Sportstar archives: Waqar Younis - 'I am not an aggressive person'

In this candid interview, Waqar Younis touches on how he was spotted and how he developed into a world class bowler.

The Pakistan quicks, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, brought reverse swing to the fore.   -  Getty Images

Cricket never was his first love. He had high ambitions in badminton and tennis. He was good at both and it was chance that he ventured into cricket and in first two years, Waqar Younis has put even the fearsome West Indian fast bowlers in the shade.

In this candid interview to Sportstar during the Sharjah Cup, Waqar touches on how he was spotted and how he developed into a world class bowler. Batsmen have to watch out for two things when facing him. The speed of the ball and the safety of their toes.

The strapping Pakistani spearhead has the reputation of a 'toe breaker', so lethal are his yorkers. Competitive cricketer on the field, he sure is, but he's soft-spoken off it. Too gentle for a fast bowler.

Excerpts…

Could you tell us something about your back- ground?

I come from a small town, Multan. Not really a good place. I was born there. I studied in a boarding school for three years in Lahore before my father called me to Sharjah; he was working in a Chinese construction company.

I studied there for four years. I was not really interested in cricket but I used to go and watch cricket at the Sharjah stadium. I certainly was not looking for a career in cricket. I was very good in badminton and could play tennis too. After four years in Sharjah, my father sent me back to Pakistan. I joined the Sadiq public school in Bahawalpur. It is one of the best schools in Asia. It was in this school that I played cricket regularly. We had good nets in the school. I was in a boarding house for nearly three years more. I re- member I could bowl quick then too. I did not play any under-17 or under-15 tournament.

Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed.   -  The Hindu Archives

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When did you take cricket seriously?

After passing my school. I passed my 10th class (science) but I still was not looking for a career in cricket. I studied arts and economics at the Government College I played for my college team and it was there I realised I could play good cricket. It was during that phase that the transition came about and I developed a fascination for cricket.

When did the big break come?

I went to my first trial for the Multan under-19, playing a season's cricket and performed well. I was selected for the higher division of cricket and my team topped the league. That meant we graduated to play in the Azam Trophy. I think it was during that period that I felt I could make cricket a career.

How was your performance in junior cricket?

Following my performance in the Azam Trophy, I got a chance to play in the Wills Cup, thanks to Hanif Mohammed, who was impressed after watching me for a couple of matches. Ehteshamuddin, who was the manager of the United Bank Limited, offered me a contract. I was only too happy to accept it. In my first match I took six wickets. In all I played about four matches and took about 2 5 wickets. I played the under-19 series against India. In the first Test, I tried to bowl quick but lost out on line and length and was dropped for the next Test. In between, I was engaged in a first-class match against the Pakistan International Airlines. I took wickets in that match and was back for the last Test at Karachi. We lost that match and I remember Ajay Jadeja batting well in that match.

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Did you believe at that stage that you would play for Pakistan?

Honestly, I never thought I would be playing for my country. A year later, I found my name for the camp of 44 probables and attended the 1 5-day camp. It was a good experience.

A young Sachin Tendulkar,in his debut series, was struck on the face by a short ball from Waqar Younis. He, however, continued batting after receiving medical attention.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

 

It is said Imran spotted you and it was he alone who brought you into the team ?

A It is true, I was playing the Super Wills match at Lahore against Delhi. Imran was watching the game on the telly and he soon drove down to the ground. After the match, he just called me and said, "you are going with us to Sharjah". I couldn't believe it. The very next day I was in the Pakistan side. It all seemed a dream. My family was delighted and I was immensely happy.

How was your first match?

I did not do well on my debut against the West Indies. I bowled four overs and got cramps. I was not used to this kind of big cricket; probably it was my zeal to bowl very fast. I was dropped for the match against India but was back against the game with West Indies. I took three wickets and that was that. I was a regular in the team. The MRP Cup in India was next and the rest you know.

When did you realise you were genuinely quick?

When Dickie Bird told me that I was the quickest. I realised it when I played my first Test that I could really bowl quick. Imran told me that I could improve and do better.

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Have you been trying to improve your physique in the process?

