Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Great Debates - Wasim Akram vs Waqar Younis

As the name goes, these are supposed to be few attempts in which we will dare to profess two parallel greats of specific eras and try to contemplate on their sheer greatness and ultimately, make an immortal attempt to compare them. It must be foretold that these attempts may be flawed and not satisfy every follower of the game who was/is enthralled by those greats.

In this first study, we pick two of the greatest fast bowlers the game of cricket was ever graced with. They were a duo for whom every accolade that is humanly possible has been put forward, before whom even their greatest critics and conspirators had to bow and the legacies and aura of whom still make up the game played today. Words fall short in all honesty to define their greatness, hence we'll simply start this off. Its a humble take on the Ws, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

What basically started as a random twitter chat on one fine October night about the two W's by me, Sana Kazmi and Faran Ghumman ultimately transformed into some factual and statistical debate. Sana Kazmi casually quoted Imran Khan, the godfather of Pakistan cricket, who termed Wasim as the one who gave up too soon out of the two Ws, and then what followed is the basis of this venture, and which was then further discussed through e-mails and also a respected input from Subash Jayaraman. And with me being a self-proclaimed greatest fan of Wasim bhai, this was bound to be a bit interesting.

Back to the theme, let me clarify that to aptly analyse the greatness of the two Ws is next-to-impossible as every proper cricket follower would know; hence, this debate consists of only specific points and considerations. Also, we are only analysing the test match careers of them here, and if ODIs were to be done too then whatever follows here wouldn't ever be able to be jotted down too.

Since the main talk revolved around the 'effectiveness' of the two, there were some arguments given. which were countered. In the following, I have quoted and summarized the emails and various points in consideration to the best of my abilities. 

I. In Pakistan & Subcontinent

My point of Wasim's career Strike-Rate (SR) being less than Waqar's owed to the fact that he bowled more in the flat subcontinents pitches than Waqar, hence his SR was bound to be affected more. Sana takes my point and hits back with the following:

Percentage of overs in Pakistan
Waqar 1046.4 out of 2704 -> 38.6%
Wasim 1312 out of 3771 -> 34.8%
So Wasim bowled only 4% more of his overs in Pakistan than Waqar did, which you would have to agree, is too small difference to account for a difference in their overall strike-rates of more than 10 (Waqar's 43.4 vs. Wasim's 54.6). Even if you don't agree with that, your argument is basically that Wasim has worse stats because he bowled on pitches less suited to fast bowling - in which case you must extend the analysis to the entire sub-continent, not just Pakistan. 

Percentage of overs bowled in the sub-continent (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, UAE*)
Waqar 1370/2704 -> 50.6%
Wasim 1887.2/3771.1 -> 50 %
When you compare the percentage of their overs bowled throughout the sub-continent, it's the same! (In fact, if I was being anal, I'd say Waqar actually bowled .6% more of his overs on flat pitches.

Though I'll admit that the kind of bowler Wasim was made him less suited to dead tracks than Waqar with his extreme pace, I don't really believe in comparing bowlers on where they've bowled if they're from the same team. Unless there's a huge difference in the no. of overs, it evens out more or less. (Of course in Wasim and Waqar's case I would say it did in their case, it evened out completely, but that's unusual).

*Wasim never played a Test in the UAE

My take:

As I said, Waqar bettered Wasim in subcontinent mainly because they played most of the games vs Ind, SL, WI, NZ, Zim (with which we won almost very series,a nd they weren't the best of teams, lets be honest).
And they played hardly any v Aus and SA (which were unarguably the best teams of that era- late 80s and whole of 90s). Lets see some stats in this regard.

First, take Waqar in Pakistan.
Team   Matches   Wkts
NZ         5              35
SL         8              31
Zim        7              41
WI         5              24

Total      25            131
Waqar played 33 matches in Pak. Hence, 25/33 is a large proportion!

Now, Wasim in Pakistan.
Team   Matches   Wkts
NZ         2              10
SL         10             28
Zim        6               28
WI         8               43  

Total      26            109
Wasim played 41 of his 104 matches in Pak.

So, we can see Waqar has more wickets, better average and SR against these low ranked teams of that era. Which ultimately helped him getting a better avg and SR at home & subcontinent than Wasim.

Wasim v Aus+SA took 21 wkts in 6 games.
Waqar v Aus+SA took 14 wkts in 4 games.

So this shows they were almost equal against the top 2 teams of their era, sadly they played too less at home to properly analyse who was better against the top teams.

II. Against the best team (Aus) of their era.

My next point is on who was better in the country that mattered the most. Yes, in Australia and vs Australia too.
And Wasim wins it comfortably, in all depts- wickets, average and SR.

v Aus           Matches     Wickets   Average    SR  

Wasim           13             50           25.7          59.8  
Waqar           12             30           33.8          62.7

in Aus
Wasim            9               36          24.0           58.0    
Waqar            7               14          40.5           81.4  

So, in Aus and v Aus, Wasim was the daddy.

