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The Famed Genius


Javed Miandad was born for cricket and he lives for it still

It was a crucial game of the 1987 World Cup in Lahore. Phil Simmons was playing with supreme confidence and had just reached 50 off 57 balls with some eight boundaries and taken the score to 97-1. Neither pace nor spin was troubling him.

I saw Javed Miandad say something to skipper Imran Khan and position himself at a silly point to Tauseef Ahmed. From there, he seemed to be guiding the bowler after every ball and I could see Simmons looking at him consciously. Just before the fourth ball, I heard through the stump mic his words that I still remember “Iski taang nikaal, taang nikaal” (Bring out his leg). What he meant was to pitch the ball in such an area to make him stretch forward to drive.

Next ball Simmons was out caught and bowled as he drove slightly late to a ball that had indeed made him stretch.

Such was the genius of Javed Miandad. Whether he was 18 and playing in his very first match for Pakistan in the 1975 World Cup or captain of his country six years later or stepping down yet another time for Imran to return as captain he would show the same unbridled enthusiasm, volunteer the same sincere advice and be in the ear of bowlers wherever he was in the field.

Asif Iqbal recalls that when he and Javed Miandad were in that long partnership of 281 on Javed’s Test Debut in October 1976, coming together after Pakistan had slipped to 55-4 on opening day, it was Javed who was advising him how to counter the New Zealand bowlers and especially when Asif was nearing his hundred. It didn’t matter to Javed that Asif had been playing Test matches for 12 years, had captained Pakistan in the 1975 World Cup and had been Test vice-captain of the national team for over five years.


Miandad was to himself score 163 in his very first Test innings in only 259 minutes with 19 fours, becoming the youngest at the time to score a century on Test debut.

He went from 90 to 102 with three consecutive fours taken off the pacer Collinge by coming down the wicket and driving him. Such was his self-confidence and skill level. He was to get over 500 runs in that series in five innings, including a double hundred in Karachi, breaking the world record held by George Headley since 1929 to become the youngest player — aged 19 years and 140 days — to score a double-century in Tests. He narrowly missed another century in the second innings as he sacrificed his wicket by going for his shots as Pakistan wanted to declare.

He was a selfless player in many ways. On the return tour of New Zealand in 1978, he was approaching 150 but kept signalling his captain, Mushtaq Mohammad, to declare after tea on the fourth day and set what could be a gettable target for New Zealand. He finally convinced Mushtaq when he was on 160.

Mushtaq recalls that he was nervous overnight and couldn’t sleep as New Zealand had lost no wicket but recalls Miandad was confident they would bowl the hosts out on the last day. As it was Pakistan won with ease.


Now he’s captain, now he’s not


When Pakistan had returned beaten 2-0 in India in 1979, crestfallen and divided in the ranks, and Asif Iqbal had announced his retirement, Mushtaq Mohammad on live TV backed Miandad to skipper Pakistan when he was only 23 years old. He recalled how Javed had recently impressed him when he captained Habib Bank against PIA (which Mushtaq was captaining) and had run rings around his star-studded team to win the final of the national championship.

He was thus thrust into captaincy at a crucial juncture of the Pakistan side and with seniors like Majid Khan (who’d previously captained Pakistan in Tests at home against England in 1973 and had been vice-captain on the tour of India), Zaheer Abbas, Wasim Bari (captain against England for six Tests just two years ago) and Imran Khan, it was a surprising appointment.

Miandad boldly accepted net bowler Tauseef Ahmed with next to no first-class experience to make his Test debut in his very first Test as captain. And backed Taslim Arif, who’d played that last Test in India, to retain his position behind the wickets.

He won his very first Test at Karachi against a full-strength Australia and scored a century in the next Test. Going on to captain against the fearsome West Indies visiting Pakistan next season, he almost defended a low score of 127 in the first ODI (40 overs) with West Indies (having Haynes, Greenidge, Richards, Lloyd, Kallicharan) winning by four wickets off the last ball.

I was at the ground that day and the field settings by Javed were such that it seemed he had 15 men on the field complementing the bowlers who of course bowled extremely well. What was commendable was that reading the slowness in the pitch, he used Majid and Mudassar Nazar for 11 overs for a return of 3-35.

By the time of the tour of England in 1982, he had stepped down after senior players on the previous tour of Australia had refused to play under him and the first two Tests against Sri Lanka at home had been played with literally a second-string side.


The gripe of the senior players was that he had complained to the press on the return that the senior players didn’t cooperate with him. This was after Pakistan had won the third and last Test by an innings with Majid scoring 74, Zaheer 90 and Imran 70 not out while also taking 5-62 in the match and Sarfaraz 5-54.

