Spinners August 29, 2008

Thanks for the memories, Mushy

Mushtaq Ahmed does leave behind unparalleled memories for fans of his country and fans of his county—and there can be no bigger compliment

Mushtaq Ahmed will have bid a sad farewell to county cricket. It was an arena that saw him achieve great personal and team success at a time when his international career had run into the sand. Indeed, county cricket rescued his career when the Pakistan Cricket Board had churned him up and abandoned him.

There were, of course, brief flirtations with an international recall and an attempt by Bob Woolmer and Inzamam-ul Haq to create a role for Mushtaq as assistant coach of Pakistan, but his career summary would fit any number of Pakistan players of his era: a talent part fulfilled but somehow unfulfilling.

Over the last two decades, Mushtaq transformed much as a person. In the beginning we saw a young, boisterous, mischievous cricketer, carefree in spirit and behaviour. Some of those elements remain but he is now a deeply religious man, caring as much for the afterlife as for the here and now.

Mushtaq’s place in international cricket owes much to Imran Khan’s passion for attacking bowlers, particularly legspinners, in one-day cricket. Abdul Qadir was a major role model, and Mushtaq looked to be taking over from where Qadir left off. The range of deliveries—especially googlies—has always been impressive even though he has suffered from a lack of natural drift and a lower delivery arm.

The 1992 World Cup introduced Mushtaq to the world, and the image of him growing in stature during the landmark tournament for Pakistan cricket and joyously celebrating each wicket is an iconic one for Pakistan fans.

His Test career developed rapidly too, with early suggestions that he might even be able to rival Shane Warne. But those ambitions never matured although Mushtaq did become an influential foil for Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Much of the 1990s was taken up with Mushtaq twirling away from one end, while the Two Ws alternated from the other. Pakistan had a formula that threatened world domination but never achieved it.

Ironically, it was the rise of one-day cricket that put the heat on Mushtaq’s international career. Pakistan took a liking to Shahid Afridi’s all-round potential but more importantly Saqlain Mushtaq’s devastating one-day form saw him displace Mushtaq as Pakistan’s premier spinner—and the Test formula, as it was, only allowed scope for one twirler.

The match-fixing controversy of the 1990s also damaged Mushtaq and later became a reason for him to lose his job as assistant coach. Some said his religious bent was inspired by a desire for redemption but the same has been said about numerous Pakistan players of Mushtaq’s era, and this adoption of piety has been a general phenomenon unconfined to cricketers.

County cricket, however, rejuvenated Mushtaq. Here he was a match-winner, a destroyer, while he had become almost impotent on the international stage. When he joined Sussex, the right man had joined the right county at the right time. Mushtaq’s achievements in county cricket have become legend, a testament to his dedication to cricket and his love of bowling. But they also highlight the gulf between England’s domestic game and the international arena.

In the final reckoning of Pakistan leg spin bowlers, Mushtaq stands behind Qadir but above Danish Kaneria. He does, however, leave behind unparalleled memories for fans of his country and fans of his county—and there can be no bigger compliment.

A furrowed brow, a bouncing angular run that ends in a fast twirling arm, a plea to the powers that be on heaven and earth, and an ecstatic, grinning, racing celebration with arms outstretched. This same routine brought about World Cup glory and county cricket supremacy. It could have been more but who would argue that it wasn’t enough for an unworldly boy from Sahiwal?

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on September 14, 2008, 13:14 GMT

    No Test cricket this year and no posts in the Pak Spin Blog even. This is very sad. Instead of fighting back, we are just laying down to die. Meanwhile the Indians and Aussies keep playing over and over like as though nobody else exists.. I can't help this nagging feeling that this is all karma for Mr. Woolmer's death. No one likes Pakistan and no one cares about Pakistan and even Pakistanis in general have nothing more to say than the Captain is awful and goodbye to the good old days. I don't even know if Geoff Lawson is still the coach? Is he?

  • testli5504537 on September 4, 2008, 1:20 GMT

    It's only fair to temper our assessment regardiung what Mushy brought to the Pak team with the objective reality that he was indeed one of those punished by the official match-fixing commission in the wake of WC '99. The verdict of punishment left no doubt about his career and that actually is the reason why he could not make a comeback to the team. His brief return as "coach-cum-motivator" led to disastrous consequences in the last WC where we were floored even by Ireland. Very good bowler at best, but overall not in the top league of international performers.