III. Against the top teams of their era.

Another major point, which should give a fair idea of who was better overall wkts/match and avg wise v the other top teams in their era. I'm taking SA, Eng, Ind and WI (WI because they were tough till 97', at least)

First, Waqar.
Team            Matches        Wickets    Average    SR      Wkts/match
SA                  7                    23           28.7      50.6         3.2
Eng                11                   50           27.0      48.5         4.5
Ind                  4                     8            47.0      80.2         2
WI                 13                   55           23.3      36.6         4.2

Now, Wasim.
Team            Matches        Wickets    Average    SR      Wkts/match
SA                   4                  13            29.7      65.0          3.2
Eng                18                   57           30.6      69.8          3.2
Ind                 12                   45           29.8      65.0          3.75
WI                 17                   79           20.8      44.9          4.6

Against NZ and SL, both were equally good (almost inseparable stats-wise).

By above stats, we see:
Wasim bettering Waqar in Wkts/Match by 2-1.
Waqar bettering Wasim in SR by 3-1 while Avg-wise, both are 2-2.

So, its basically evens stevens in those stars. Saying any one of them was better than the other would be stupid, so I would like you all to focus on the first 2 points that I detailed, esp, v Aus and in Aus. 

IV. Longevity 

Subash pointed out that "You need to have longevity to get in to any sort of All time XI. In terms of SR and Average, there isn't much to choose between the two, in which case, you have to go with overall skill set and longevity and hence, I go with Wasim."

When looking at the two W's in matches that Pakistan won:

Wasim played 104 tests; Won: 41
Total wkts 414; In matches won: 211 at 18.48 average.

Waqar played 87 tests; Won: 39.
Total wkts 373; In matches won: 222 at 18.20 average.

By this stat, Waqar could be termed slighty more "effective" but Wasim had longevity.

V. The eight-year period (1990-1997) & few other astounding stats.

This cricinfo stats analysis by S Rajesh tells a lot about the two W's, their dominance in the cricket world, Wasim edging Waqar in few areas and more. There is hardly any difference in Wasim and Waqar as go the performance during those 8 years (Wasim has the better avg and Waqar has the better SR), yet no one in the game was better than them, and here we are talking about an era of the game which saw the likes of McGrath, Warne, Donald, Ambrose etc.

The most vital factor I want to press here is the MOTM (Man of the match) frequency Wasim had. During these eight years, Akram was Man of the Match in 12 of the 48 Tests he played, an incredible average of one every four games. And even in his whole career, his frequency 17 MOTM out of 104 matches is the best in the game's history. So, if there was any question of being 'effective' and to influence the matches, I don't think there can be any more comprehensive argument than this.

Conclusion? Honestly, Impossible.

Having discussed all this, even though I've tried my best to put more weight in Wasim bhai's half, I'm of the opinion that it will forever remain an impossible task to edge one of them over the other in most of the areas/aspects. Individually, they were an entire world within themselves. Sheer masters of new and old ball, absolute gods of swing and a lifetime phenomenon to witness.

Subash has a liking for Wasim bhai and fittingly says, "Also, I think a lot of the times people some times get influenced by the ODI performances in their overall judgement of the players. Of course, Wasim was a stud and leading wicket taker there as well, but the brutality and devastation of Waqar's inswinging yorkers could swing some arguments.
As long as we keep those two separate -- i don't think its as close as the stats seem to indicate. Wasim was born to bowl. So raw when he came on, but quickly became the stud that he was for the longest time.

P.S. To this day, I remember watching the 92 finals on a grainy screen at a friend's house. I was 15 then. Old enough to understand the game and the players playing it. Still cannot comprehend how he turned the game on its head with those 3 balls."

Sana puts in one her emails: "Wasim obviously had more variety, and hence - you would think - more skill, and was just... special. Without needing to be express. And it's incredible that he was diagnosed with diabetes at 26 and still looked like he was at his peak till 31 or so. Plus two very different kind of bowlers, so not really fair to compare. And, like I was telling, I think this whole exercise of picking an all-time XI is really dumb. (Gideon Haigh wrote a great article on Cricinfo on why it's futile to do so). "

My drift is understandably towards Wasim Akram, for various other reasons; the one which should suffice here would that he has been my boyhood inspiration and forever will remain. Watching him was like seeing a god turn his left arm over, do the divine and then celebrate. Having said that, make no bones crack, I would die a dozen times if I was told I would be able to see Waqar Younis in his pomp live again. There were and will be hardly any better sights in the game then a Waqar's toe-crushing yorker. For Waqar's fans and all those interested in this read, here is a really scintillating piece by Alex Bowden (click the weblink).