I am looking to be a very strong man. I have worked hard on my physique and tried to improve tournament by tournament. For me, the Wills Super Cup at Lahore was the turning point of my career. I gain strength from crowd support also. My hair stands up as I run in. with the crowd backing me. It feels great.

How was your experience in England?

I have enjoyed playing there this season. I had played only half the matches last year for Surrey. This year was great. The guys there are good and friendly. It is good financially too.

Do media and public pressure bother you?

Not really. So far. the media has supported me. Criticism here and there has not bothered me. May be, the expectations from the fans could put you under pressure slightly but you have to cope with it. Cricket is a funny game.

How about your reputation in England?

I was regarded a tearaway bowler. For the English. I am too fast. They have only medium-pacers in their country. May be that is why I got so much success this season.

In 1994, Hadlee considered the duo of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis the most lethal combination in cricket. - THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

What did you gain from the county experience?

Seven days of cricket could become boring and taxing. You travel a lot to play your matches. I don't regard their coaching methods high. The coaches in England teach you to bowl a good line and length. I don't listen to them. I believe that if you try to concentrate too much on line and length you lose out on pace. Geoff Arnold told me to concentrate on line and length but I looked to improve my speed. I did well, I think. England is a good place to play in if you want to learn and be popular.

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How would you rate your bowling?

Well, I am quick in the air and not off the wicket. I don't like to bowl short. It is okay if you are playing in a Test match where you can slip in a bouncer or try to intimidate. But not in a one-day game. I always try to bowl full length and concentrate on the yorkers.

You seem a different man off the field?

Basically, I am not an aggressive person. I like to be friendly to people everywhere. Why should one make enemies. I try to relax and go out with friends.

How do you feel when you are slogged?

I don't feel bad. I just try to relax. I was hit in the match against India here (in Sharjah). I think it is all part of the game. After all, the batsmen, too, have to play and score runs.

What would you rate as your best performance?

My best I feel was against the West Indies in the re- turn match here. I was under so much pressure. I was confident also but then lan Bishop could have hit the ball any- where. He had hit me for a six. I decided not to cut down on my pace since it was the last pair. Bishop might have slogged a slow ball and I decided it was better to bowl quick.

How do you motivate yourself?

From the atmosphere of the cricket ground. My love to play for the country and the desire to play long keeps me going. I know it is tough ahead with so much cricket coming up. The World Cup and the series against England are going to be difficult. I have to take care of my fitness. It is very important.

What is on your mind when you run in to bowl?

I am not bothered about the batsman's reputation. I just bowl quick and try to keep the ball straight and try to get the batsman out. There are so many ways for him to get out. It is he who has to worry and not me.

Which batsman you have enjoyed bowling to?

Salim Malik. It is difficult bowling to him because he can hit the ball anywhere. I admire Martin Crowe. Robin Smith, Mark Ramprakash, Sachin Tendulkar and Sanjay Manjrekar.

Sachin and Sanjay?

Sachin is good but he gives you chances. But not Sanjay. I think he has got the best technique in the world. I have been watching him for two years now. He seems to be improving always. The way he tackles the moving ball and faces the speedy ones is brilliant. Sanjay is the world's best batsman, no question.

Which team do you think is the best?

West Indies. I always want to do well against them. Twice they have won the World Cup and I have always looked forward to playing against them. I like the Indians too. But I hate the Aussies for their attitude. They take the rivals as enemies on the field. Cricket is a royal, gentlemen's game and it should be so. But the Aussies don't seem to appreciate this.

Do you get emotional playing against India. At least people watching tend to?

I like the Indians and the atmosphere in the stand doesn't make any impact on me. Indians are a nice lot. I never lose my temper playing against them. I enjoy sitting with them after the game is over. I love Azhar ; he is such a brilliant batsman and such a nice guy. I get along well with the Indians. Obviously, the people in that stands don't realise this. They don't think we are friends on and off the field. The people in the stands do not really come to watch cricket and that I feel is unfair. After all, we are only playing a game. The people on both sides should realise this. I have lot of Indian friends.

(This article was first published in Sportstar on November 9, 1991)

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