Legendary fast bowler talks about cricket, controversies, and career after retirement in his new memoirs
One is the most lethal left-arm fast bowler to deliver the cricket ball; the other is one of the most prolific cricket writers of the current generation. When Wasim Akram meets Gideon Haigh, they create a magic that would give the best cricket autobiographies a run for the money because it brings forward undisclosed details of Sultan’s career like never before.
This is not the first time that Wasim Akram has penned an autobiography; a few months before the historic Indian tour of 1999, where he led Pakistan to victory, he came up with Wasim, an autobiography where he dealt with all the good, the bad and the ugly things of his career up till that point. Of course, there was hardly any mention of victories and losses that came after that, including the loss in the World Cup final that year, and that’s where this book comes in.
The difference between the two autobiographies, or memoirs as you can call them, is that the latest one is more comprehensive than the previous attempt. Also, the narrative style seems more attuned to international readers when compared to other books by Pakistani players because Gideon Haigh is brilliant at what he does. He knows what the readers want and combines it with his own research to come up with an explosive book that dismisses everyone who has done Wasim harm during, or after his career.
Also, it takes the readers down memory lane where Wasim Akram discloses how his parents’ temporary separation made him fall in love with cricket, who were the people who helped him succeed, and how he made it to the Pakistan squad while still in his teens. The way he describes his shock at knowing that he would get paid to play for the country is one of the many anecdotes this book contains, and keeps the readers busy from the first page till the last.
It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that Wasim Akram’s latest book is all about setting the record straight for his fans, his family, and his detractors. He claims that he may have erred as captain in a few matches including the famous one against England in Sharjah in 1997 where he scored just 4 runs off 19 deliveries, but the way he explains his side makes him seem less villainous. Similarly, he clears the air regarding batting first in the World Cup final in 1999, why all 10 members of the batting side fell to Anil Kumble in an inning, and how he felt when his own teammates went behind his back to remove him from captaincy.
Of course, the World Cup of 1992 features extensively in this book as does Imran Khan and Javed Miandad whom Wasim Akram considers mentors and saviours at the same time. He explains how under these two a young boy from the lesser-known area Ahmed Pura in Lahore was able to become the top-rated bowler in international cricket, and how their company boosted his morale when he felt he wasn’t good enough. His point of view on matches where Pakistan came out victorious is also worth a read since he has hardly spoken about them since hanging his boots.
Like Wasim Akram’s bowling, this book is fast and furious, while like his run-up, it’s bold and beautiful. He doesn’t sound like a cricketer who last donned the cricket kit twenty years back but someone who wants to clear his name and thank his colleagues. He has listed everything from his first marriage to being framed for smoking marijuana to meeting his current wife in these pages, which gives this book the personal touch it deserves. What’s shocking is his admission to becoming a drug addict after retirement and how his first wife Huma helped him become clean again, but such things shouldn’t have been touched, since they make him look guilty in the Grenada incident of 1993 along with his teammates.
If you thought these admissions were lethal, think again because Wasim doesn’t mince words when he talks about the Justice Qayyum Commission. According to him, it damaged Pakistan cricket more than the Match Fixing and Spot Fixing saga. He talks in detail about Ata Ur Rehman’s twin testimony, his own decision to sit out of the World Cup 1996 quarter-final in Bangalore and his unpleasant association with his next-door neighbour Zafar Iqbal aka Jojo which dented his career big time.
He also recounts the ordeal of his father’s abduction, the ball-tampering allegations as well as his wife Huma’s death, incidents that made him think about his choices in life. He also discloses details regarding finding out about diabetes which he believes happened because he was under pressure most of the time when representing Pakistan.
Last but not least, when one reads about his explanation in these pages regarding the Lord’s final in 1999, one gets to know that the boys were under tremendous pressure from all sides, and winning the final was the last thing on their minds. Many such incidents get disclosed in these pages, however, it would have been great had the printing quality been better and the font size a little larger, because that way this memoir would have done justice to Wasim Akram’s legacy, which it sadly doesn’t.