The land of purity has surprisingly given birth to world-class bowlers amongst which we mourn the loss of many. I would not be bragging if I term the former as a fact. From Fazal Mahmood and Abdul Hafeez Kardar’s era to Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah’s era, the world has witnessed a rather significant contribution in the cricketing world over the past 7 decades.
Going down the memory lane, a star-studded bowling department was been set under the standards of the honorary Fazal Mahmood from the year 1952. Being an inspiration for the bowler’s era over decades ago, he is still remembered for his heroic performance of his 12 wickets haul at The Oval as well as surpassing the landmark of becoming the first Pakistani to take 100 wickets in Test matches.
Alongside the legend, Fazal Mahmood, his famous pace partner, Khan Mohammad, was an even deadlier bowler who secured 54 wickets in mere 13 matches within 6 years that he dedicated to his country’s Test side. For taking the first-ever Test wicket for Pakistan in 1952, Khan Mohammad will always be remembered till the world rejoices the game of stumps.
Abdul Qadir, the sharp leg-spinner and the king of googly, who made his Test debut in 1977 is probably the finest praiseworthy wrist spinner. The robust bowler led Pakistan to a win at the home ground against West Indies in 1986 with figures of 6/16 while restricting the rival side to just 53 runs. The world remembers this skillful spinner even today who has 236 wickets against his name within a span of 67 Test games of his life.
While others were aiming to represent a star on their chest for the longest time life could allow them, Jalaluddin showed up for the shortest span to represent the men in green and has set the mark of becoming the first bowler to take an ODI hat-trick against Australia in 1982.
The mid-1980s cricketing years were ruled by Sarfaraz Nawaz who not only came in handy with the bat down the order but has also proven to be an adherent of reverse swing, a subtype of fast bowling. Nawaz had a turbulent start to his career before he was recalled at the national side. A total wicket count of 177 from 55 Tests played is plausible for a person who played with statements of temporary retirements along his cricketing journey.
Ever heard of a fast bowler without his pace partner? Out of everything Pakistan has ever managed to achieve, the 1992 World Cup tops the list to date. The cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan’s photograph of holding the World Cup high in his hands gives us an unconscious yet warm smile. Khan topped the bowling average in England in 1982 during his peak age. On the other hand, at the age of 39, Khan’s winning wicket in the 1992 World Cup final against England remains the highlight of his life.
Dedicating 16 years to domestic and 14 years to international cricket respectively, Waqar Younis, with the most feared bowling maneuvers, having earned the titles like ‘the toe crusher’ and ‘the youngest to 400 ODI wickets’ is arguably one of the finest yet the deadliest fast bowler the world has seen. With 350 test wickets beside his name, Younis still is ranked in ICC’s all-time top 10 bowlers. Younis caught the attention of the English audience and won the English County Championship in 1997.
The king of spin bowling, the inventor of ‘Doosra’ and the most underrated bowler of all times, Saqlain Mushtaq became the second bowler to grab two hat-tricks in the ODI format of the game in 1999. Saqi took 4 wickets in his debut match against Sri Lanka. Four years later, he took his first 10 wicket haul during a Test in India. Saqlain also worked on various unique deliveries like ‘Teesra’ and ‘Chotha’ which was not much witnessed during his tenure but was later practiced by Saeed Ajmal.
The greatest bowler of all time and the man who holds a world record of most wickets in List A cricket, the sultan of swing, Wasim Akram with ‘the most international hat-tricks’ alongside the Rawalpindi Express, Shoaib Akhtar who gives a shiver down the spine to many international batsmen even today, with ‘the fastest delivery bowled’, Pakistani bowlers kept winning various titles.
On the other hand, the iconic duo of Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gull glorified the game days of the 2010s. Remembering Ajmal’s magical overs in the 2014 World T20 against Australia which not only snatched the game from the Kangaroos but also led shaheens to qualify for the semi-finals. The T20I king, Gul, is named amongst the most successful T20 bowlers for obvious reasons.
Pakistan is famously known for its diverse population. An equal distribution of opportunities amongst them is yet another reason to love this country. Danish Kaneria, with a ball in hand, has proven to be a formidable spin bowler. Having played for 10 years, he has made his name amongst the highest wicket-takers for Pakistan.
There are no shortcuts to any place worth going to. Walking along the cricketing days of the 2000s, the real magician bowler emerged by the name of Mohammad Asif who graciously took 105 wickets in total 22 Test matches that he played for Pakistan in 5 years before his ban. Asif was rated as one of the most dangerous bowlers by some world-class batsmen around the world but fate had something else awaiting him.
Cricket has been known as a gentleman’s game since its inception. The 2010 incident left the game lovers with a void that haunts many even after a decade. Not having any lack of talent or opportunities, Mohammad Amir broke into the gentleman’s game at the age of 17 with significant winning performances and yet giving only 11 years to domestic and likewise to international including his five years ban hurts exactly where it should. As they say, someone has to break the rules to set an example.
Wahab Riaz, Pakistan’s handy pace attack, Mohammad Abbas, joint-quickest fast bowler to 50 wickets in Tests and first to touch the milestone of a 10 wickets haul in the UAE, are both widely known and recognized as experienced and handy bowlers in crucial conditions.
Breaking an 82-years old record is not everyone’s cup of tea. Yasir Shah reached the milestone of becoming the fastest bowler in the world to take 200 Test wickets in 2018.
“You need a wicket, you go to Hassan Ali.” Domestic cricket has proven to be the best way to break into the national side or you can say, to break back into the national side. Such has been the case with Hassan Ali aka the generator. Winning the Golden Ball in the 2017 champions’ trophy is one of the many significant performances of his life. This lad has taken 188 wickets in all formats combined within 5 years which includes an off year due to his back injury and a rib fracture in 2019-2020. Took a 10 wickets-haul at the home ground against South Africa right after his return remains a highlight of his career.
Talking about modern-day cricket, the current crop of bowlers is highly dedicated to the consequential Shaheen Shah Afridi. This young lad and pacer had such an early impact on the game that he made his way to PCB’s central contract the same year he made his international debut in 2018. The potentially skillful bowler has 58 wickets in just 17 Test matches against his name in 3 years with the best bowling figures of 6/86. To state that he may prove to be an asset for the shaheens might not be wrong here.
Would be unfair to discuss Naseem Shah’s contributions to the men in green here. He has shined like a beacon and became the youngest bowler in the history of world Test cricket to declare a test hat-trick breaking the previous record of Mohammad Sami set 18 years ago.
Not to anyone’s surprise but when asked about a major difference between the cricketing league of Pakistan to the best cricketing leagues of the world, the greatest of all times state one prodigious difference and that is the standard of bowling by a talented lot of bowlers irrespective of their age.
To the honorary legends of the past that drench our emotions into sadness as well as to our living legends who are not far behind the timber of greatness that the street cricket has developed them into, here is rather lengthy thank you for your contributions to the game that has made us fall in love with every single of you and many that I have missed along the path.