The Pakistan cricket team boasted of a lethal pace bowling attack in the 90s. Under Imran Khan‘s captaincy, Pakistan emerged victorious in the 1992 World Cup where Wasim Akram ended as a top wicket-taker (18 dismissals in 10 matches). The victory at the global tournament cemented Imran Khan’s legacy as one of the greatest captains in cricket history, and also further established Pakistan as a breeding ground for quality fast bowlers.
However, there was one pacer who was forced to miss the 1992 World Cup due to an injury – Waqar Younis. Having made his debut in 1989, Waqar impressed with his performances early in his career and went on to form a lethal pace duo alongside Wasim, as the two tormented batting orders across the world during the nineties.
Waqar played for Pakistan in 87 Tests and 262 ODIs, but during a chat on Pakistan’s television channel A Sports, Waqar recalled how he was too stunned to speak when he had first met his ‘idol’ Imran Khan as a youngster. Waqar had played ‘6-7’ first-class matches during the time and filled in for Imran during a tour match when the then-Pakistan skipper, impressed with his bowling skills, talked to Waqar for the first time.
“My first meeting with Imran bhai was very unusual. Main aaj bhi sochta hu uske baare me, I just get goosebumps. (I still get goosebumps when I think about it). I did play first-class cricket before that, I played 6-7 games, In played U19 Pakistan also. I got selected for the national team among 22 boys, where I met Wasim bhai. He used to play for Lancashire. Uss zamaane me ye zaroori nahi tha ki Pakistan ki kit pehno (It wasn’t necessary to wear a Pakistan kit during those days),” Waqar recalled.
“Imran bhai nahi aa rahe the (Imran bhai wasn’t there), he was sick. So I played that game. He saw me on the TV, and then he came to the ground next day. The day he came, he saw me first time in the nets. He came close, he put his hand on my shoulder and he said, “Jaake packing karo. Tum Sharjah jaa rahe ho. (Go and pack your stuff. You are coming to Sharjah) Those were the first words he said to me. I don’t know if he consulted with the selectors at that time. But those were his first words, and I felt zameen mere pairon se nikal gayi hai (I felt dumbfounded),” Waqar mentioned.
Sharjah was the venue for the Champions Trophy triangular series between Pakistan, India and West Indies, where Waqar Younis had made his ODI debut. Pakistan had defeated India in the final of the tournament in October, and Waqar eventually went on to make his Test debut against the Indian team a month later.