Mangoes, music and mesmerising fast bowlers are three things Pakistan is fondly remembered for around the world.
We enjoy the former two but will not pretend to have any insight on what makes Pakistani fruit so deliciously sweet and music so trance inducing.
The third one, the express pacers, we know a thing or 10 about. Here is our list of top 10 fast bowlers who played international cricket for Pakistan.
10- Aaqib Javed
Silky smooth run-up, easy-on-the-eyes action, fast bowler’s aggression, decent pace, two-way swing, precocious talent, and an early debut — Aaqib Javed Sandhu (yes Sandhu) had it all. Yet, he played just 22 Tests and 163 ODIs for Pakistan in a career that barely lasted a decade. He made his debut at 16 and played his final match for Pakistan at age 26 in 1998.
The reason of his short-lived career was three-fold: one is called Waqar Younis, the other Wasim Akram, and the third, he says, is his strong aversion to match-fixing. Truth be told, Javed’s greatest misfortune was that his career overlapped with the two W’s era. Had he been born 10 years earlier or later, he could have had a much better and lengthier career, and thus featured much higher on this list. He had all the tools to do so.
He was also allegedly kept out of the side and discarded much earlier than his expiration date because of his allegation that both Akram and Younis had ‘fixed’ matches during the 90s. Akram and Younis were superstars, assets, otherworldly talents, which automatically made Javed the dispensable party.
Nonetheless, it’s not to say that Javed did not have his moments. His 7-37 against India in 1991 remained the best bowling figures in ODI cricket for almost a decade. He was just 19 at the time. His seven-for also included a hat-trick, which makes him the youngest ever bowler to achieve the feat.
He was also one of those rare Pakistani players who upped their game against India — a fact signified by the fact that his career ODI bowling average of 31.43 drops by almost seven runs against India to 24.64. Oh and he was part of the 1992 World Cup-winning side.
Statline that matters: 182 wkts in 163 ODIs @ an avg of 31.43
9- Umar Gul
Arguably Pakistan’s greatest-ever T20I fast bowler, Umar Gul has had quite a career. But he could have had an even better one, had he not been hit by serious injuries at critical junctures of his career.
Gul was the new blood inducted into the side after the disastrous 2003 World Cup to replace the old guard featuring Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. He announced himself on the big stage with a devastating five-for against a robust Indian batting line-up in 2003 in Lahore but injured his back soon after and was sidelined for more than a year.
He returned stronger but in the next few years he realised that the five-day format was too gruelling for him to carry the team on his back. The ODIs, and especially the T20Is, were a better fit for him. Thus, he focused on shorter formats, mastered the art of bowling swinging yorkers and at one long stretch was the best T20 bowler in the world.
A wicket-taking nightmare at the death, Gul was instrumental in Pakistan’s march to World T20 final in 2007 and eventual win in 2009 — finishing as the highest wicket taker on both occasions.
Though still active and just 35, Gul’s career faded after 2013 due to another bout with injuries. Aaqib Javed, perhaps, had more talent but Gul ranks above, for he was the world’s best in a format at a point in his career.
Statline that matters: 85 wkts in 60 T20Is at an average of 16.97
Finest moment: Making NZ go from 73-4 to 99 all-out at 2009 World T20