Sultan: A Memoir

Published: 2022
Pages: 296
Author: Akram, Wasim
Publisher: Hardie Grant
Rating: 4.5 stars

If you team the greatest extant fast bowler with the greatest extant cricket writer you’d expect a quality read. True to form, that’s exactly what Sultan is.

A quality read almost invariably needs an interesting subject. In Wasim Akram’s biography, there is rarely a dull moment. From the streets of Lahore to the best bowler in the world for close to 20 years, Wasim Akram is cricketing royalty.

The biggest topic tackled in Sultan is the machinations of what appears to be the perpetually dysfunctional Pakistan cricket team. They appear to have a new coach, selectors and team manager for almost every tour. After reading the doings of the Pakistan team during Wasim Akram’s time in the side, it’s a mystery how they ever managed a win.

Wasim Akram also doesn’t appear to hold back on his fellow Pakistani contemporaries. Javed Miandad comes off as paranoid and parsimonious, with most of his team mates not faring much better. The former team mate who earns the most vitriol is saved ‘for that zombie figure’ Aamer Sohail. 

The biggest poison chalice is the Pakistan captaincy. No matter who has the hegemony role, there are factions in the team trying to undermine the skipper. As a captain, Wasim Akram had a least three stints. The first saw a number of players refuse to play under him. His second attempt was much more successful, although it appears to have ended with the fans burning an effigy of him after Pakistan lost the 1999 World Cup final.

Wasim Akram provides some insight into other aspects of both playing at the highest level as well as the unique problems of playing for Pakistan. An on field clash with the great Viv Richards saw the master blaster threaten to kill Wasim Akram and for good measure he showed up at the door of the Pakistan dressing room armed with a cricket bat. Off the field, Wasim Akram’s father was kidnapped by a losing punter, after he lost money betting on the Pakistan team.

The book is set out in the traditional format, starting with Wasim Akram’s childhood and moving through his cricketing development. As the subject played over one hundred Tests and 350 ODIs, the book thankfully does not dissect every match. Wasim Akram, apart from injury, appears to have played cricket all year round. Out of all the cricket he played he seems to have particularly enjoyed his time playing for Lancashire, eventually settling in England.   

Most cricketing biographies finish shortly after the subjects playing career is finished. Invariably, if they don’t, they usually drag on. Sultan, is the exception. Unexpectedly, Wasim Akram’s post cricket career takes a dark and melancholy turn.

This is probably the only Gideon Haigh book where I did not need to have a dictionary handy. The story is told in the first person and you quickly forget that Haigh is involved. Sultan is a quality cricket book that has everything that a bibliophile requires; thorough index, colour illustrations and quality writing. 

Sultan – RRP AUD $45 NZD $50


Very good

Comment by Mohsin | 4:48pm GMT 1 December 2022

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