What Miandad had pointed out was that when Pakistan had played the opening Test at Perth on one of the fastest pitches in the world, Zaheer had withdrawn from the game and Majid did not want to move up from the No.5 position he had been playing in the previous series against West Indies.

Pakistan had thus been bowled out for 62 and lost the second Test by 10 wickets with what Miandad said were some careless shots. There were also some issues in the ODIs on that tour where Pakistan were the team eliminated.

While the then chairman of the cricket board, Retd. Air Marshall Nur Khan, refused to acknowledge the senior players who demanded Miandad to step down, Javed himself offered to resolve the impasse in the best interests of the team and gave up the captaincy.

Over the years, he would take over captaincy again in a series where Imran was unavailable and especially when Zaheer retired in 1985. When he would, his reading of the game was immediately apparent and he could often pick out a batsman’s weakness even though Tests at home were played on placid pitches.

In fact, it was his eye that picked up a 19-year-old from the oblivion of club cricket bowling in the nets and pressurised the selectors to play him in a 3-day game at Rawalpindi where he took lots of wickets.


This made Miandad’s case strong to take him on the coming New Zealand trip. Once there, he took 10 wickets in only his second Test and never looked back. That young man went by the name of Wasim Akram.


The memorable innings

Limited Overs cricket brought out the best in him as a captain or as a batter. Though he guided Pakistan to victories or set them up if batting first, his most memorable and talked about innings remains 116 not out in the final of the 1986 Australasia Cup in Sharjah.

Yes, he hit that last ball for six to win the match and the trophy for Pakistan but it was the manner in which he paced the innings even as wickets kept falling. Such was his sense of awareness even in that tense atmosphere that with an over or so to go, he stood and counted the number of fielders pointing out to the umpire a fielding irregularity regarding fielding restrictions.

On the 1988 tour of West Indies, considered then to be the Test series to decide the top team of the times, Miandad was on 96 off 98 balls when he faced the last ball of the innings.


Legend has it that he told his partner that he would hit that last ball for four through the offside. He did indeed as the ball raced to the point boundary to get him to 100.

It was in that series that against the fearsome pace of Patrick Patterson, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in front of their home umpires, he scored hundreds in two Tests where the next highest score in the series by a Pakistani batter was 66.

He continued his sense of the dramatic when a year later, against India, he scored a century in his 100th Test, on the very ground where he made his first on Test debut. He thus became the second after Sir Colin Cowdrey to score a hundred in his 100th Test and the first to do it in both his first and 100th.

A few years earlier he scored hundreds in both innings in what was the 1000th Test match in history.

Miandad was a middle-order batter but he was the first to step up to any challenge. When Pakistan was left a near impossible 164 in 20 overs after bowling out India in the 1978 Karachi Test, he came in at No.3 to speed up and eventually complete the chase in the dying moments, finishing on 62.

Four years later, he opened the innings at Lord’s as Pakistan needed 77 in some 18 overs and rain clouds threatening. He brought Pakistan to victory with a cut for four with an over to spare.


For those who pointed out that he hadn’t scored much in Tests on seaming wickets, he answered with a 260 at The Oval in 1987 and an unbeaten 153 in the 1992 series there. In New Zealand, he scored a masterful 271 in Auckland in 1989.

Yet, his highest score in Test cricket remains a heartbreak memory for him. When he was on 280 in the first innings of the fourth Test of the 1982 series, Imran declared the innings wanting to win the Test as Pakistan had already batted into the third day.

Pakistan eventually won by an innings midway into the fifth day and the thinking was that a shot at the world record score of 365 should have been allowed as at most the game would have been drawn. They were already 2-0 up in the series and it had become clear that Indians didn’t have the team to beat Pakistan that winter.


County Cricket & Packer

Like all Pakistanis in the 70s and 80s, Miandad played county cricket. He also played the second season in Packer’s World Series but never missed a match for Pakistan because of those commitments.


He started at Sussex in 1976 where skipper Tony Grieg, then England captain also, has written that he would make sure Javed drove with him to matches as he would use the long drives to pick his brain on every aspect of the game, from match strategy to batting, bowling and even fielding tactics.

Javed however then moved to Glamorgan where he was equally revered. In fact 1981 was a season that he made memorable to the extent that on the day of the Royal Wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Diana, he scored a double hundred.

Yet his best was reserved for later in the summer. As Wisden recorded, “Perhaps his finest innings of the summer was against Essex at Colchester, on September 1. Set to score 325 to win, on a dusty, difficult pitch, Glamorgan lost their first four wickets for 44 runs. An early finish was visualised – until Javed took charge. When, finally, he ran out of partners, he had recorded his second double-hundred of the season, and Glamorgan had lost by only 13 runs. The Essex players were adamant that this was the best piece of batting they had ever seen.”


