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Cricketers reflect on their lives and times

Mushtaq Mohammad

'Wes Hall was just another bowler'

The youngest Test centurion in his time talks about his experiences in cricket

Interview by Ijaz Chaudhry

April 20, 2009

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© PA Photos
 

My greatest attribute was self belief. When I made my Test debut at the age of 15, Wes Hall was just another bowler for me, like the ones I had faced in school games.

There were too many Mohammad brothers to fit in the Pakistan team. In Pakistan's initial years of Test cricket, our No. 2 brother, Raees, could not win a Test cap - he was the 12th man once - as Wazir and Hanif were regulars. I made my first tour, India in 1960-61. Wazir also deserved to be in, but with two of us in already, Hanif and I, he was not selected. Finally three of us - Hanif, Sadiq and I - managed to play together in a Test in 1969-70. Immediately after the match, Hanif was told by the head of Pakistan's cricket board that it was time for his retirement as Sadiq was ready to replace him. Still, we have the unique distinction of four brothers playing Test cricket.

Kerry Packer was a breath of fresh air. Cricket was losing crowds and Test matches didn't bring much money. New ideas were needed, which Packer brought in in the form of night cricket, coloured clothing, excellent TV coverage, and players were paid very well. He was ready to let players be available for the Test cricket, but the ICC confronted him and took him to court.

Sir Garfield Sobers is the greatest cricketer I have seen. It was a pleasure to watch him on the field. Whether he was batting, bowling or fielding, it was class and authority.

Twenty20 cricket is harming cricket technically. Batting does not require any technique and bowlers suffer even more, as their only priority is to avoid being hit out of the ground. Fielding is the only aspect that can benefit.

I am regarded by many as the inventor of the reverse-sweep. It just happened the first time. In 1964, I was batting for an invitation side called Rothmans Cavaliers against Middlesex at Uxbridge. England offspinner Fred Titmus was bowling a tight middle-and-leg line with a 3-6 field, and I simply couldn't get him away. I saw a large vacant area behind cover point, and played the shot that came to be known as the reverse-sweep. Fred complained to the umpire, who pointed out that I hadn't changed my grip and there was nothing illegal in the shot. I then employed this shot a lot more.

My county turned against me as I had signed for Packer, and I was given the option: Northants or Packer.

Lord's has been my favourite ground since childhood; our father used to say, if a cricketer hasn't played at Lord's, all his other achievements mean nothing.

My most memorable batting performance came in the fourth Test against West Indies in 1976-77. In the six previous Tests on that tour [in Australia and the West Indies], I hadn't scored a single fifty. I was the captain of the side and had volunteered to step down, but the other senior players persuaded me to stay. In that Test I scored a century and a half-century. In addition, I also took eight wickets in the match, and more importantly we won the Test to level the series.

I left Northamptonshire after the 1977 season, having led them to their most successful season in 1976, when they not only equalled their best-ever position, second, in the County Championship, but also won the Gillette Cup.

My most memorable victory came when I led Pakistan against Australia in the Sydney Test of 1976-77. This was Pakistan's first-ever Test win in Australia. Most of us had been playing international cricket for many years, and had been excelling on the county circuit, but we needed to translate all that into meaningful international success.

I remained part of the Test Match Special commentary team through the eighties and till mid-nineties, and recently did commentary on the Karachi Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

IPL is show business and anyone can enter it as an investor. I can't say whether it will have some useful influence on cricket in the long run, but at the moment it is harming cricket as its money muscle is dictating terms even to the ICC. Players are skipping national calls, and tours of national teams are not only scheduled around it but are even called off. I am all for players getting great money, but the national duty should be the foremost priority.


Mushtaq Mohammad (R) and Sadiq Mohammad
With brother Sadiq (right): "There were too many Mohammad brothers for the Pakistan team" © EMPICS
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I was under-bowled in Tests, especially when Intikhab Alam [himself a legspinner] was the captain. My average and strike-rate are much better than his. I took a lot of wickets with Northants, though we also had BS Bedi for six years, one of the greatest spinners in history.

My biggest disappointment on the cricket field was Pakistan's defeat against Australia in the third Test of the 1972-73 series. With Australia at one stage of their second innings effectively at 75 for 8, we smelt our first-ever victory in Australia. Their last two wickets added 84, but even then we needed only 159, and from 83 for 3 were bowled out for 106.

I guided Pakistan to the final of the 1999 World Cup, which is my greatest achievement as a coach. I was working with Bangladesh as the bowling coach when I was requested by the PCB to take over the Pakistan team only four weeks before the tournament, as Javed Miandad had fallen out of favour with the players. I also had other stints as the coach of the Pakistan team, and I have also coached the national sides of UAE and the USA.

My exit from the international scene was painful. I had stepped down for the 1979 World Cup as I considered myself not fit enough for the faster limited-overs version, but could have continued in Test cricket, especially as the team had been doing well under me. But to my amazement the senior players forced me out, saying that if I was not fit for the one-day internationals, I couldn't be fit for the longer five-day Tests. In recent times we have seen the example of Shane Warne who played Tests for two years after giving up ODIs.

Though living a retired life I can't remain away from my greatest love. I still coach at the local Attock Club, which is just a stone's throw away from my home.

Ijaz Chaudhry writes on cricket and other sports. For more about him and samples of his published work, visit www.sportscorrespondent.info

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