Cricketers pick their favourites

'Magic man'

Part nine: Alec Stewart on the best bowlers he has faced: his Surrey team-mate Saqlain Mushtaq was a handful every time (00:00)

Producer: Ranjit Shinde

December 18, 2012


Saqlain Mushtaq

'Magic man'

December 18, 2012

Saqlain Mushtaq took four, Sussex v Surrey, County Championship, Hove, May 1, 2008
Saqlain Mushtaq, aka the unpickable © Getty Images

Saqlain Mushtaq, another Surrey team-mate of mine. First one who really brought the doosra into play. He could rip and spin the ball the other way with almost an offspinner's action.

He arrived at Surrey with limited international knowledge. But he soon became the most destructive spin bowler of modern times in the county game, because people just could not pick him.

And again accurate - could spin the ball big both ways. But it was the variety of his doosra that people could not come to grips with. So batting against him in England against Pakistan was hard work.

And when I first kept wicket to him for Surrey, that was hard work too, because if the batsmen were having problems, then the keeper was as well. But because you have the extra couple of yards to pick the ball and have time to react and because you've seen him day in and day out, and you practise with him, I was able to pick him. That helped me when I played against him, versus Pakistan, be it Test cricket or one-day international cricket. I think we actually met only a couple of times or whatever, but he was brilliant.

He's a lovely fellow, a man of few words, but he knew exactly what he wanted to do. I nicknamed him the Magic Man because of what he could do with a cricket ball in his hand. Even in the dressing room, flicking a tennis ball - that's how he learned to bowl a doosra, through playing tennis-ball cricket. He's just great fun.

They say he took offspin bowling to another level and it's because of him really that we see so much variety now in the modern game with the offspiners. People try and bowl the doosra, people talk about the wrist positions, the eccentricity, but he could just run up and spin it both ways. It was an absolute art.

It was tough playing against him, an absolute pleasure to play with him, to keep wicket to, because you're always in the game for the outside edge, for the doosra, for the catch. A lot of people would fall out of their crease trying to play it on the on side, it would spin the other way, you'd get a stumping or two. It was great.

You could even tell batsmen - when you play county cricket, at times when the new batsman would come in - whatever happens, this is a doosra, so whatever you do, do not look to hit the ball on the on side. Just a little bit of banter that goes out in the middle. And the batsman goes to knock it on the on side, gets a leading edge, caught at short extra cover or nicks it to slip first ball, and all we can say is that we're trying to help you and they'd be walking back to the pavilion!

You know, it's just not the doosra. It's everything - the regulation offspinner as well. Just a very clever bowler.

Again, he'd bowl very few bad deliveries, but because he had the doosra, there'd be times you could be a little bit over-tentative against him. Normally, if you use your feet, you can go down and hit with the spin to most offspinners, but because he can spin it so much the other way, if you haven't quite got to the ball and it's a regulation offspinner, you can just kick it away. If you're not quite there to the ball and it's a doosra, and you miss it, then you bring the wicketkeeper into play or your bat isn't in the right position, you find the outside edge, then you're history.

Posted by   on (December 21, 2012, 1:45 GMT)

An-other brilliant bowler, wasted by pakistan's cricket politics.

Posted by John-Price on (December 18, 2012, 20:26 GMT)

He's only 35, yet his last international appearance was over 8 years ago and people talk of him as if he is a figure from a distant era.

Why was he finished so young? Why is this question so rarely asked?

Posted by   on (December 18, 2012, 14:34 GMT)

Which Spin Bowler is the best ?The answer is the guy who does well against India in India.Against India in India(three test matches in 1999) he was the only bowler who got plenty of wickets in test matches which Warne could not do even .I remember when he played for the first time in India in late 90's(Independent Cup) in ODIs he bowled really well. Before IPL started Indian batsmen knew how to play spin and their bowlers knew too how to bowl and he troubled the very best spin playing batsmen thats why he is truly special.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2012, 8:32 GMT)

What a Great Bowler !!!! The inventor of Doosrsa which changed the art of offspin from defensive to attacking

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