Former England captain Graham Gooch said on Tuesday Wasim Akram was his toughest competitor in cricket due to his ability to swing the ball both ways and that too late.
“Wasim Akram, as a left-arm bowler, was a revered one,” said Gooch. ”He was effective both over and round the wicket and was very difficult to read,” he added.
Speaking about his toughest competitors, Gooch said, “I faced him [Akram] a lot in the early nineties and the mid-ninties. What made him a tough competitor was not only his ability to bowl with pace but also his ability to swing the ball.”
“He kept running in and kept bowling over the wicket and round the wicket. And he used to swing the ball from both sides, both in and out. He had a quick-arm action which was not derived from a long run up. And what made him a difficult opponent was when the ball started swinging; his ability to swing the ball late was phenomenal,” the former England captain said.
Gooch upheld that Wasim’s quality of bowling is more appreciable as he bowled in the sub-continent conditions on slow tracks. ”He showed a lot of quality while bowling for Pakistan and obviously on slow wickets in the country and the sub-continent it couldn’t have been easy. He is right up there with the best,” said Gooch.
Gooch also talked about the 1992 World Cup final where Wasim’s mid-innings spell changed the course of the game towards Pakistan. ”The 1992 final, it was a big disappointment for me. It was a tight game which could go either way. He came mid-innings and bowled round the wicket. He produced the ball which went away from Alan Lamb and clipped his stumps. The next ball Chris Lewis came in and he made the ball swing the other way; it come into him. He was a match-winner. He came back and bowled that spell which made the difference,” Gooch recalled.
The 62-year-old Englishman added that Wasim’s skill to hide the ball from the batsman was what made him a tad more lethal. ”Whenever I played against him, I watched the ball closely. When I coach the players now, I tell them to watch the ball always; when you are the batting end or at the non-striker’s end watch how the bowler is holding the ball. When I played against Wasim, he would come round the wicket from behind the umpire and hide the ball behind his back and pop he would deliver it,” explained Gooch.
“I think anyone who played against him in that era would have great respect for him. He was the toughest swing bowler I have ever seen.”
Wasim has taken 916 international wickets making him the highest left-arm bowler in the game of cricket. He is also the only bowler ever to produce a brace of hat-tricks in ODIs and Tests. For Pakistan, he won 10 man-of-the-series awards which is the highest by any cricketer in Greens.
The interview was conducted by ESPNcricinfo.