Wednesday, January 11, 2006

When WWW stood for Wasim Waqar and Wreckages….

Right, we are talking about the England v Pakistan 1992 series, the benchmark event for all subsequent official usage of reverse swing in international cricket.

14 years is a long time in evolution of this eternally self-enriching game and these days it is passé to link the doosra of swing with ball doctoring. Back then though, the return of swerve in the ragged red ball was greeted with an apprehension distinctly reminiscent of the medieval times when likening an unknown craft to black magic and evil powers was preferred to assigning logical explanation to it.

The cricket world outside Pakistan was as much prepared to appreciate this still-obscure bowling skill as the australopithecus would be for invention of the wheel or a 14 year old Lancashire kid going by the name of Andrew Flintoff would be for the 1993 Ashes. ‘Orangutans’, rather than ‘fast bowlers’, would be an expected answer if people were to be asked to link banana with swing.

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis changed it forever in this crash-bang-thud festival from the summer of ‘92. The disbelievers reacted with prompt criticism and alleged malpractices with the ball. Some leading fast bowlers like Donald (who then went on to master the skill) actually joined the war-cry against ‘ball tampering’. Subsequently the scientific-minded came out with a study of the phenomenon and there was gradual, even grudging acceptance of the possibility that a skillful bowler can reverse-swing an old ball even without scruffing it up on one side with a soft drink bottle cap.

A lot of words have since been said, printed and aired on this series and its famous by-product. For a change we can cut out the words and look at some numbers that help comprehend the actual damage done to the lower order of English line-up by the Sultans of Swing at their respective peaks. A look into cricinfo’s records yielded the following info about the 2nd, 4th and 5th Tests of the series (screening out the other two Tests, which were drawn):

[for the crushing data, visit the full article at Different Strokes]

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