Jeremy Wells

Jeremy Wells on cricket

Jeremy Wells: Cricketing greats for the game's aesthete

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Wasim Akram. File photo / Getty Images
Wasim Akram. File photo / Getty Images

Everywhere I go people ask me the same question: Who were the best players you played against?

I get tired of answering it but for the benefit of the wider cricket community and to justify the exorbitant fee I'm paid for this column I'm prepared to revisit my memories.

Without a doubt the best bowler I encountered was Wasim Akram.

As an under-nourished 18-year-old he toured New Zealand for the first time in 1985-86 and surprised everyone with his genuine pace.

He felled a bedazzled and bare-headed Lance Cairns with a bouncer and went on to take 86 wickets in the series at an average of 2.79.

Was, as I came to know him, could swing the ball late both ways in most conditions. In his dotage he shortened his run-up and, while he lost a shade of his pace, he still had the ability to surprise batsmen with an effortless ball. I found that the best way to combat his late swing was to look to play the ball late under the eyes.

Standing at first slip for most of my career I got a good look at every great player in the modern game.

Mohammad Azharuddin was the best timer of the cricket ball I saw. He played the ball with incredibly soft hands and supple wrists.

Azhar was also the most gifted match-fixer I watched.

He could run himself out or offer a simple catching opportunity with total conviction.

But the most talented batsman I encountered was Richard Reid.

Reid was New Zealand's first pinch-hitting opener, taking up his stance with his feet close together and his head at an odd angle.

He wore photochromic prescription lenses, but even with this handicap he managed to smash the ball to all parts.

Statistically he won't be remembered as a great - he averaged 27.55 in ODIs - but Reid played cricket with a heart-warming spirit that will be passed down for generations to come.

- NZ Herald

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