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2008, 21:31 GMT

    Mushy made Hick look like a schoolboy in WC 92 final. I shall remember him teasing the clueless Hick with fingers pointing left and right in a guessing game to further confuse the mesmerized, bamboozled, bewildered batsman into bowing out. Mushy wasn't mediocre, given a choice between him and Hick, I'd say he was the better player, at county, Test and WC levels.

  • testli5504537 on September 2, 2008, 10:02 GMT

    My bad, 3 days ago I mentioned about Graeme Hick and he has just retired from the county cricket and first class cricket, take a look at this link from cricinfo of today.


    At least Hick has some achievements to his name to remember and cherish about his game, especially his last three consecutive centuries and a 66 n.o. against Australia in the VB Series which was his last ODI performance and, his ODI career ended gracefully. But, how did Mushy depart? His test and ODI career ended when he was sacked and banned from playing for Pakistan because of the betting scandal in which he was a key player. Later grew a bushy beard to mask his past and crept into the team as an assistant bowling coach. Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them and Mushy is one of them.

  • testli5504537 on August 31, 2008, 15:19 GMT

    Mushy Magic Thank you for the many memories especially to those at Hove who have much affection and genuine love for someone who put his heart and soul into every ball he delivered. You will be missed

  • testli5504537 on August 31, 2008, 3:25 GMT

    Mushy was a mediocre bowler he hardly impressed many. If someone says he was great or he impressed them, they should first look at his record in test and ODI. Abdul Qadir was far superior in technique and even Danish Kaneria is way better than him. He may have been successful at county level, so what? Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick are classic examples as great achievers at county level, especially Hick scored 136 first class centuries but, both failed to impress in test and ODI. Hick's average remained in low 30's. Likewise, Mushy record stays only at county level. More than a player he was a good tactician off the field, he knew which side of the bread to butter and he became Woolmer's interpreter and Inzi's comrade in Tableegh. He also played a very sinister role in pushing out Waqar Younus as a bowling coach that ultimately ruined the bowling standards of the Pakistan team. Waqar as a bowler and as a bowling coach is a million times better than Mushy. My memories on Mushy's achievement are not the same as Kamran's and I would never bother spending time on dedicating an entire thread on Mushy.

  • testli5504537 on August 30, 2008, 8:03 GMT

    Thanks for the memories Kamran, Mushtaq really was a good bowler and helped Pakistan and Sussex win several matches, So thank you Mushie for all the efforts .... and best of the luck for the future.

  • testli5504537 on August 30, 2008, 4:54 GMT

    How can mushy --we all like him as a person--be a great bowler with only about 150-200 test wickets. Some objectivity please. Abdul Kadir was best leg spinner pakistan ever produced and mushy was merely a copy cat. Kadir himself got a solid beating from Tendulkar (who else--that bane of leg spinners).The fact is that both (abdul kadir and mushy baba) were talented alright but not as much as say a Shane Warne or Murali or even Kumbley.

  • testli5504537 on August 29, 2008, 23:50 GMT

    Nice to see some activity on Pakspin these days. Hopefully this will remain. I have seen some videos of Mushy's performance in WC 1992 and early 90's. He seemed to have an impressive, perhaps unreadable googly and did possess reasonable variety. His record is impressive although not exceptional. Neither will I say he was better than Kaneria. Kaneria at his best had greater variety and a more lethal googly. In ODI's Kaneria became a victim of his own success, with batsmen planning to attack him from the first ball so that he doesn't dominate them. Kaneria's confidence was shattered totally after Akmal dropped lots of catches on his bowling in 2006&2007. Anyhow, in County cricket Mushy's reputation is tremendous and it is in County cricket where he has really made his name. He will be remembered as a crafty, attacking leggie who inspired a lot of players and won his County plenty of tournaments. It would be unjust to not give him credit for making a name for himself and his country.

  • testli5504537 on August 29, 2008, 19:36 GMT

    Kamran, thanks for writing this beautiful piece about Mushy. He deserves every single word of it. I wish him happiness and success in his next pursuits.

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