| Wasim Akram with a 500 cut-out presented to him by teammates for his world record 500th wicket claimed in the tie against Holland in Paarl Tuesday. (AP/PTI)
Johannesburg: Wasim Akram confessed that the thought of breaking the 500 one-day International wicket barrier had kept him awake the night before he finally realised his dream.
Now he can rest easy that the remarkable achievement will probably never be bettered.
Even his skipper Waqar Younis, who is second on the all-time list with 414 victims compared to his teammate’s new mark of 502, confessed that he will never make it that far.
“I salute the man. It’s an outstanding performance,” said Waqar. “I respect what he’s achieved and I don’t see anyone else taking 500 wickets. It is a helluva job he has done for the country.”
Akram, who reached the golden 500-mark by getting Holland’s Nick Statham to play on in his second over in Paarl Tuesday, admitted the pressure is off him now. “I was really under pressure and Monday night I was like any youngster. I couldn’t sleep,” said Akram. The left-arm quick nominated the delivery that dismissed England’s Chris Lewis in the 1992 World Cup final in Melbourne as his best.
It assured him of the Man of the Match award and helped Pakistan win the World Cup for the first time.
If that was the pinnacle, then there were some low points as well. “There have been plenty of controversies down the years and when I first played for Pakistan in Faisalabad in 1984. I had to buy my own shoes and didn’t have any spikes either — but now I have them in plenty.”
Only 16 players have taken more than 200 wickets in the history of the one-day game and four of those — Craig McDermott, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Kapil Dev — have long since retired.
Of the five men who have broken the 300-wicket barrier, India’s Jawagal Srinath is likely to retire after the World Cup while Muttiah Muralidharan of Sri Lanka hinted he will stop playing one-dayers after the tournament.
Murali, with 314 victims, is on the verge of quitting one-day cricket after seeing the damage Shane Warne inflicted on his shoulder during a one-dayer last season. The Sri Lankan has also been sidelined with a groin injury.
Murali, however, has a much bigger dream. With 437 Test victims, he has Walsh’s world record of 519 in sight and by avoiding the slam-bang nature of limited overs cricket, he can concentrate his mind on his real target.
“It’s possible as long as you’re fit and I would like to play for another five years,” said the Lankan star.
“If I can play another 40 Tests and average five a match — that’s 200 wickets.”
But coach Dav Whatmore said Murali’s future depended on his ability to stay free of the injuries which have dogged him.
“He’s got no regard for his body especially with the way he throws it around the field,” Whatmore said.
“He has to be a little bit careful about his fitness, but the skill level is getting better.”