for you.

K. SRIKKANTH

www.kris-srikkanth.com

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