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‘Never listen to rumours’ – Wasim Akram clears air on controversial 1996 World Cup quarter-final pull-out against India

Wasim Akram 1996 quarter final
by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Twenty-six years after his absence from the 1996 World Cup quarter-final against India caused massive public outrage, Wasim Akram cleared the air on his controversial no-show in Bangalore, explaining in detail the nature of the injury that led to his pulling out.

Wasim led Pakistan’s at the Wills World Cup, hosted by India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. He was a last-minute withdrawal from the quarter-final against India, touted to be the most-anticipated clash of the tournament. He had suffered a side strain during his team’s 46-run win over New Zealand, did not bowl in the match, but was expected to recover in time and feature in a bowling attack that kept their combination of three seamers and one spinner throughout.

Three days later, to the surprise of everyone, Aamer Sohail came out at the toss with Ata-ur-Rehman filling in for Wasim. The defending champions eventually lost the game by 39 runs. Soon after Pakistan’s exit, the public made known their anger: reportedly, stones were pelted at Wasim’s house, whispers of match-fixing made the rounds, the captain received death threats, and the team’s return flight had to be redirected to Karachi from Lahore to avoid incensed fans who had gathered with rotten eggs. Wasim and his family received threats, and were given police protection. He had to be dissuaded from stepping down as captain.


Over two and a half decades have passed, but questions still linger over Wasim’s mysterious absence. This week, on Pakistan’s TV show The Pavilion, the incident resurfaced when a caller asked Wasim to describe “in one sentence” the actual reason for his absence from the game. Having largely kept his silence on the topic through the years, the former captain decided to make an emphatic statement.

“Let me silence you,” responded Wasim, surrounded by fellow panellists Waqar Younis (who spearheaded the Pakistan attack that day) and former captains Misbah-ul-Haq and Shoaib Malik. “I have so many words for this generation. Never ever listen to rumours, okay? You guys weren’t even born when that happened. That’s embarrassing when Pakistanis have a go at me.”

“I got injured three days ago [before] against New Zealand. I got 34 [28] runs. I went to sweep Dion Nash, the fine leg was up, this intercostal muscle got pulled [points]. And that takes six weeks [to heal].”

It’s important to note that Wasim did not bowl against New Zealand, with Sohail, Saleem Malik and Ijaz Ahmed combining to chip in with 20 overs. After a two-day gap, Pakistan met India in Bangalore.

“And the reason – Waqar is sitting here – we did not tell the press was so that India doesn’t get the confidence that their [Pakistan’s] main player, captain is not playing. In the morning, Waqar and everyone else saw Dan Kiesel [team physio] apply six pain-killer injections, but they didn’t work. If I had played with injury, and not bowled 10 overs, they [detractors] would have criticised me further.

“What were the other 11 [players] doing, selling chickpeas? If Wasim didn’t play, Pakistan lost the match?”

Waqar came in support of his long-time bowling partner, saying: “Your replacement Ata-ur-Rehman bowled really well. If you see his stats – whoever sent this message – he was probably one of our best bowlers that day.”

Wasim replied: “And you had a bad day in the last over, remember? That was just a game. Move on!” It was in reference to Waqar conceding 18 runs off the final over, to Ajay Jadeja.

Opener Navjot Sidhu’s 93, and a late 25-ball 45 from Jadeja carried India to 287-8. Pakistan, docked an over due to poor over rate, fell short by 39 runs. Ata-ur-Rehman ended with figures of 10-0-40-1, the most economical from his side. India then went on to play Sri Lanka in the semi-final in Calcutta, a controversy-ridden match that has a story of its own.

Wasim further went on to explain how he played through injuries at several points during his career.

“Our generation won’t talk about that. 1989/90 [season], Waqar was also there,” he recalled. “Before every game, big injections [gestures] used to go into my groin. Before every game. Two. Because I had a groin problem but I had to play the Test matches and the one-dayers. Only after that, I went for the operation. They even cut one of my muscles – there are four muscles in the pelvic region, they cut one of them. I still played the whole season after getting two-three pain-killer injections inserted in my groin.”

Controversies continued to be a regular feature in Wasim’s career even after the fateful day in Bangalore, but the rumours and speculation cannot take away from the on-field greatness of the left-armer, still Pakistan’s leading international wicket-taker by a distance.

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