All said, I believe we haven't and won't ever be able to do justice with such comparisons or analysis, because some legends and there comparisons in cricket are incomprehensible. To do any justice, here we go with a mini-reminder of what these two of the proudest sons of Pakistan were like:

Any comments and views on this and any personal takes would be appreciated. Much thanks.


Zeeshan Ahmed said...

Nice one mate ! :) Loved it very much !
Indeed, two prodigal sons of Pakistan ! Two lethal assassins, one forces you to be defenseless, while other forces you to implode. The masters of swing...
Well written mate ;)

Sana said...

Please read this scorecard for proof that MoTM awards are not always a good measure of, umm, match-winning ability.

Ugh, I'm getting annoyed all over again reading this.

Anonymous said...

I have the answer 4 this debate.....................................................Wasim Akram shouldn't b compared with Waqar Younis coz Wasim is/was/will be betta. Ans no im not biased towards him....

Sana said...

Anon at 8:03 (aka emclub): He also had better hair. Though Waqar is a funnier commentator.

Masuud said...

Zeeshan, thanks bud. Yup, precisely put by you in those adjectives. True legends, the golden boys of cricket!

Sana, I totally get you there, par if you put it in case of these two, it should work too. Having said that, you need to look at those 17 MOTM by Wasim. Out of 17, 14 were when Pakistan won.
Here could be another talking point that his batting abilities supported him in few of those MOTMs too, so yes a pretty arguable point there, par something even Waqar could've done with too if Wasim did.

Masuud said...

Anon, you're fully independent in your own judgment and your opinions are fully respected.

Emclub said...

i dunno but 4 some reason i agree with Anonymously

Am1rA2h3R said...

a simple n clear thing that u ppl didnt took into account is the number of breaks being put to Vicky's career. he must and should be given credit for all the comebacks and indeed every time he came back roring. on the contrary Wasim neva been through any such dilemma.

Emclub said...

Probably u(Am1rA2h3R) havn't followed Wasim's career properly otherwise u wont say his......he's missed many games through injury n politics

Masuud said...

Am1rA2h3R, you're right in your point about Waqar par you're forgetting how much Wasim has faced the same throughout his career.
In 93'-94' season, Waqar led the players group who rebelled against Wasim's captaincy (accepted on record by Waqar and apologised as well) which stripped Wasim off captaincy, miss couple of series. Then in 2001-02, Wasim was not selected in tests due to politics again, with the reason given that he wasn't in form (which was never the case). And obviously, the numerous injuries that he faced in his 19 year career are another aspect, same which can be considered for Waqar too.
So, I guess in the end, both have experienced the roughest paths a Pakistani cricketer could and come out as pure champions :)

karachikhatmal said...

your best piece of them all. its an endless debate, and the stats just muddle everything more.

we had this debate in our dorms one night, went through the whole night and early morning, until the warden came to shut us up as there was the threat of violence. he also ended up getting involved in the whole debate. everything went nuts. no one decided.

Junaid said...

@Masuud...Please dont talk about politics, group-baazi and all
stick to stats
Wasim Akram was accused of match-fixing and judge was lenient to him so no Ban or something, he was just not allowed to captain pak team..

yes that guy was involved in shady stuff
Waqar was clean..whole life..whole career..and how can you forget 2 comebacks in his career ?
6&7 wickets against ENG & AUS..

as a bowler..may be wasim akram beats waqar
but waqar was the better SPORTSMAN

Hassaan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Anonymous said...

I think all of you have a bit knowledge about cricket guys.Grow up,waqar was not any less than wasim.He was
Most effective vs best batsmen,like botham,rickey ponting,lara,tendulkar and so on.As a batsman i know which bowl is hard to can't play 90+inswing yorker,plus a sudden bouncer.He is a legend doesn't matter if anyone disagree.

Anonymous said...

Wasim was like Walsh and Waquar was like Marshall. Wasim had the most unplayable balls and Waquar was more intelligent, faster. Waquar got more batmen and less tailenders. Wasim always got the new ball, always got to ball to the tailenders and Waquar still bested him in strike rate, percentage of wins and wickets per match. It was hard to score large total against pakistan when Waquar was playing (because he was a great strike bowler). Walsh and Ambrose were great bowlers, countries could still score high against WI. Marshall and Garner did not let that happen. Waquar and Marshall were the best ever. (Marshall probably a bit ahead).

Shahed Kazi said...

When we compare Wasim & Waqar - we end up saying one is inferior than the other, whereas both were simply the best of the 90s. There is only a few bowlers we remembers from the last century & both Wasim & Waqar are always in that short list. Both the players could change a game with their own skills and against any team and that happened for a long period of time. It's amazing how many games Paks won with poor batting performance and not to mention the poor fielding in the 90s and credits goes to both the Ws.