The third instalment in our new series where we compare two legendary cricketers from the same generation. Rather than necessarily settle the debate on who is ‘better’, this series attempts to illustrate who had a greater say in dictating his country’s cricketing fortunes. Along the way, you may also find a few facets of these players that are not necessarily discussed in conventional media.

Pakistan have a history of churning out quicks and today, we showcase two of their finest.


Wasim Akram vs Waqar Younis

A comparison of pace bowlers in Test cricket


PARAMETER Wasim Akram Waqar Younis Maximum or
Highest (100%)
Number of Tests 104 87 Courtney Walsh (132)
Wickets Taken 414 373 Glenn McGrath (563)
Bowling Average 23.62 23.56 Malcolm Marshall (20.94)
Percentage of team wickets taken 26% 27% Richard Hadlee (38.25)
Bowling Impact 67 55 Dennis Lillee
Top-Middle Order Wicket Impact 70 79 Dennis Lillee
Economy Impact 34 11 Glenn McGrath
Bowling Impact in wins (min. 20 Tests) 55 38 Richard Hadlee
Impact at Home (min. 25 Tests) 55 68 Craig McDermott
Impact Away (min. 20 Tests) 64 42 Dennis Lillee
Impact in Subcontinent (min. 10 Tests) 81 78 Courtney Walsh
Impact in Aus/SA (min. 10 Tests) 42 44 Alan Davidson
Impact in Eng/NZ (min. 10 Tests) 66 50 Dennis Lillee
Failure Rate (min. 50 Tests) 32% 24% Joel Garner (12%)
Number of Series-Defining performances 6 (once every 17 Tests) 1 Richard Hadlee and Dale Steyn (7)
Number of high impact performances 16 (once every 6.5 Tests) 13 (once every 7 Tests) Glenn McGrath (32)
Most dominant period in career June 1992 – December 1995 November 1990 – October 1994 n/a
Number of years as highest impact bowler 2 (1992, 1994) 0 Richard Hadlee – 4

(1980, 1984, 1985, 1987)

Highest impact bowler in a match 15 13 Glenn McGrath

(31 in 124 Tests)

Highest impact bowler in a series 8 (in 40 Test series) 6 (in 36 Test series) Richard Hadlee

(10 in 33 Test series)

1) All parameters from ‘ Bowling Impact ’ till ‘Impact in Eng/NZ’ are expressed on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the maximum for any player in Test history in that parameter. A player’s impact in a particular parameter is then expressed as a percentage of it.
Example: Glenn McGrath has the highest Economy Impact among pace bowlers in Test cricket history. So he denotes 100 for that parameter. Wasim Akram’s and Waqar Younis’  Economy Impact are then expressed as a percentage of McGrath’s Economy Impact .
2) From ‘Bowling Average’ till ‘ Economy Impact ’, a minimum of 50 matches is considered as qualification. For all other parameters, the qualification is mentioned alongside.
3) Only pace bowlers have been considered for this comparison.



Wasim Akram is the second-highest impact bowler in Pakistan’s Test cricket history (min. 50 Tests), behind Imran Khan. Waqar Younis is only sixth (after Imran, Akram, Danish Kaneria, Iqbal Qasim and Abdul Qadir).

Of the two, Akram was – quite emphatically – the bigger series-winner. This is the main reason why he had a higher impact than Younis. In fact, among all Pakistani bowlers (min. 50 Tests), Akram has produced the most number of series-defining performances (6). The left-armer also had a much higher impact in wins, which meant that his contributions with the ball were more crucial to Pakistan’s success.

Younis was the more prolific wicket-taker (more wickets per match). He also claimed a higher proportion of top/middle-order wickets. Not surprisingly, he has the best bowling strike rate after Dale Steyn (min. 50 Tests) in the history of Test cricket. It is also interesting that Younis – by some margin – was more consistent.
Akram, on the other hand, was highly restrictive.

True to their innate faculties, the pair thrived in various conditions. Younis was more successful at home (where he would reverse swing the old ball), and in Australia and South Africa (where he could pound the deck), while Akram made hay in the swinging conditions of England and New Zealand.


Wasim Akram was known for the variety in his repertoire, while Waqar Younis relied on sheer pace, accuracy and reverse swing. But what really separated the duo was Akram’s ability to win matches and series with the ball and Younis’ lack thereof. This gave the southpaw a higher impact overall despite not being as prolific a wicket-taker as his partner, and neither as consistent.


Karthik Swaminathan
Illustrations: Vasim Maner