The farewell years

He had been the spine of Pakistan’s batting for many years but by the late ‘80s, Miandad’s back was causing him pain. It made him avoid some strokes but he had novel ways to minimise the harm.


On the 1989-90 tour of Australia, he would dare fast-bowlers to bowl short at him which of course he got a lot of after the bowlers felt taunted. He was to reveal many years later that he would feel pain every time he banged down on yorkers so to avoid bowlers bowling him there he roused them up to bowl short at him.

Such was his brilliance and bravery and of course, the self-confidence to face the short stuff on bouncy Australian pitches.

He defied the pain and kept scoring runs but the injury and subsequent struggle to score runs. So much so that he was left behind when the team left for the 1992 World Cup. Miandad took a stand and scored a hundred in a match scheduled specially for him to prove his fitness.

He was flown to Australia eventually where he captained Pakistan in the first match, coming in to score a quick unbeaten fifty after the Pakistani top-order had struggled to force the pace against the West Indian quicks.

He continued to score consistently and, in the semi-final, his unbeaten 57 had its role to play in Pakistan’s last gasp victory.

Then in the final, despite severe pain, he crafted another half-century to stabilize the innings after Pakistan lost both openers cheaply.


Despite missing two games, his 437 runs at an average of 62.42 was the second-highest aggregate in that tournament, only 19 less than Martin Crowe who played one match more. No one scored more than his five fifties.

Miandad was deemed the natural successor to the retiring Imran until he would retire but player politics played a role in his ouster after he had led Pakistan to a series win in England in the 1992 summer. Though he played his last Test a year later, he would never captain Pakistan again.

He nevertheless walked off after accumulating over 8800 runs with his Test average never having fallen below 50 from the time of his very first Test innings to his last, finishing on 52.57. That average had come down below 60 until his 54th innings by which time he’d scored seven hundreds and 12 fifties.

He was brought back for the 1996 World Cup played in the subcontinent, but such was the strength of the Pakistan top-order that he hardly got time in the middle.

His last match was the quarterfinal against India at Bangalore where a fighting 38 was sadly not enough. Ironically, he was run out in what was his last innings for Pakistan.

His first and last innings for his country was therefore in a World Cup where overall he scored 1083 runs in 33 matches in six World Cup tournaments.



Coaching Pakistan

Javed Miandad would be asked to coach Pakistan but with the players being the same who had ousted him from captaincy, he was once again made to feel uncomfortable, though, under his coaching, Pakistan beat India in India and also won the tri-series. They also won the Asian Test Championship as well as the 1999 Sharjah Cup in April until frustrated at the player’s revolt, he resigned before the 1999 World Cup.

Appointed coach again in 2000, Pakistan won the Sharjah Cup, the Asia Cup, the West Indies tri-series and the Test series in Sri Lanka and reached the semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy. But the loss in New Zealand saw him leaving the position again.

His last and final stint came after a disastrous 2003 World Cup when six senior players were sidelined including skipper Waqar Younis. It was to last just over two years as although Pakistan won a tournament in Sharjah and the Test series at home against South Africa, they lost the Test and ODI series, though only by a one-game margin winning two ODIs and one Test match.

Thrice he was given the job but every time the departure was acrimonious even as other coaches would have been lauded for the results.



A man for all seasons

Only Younus Khan has scored more Test runs than him but he’s batted 24 innings more for a lead of around 1200 runs. He, Inzamam ul Haq and Yousuf have scored more Test hundreds than Miandad’s 23 but only Inzamam has more fifties (43) than him.

Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan and Yousuf have batted with more style; Salim Malik has shown a finer finesse and Hanif Mohammad has had a more solid defense than him.

But none of them or any other Pakistani batter has notched up more than his six double hundreds in Tests. Only six batters have scored more double centuries in Test cricket.

Also, there was something extra that Javed Miandad brought into the middle. He was the lion that roared in the most adverse of batting conditions. He was the streetfighter who wouldn’t give way. He was Charles Dickens’ the Artful Dodger who would play with the opposition and manoeuvre himself out of most situations.


He was the batter who had a shot for every ball and more than one shot for every ball. Saqlain recalls a moment in the cricket academy where Miandad (then coach) was explaining to the batters under his command that they could play any ball to a different part of the field.

He asked to be bowled short on his right shoulder and for the next eight balls bowled there, he played it to mid-off, cover, point, third-man, fine-leg, square-leg, midwicket and mid-on. Such was his genius.

There is hardly a contemporary or senior who has not waxed lyrical about his brilliance as a batsman and captaincy, not least the Indians led by Sunil Gavaskar, who has many stories to tell about not just his batsmanship but also his humour and leg-pulling.

Yes, Javed Miandad was indeed a once in a lifetime cricketer. Make that two. He ate, drank, slept, walked, thought cricket. He still does. He was born for cricket. He lives for it still.


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