||03 July 1952
Wasim Raja was a glorious lefthanded strokemaker, who revelled in adversity, a useful legspinner, who also opened the bowling for Pakistan on occasions, and an outstanding, lithe cover fieldsman. He represented Pakistan in more than 100 international matches, coached the national side for a short while and had a spell as an ICC match referee, being in charge of the last Ashes series in Australia. He will always be remembered for the style and spirit in which he played the game, yet for such a mild-mannered and charming man he had his fair share of clashes with the Pakistan board. From a privileged background, he did not enjoy the hierarchy within the side, once refusing to hang out a senior player's socks to dry, but more importantly he always felt frustrated that he seemed to be picked on a match-by-match basis while a clique of senior players were omnipresent in the team. But for this, he might have captained Pakistan ahead of the more rumbustious Javed Miandad or diffident Zaheer Abbas. After all, as a batsman he was a prodigy at 18 and led the under-19 side. Quite often then he did not bother to wear pads when practising with his contemporary Imran Khan, who admitted that Wasim "was in a different class altogether and was already batting with a maturity beyond his years". He was the eldest of three boys, all of whom played first-class cricket. Ramiz followed him into the Test team and later captained Pakistan, while Zaeem played for National Bank. His father Raja Saleem Akhtar also played firstclass cricket, captaining Sargodha. Wasim made his first-class debut at 15, for Lahore, while still at school at Government College, went on to Punjab University, where he excelled at cricket and academically, getting a first in his Masters degree in politics, and came into the Test side in 1972-73, when called up as a replacement for the tour of New Zealand. He began to establish himself in 1974 in England, where he topped the tour averages. The "exuberant" Wasim played two innings at Lord's that Wisden described as "masterly", countering Derek Underwood on a drying wicket with selective attack. At home that winter he scored his maiden Test hundred against West Indies at Karachi. His innings was such a fine one that, instead of the usual handful of well-wishers that used to run on to the field to congratulate a batsman on reaching three figures, there was a full-scale invasion. In all he played 11 Tests against West Indies, against attacks including Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and Colin Croft, making 919 runs at 57.43, an average that only Greg Chappell exceeded during that era. He also had an excellent record against India, hitting two 90s on the 1978-79 tour when many of the other front-line batsmen crumpled under the pressure and ending the series with 450 runs at 56.25. He made his highest Test score against them - 125 not out at Jullundur - and had his best bowling figures, 4 for 50, with his under-utilised legspin in the same match. For a number of years he played Minor Counties cricket for Durham, where he met his future wife, Anne, also a useful cricketer. He studied for his teaching degree at the University. While there, a serious car accident nearly ended his life, never mind his playing days, but he eventually returned to the game, helping Durham win the UAU Championship in 1990 with a match-winning 50 in the final. He went on to teach geography and PE at Caterham School for 15 years. Wasim, who collapsed and died while playing cricket for Surrey over-50s at High Wycombe, is survived by his wife Anne, and his two sons, Ali and Ahmed.