ON my visits to Cardiff, the capital city of Wales in the county Glamorgan, I am always reminded of four great men of the game who in no uncertain way have left a lasting memory of their presence on these climes when playing the game.
Rain, murky conditions and an uncertain start to the One-day International series between England and South Africa at the Sophia Gardens and later its abandonment thus provides me with this opportunity to throw some light on those who made their mark in this part of the world. Not Usain Bolt of course.
But now that Bolt — the legendary Jamaican sprinter — is in the limelight for having won a record number of six gold medals in Olympics (including three he claimed in 2012 London Games), I need not forget to mention him first besides those four cricketers, because he is in my frame for being one of the greatest fans of Pakistan cricket and its legendary fast bowler Waqar Younis who with his bowling feats once won the Glamorgan the County Championship in 1997.
Bolt and his running mate Yohan Blake, the silver medallist in 100-metre and 200-metre events in London, are both cricketers of some sort and play for Kingston Cricket Club in Jamaica. Their enthusiasm about the game is now attracting investors to include them in the Big Bash League in Australia.
What we did not know however was that Bolt as a schoolboy adored Waqar and Pakistan cricket. May be he liked the way Waqar ran to deliver the ball, like a sprinter in a fluid and fluent run-up of his which had become his hallmark.
Once Bolt famously replied while being interviewed about who were his heroes during his childhood: “When I was really small I loved Pakistan cricket team. Waqar was one of the greatest Pakistan bowlers ever, and I was a bowler so I really enjoyed watching him. I was a big Pakistan fan until I got older when I noticed that I should actually support my home team.”
When asked, what if there was a match between West Indies and Pakistan, Bolt had remarked: “I would still have supported Pakistan, that is what I am saying — when I was little, it was all about Pakistan.”
Waqar, the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1992, will of course be proud to know that the fastest man in the world was his greatest fan.
Now the other great who graced these shores was the best cricket all-rounder ever — Sir Garfield Sobers. The glorious Sobers once hit 365 in a Test against Pakistan in 1957-58 at Jamaica and while playing for Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan at Sawnsea in 1968 he hit six sixes off an over. Ravi Shastri later emulated the feat in Indian domestic cricket.
The Welsh people are a friendly lot and the cricket fans have never forgotten Sobers’s feat nor they did the presence of Majid Khan playing for Glamorgan. Majid, the former Cambridge University captain, was a tremendous stroke-maker and very popular figure.
He later captained Glamorgan and Pakistan as well. On Pakistan’s 1967 tour of England he hit five sixes in a row at Sawnsea against Glamorgan while facing Roger Davies, an exceptionally valiant display which got Majid the contract to play for the county.
Javed Miandad, Pakistan’s most successful batsman, was as much a success, delighting the Welsh crowd with his consistency and uncanny ability to grind any attack into submission.
Welsh people have not forgotten all these legends and their action photographs still continue to attract people at their new pavilion.
Once the locals discover that even Bolt is a fan of Waqar — one of their greats — they will obviously include him in the corridors of their pavilion with as much pride.