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Mudassar Nazar looks back at his career, playing under Imran Khan, his idols and more
Interview by Faraz Sarwat
June 12, 2010
When I came out to bat in my first Test, in Australia, I asked Majid Khan what to do. He said, "Get ready to cut, hook and pull." I thought to myself, "I don't play those three shots at all."
I learned a lot just sitting in the ground and listening to cricketers like Fazal Mahmood. Since age five I wanted to play cricket, and since the time I was 10 there was no doubt in my mind that I would be a Test player.
The ball that I got out to on 199 wasn't much of a ball. Shivlal Yadav was bowling on the off stump and I had been making room to hit him square on the off side. He bowled the same ball when I was on 199 and I thought, "Ah, 200!" and went hard at it instead of timing it and got caught. As I walked off, I saw Sunil Gavaskar shaking his head. He couldn't believe what I had done.
My father used to walk very fast and I would try to run after him. Most of the time I didn't have to run far because he was always stopped by people when he went out. He was loved by the people of Lahore.
I took a lot of pride in opening for Pakistan and following in my father's footsteps, but really, I wouldn't have got into the Pakistan side if I wasn't an opener. Wasim Raja, who was a brilliant player, struggled to get in because the middle order was so strong.
I was unprepared for my first Test. Sadiq Mohammad had injured his hand in Perth and we learned the night before the Adelaide Test that he couldn't play. Imran Khan, even in those days, had a lot to say. He piped up: "Mudassar is an opener, he can play". The captain, Mushtaq Mohammad, looked at me for the first time on the tour and said, "Oh yeah? Go put your pads on". He told Saleem Altaf to bowl to me in the nets. By this time it was getting dark. Altaf bowled three balls, all of which sailed over my head. But I was happy thinking about becoming a Test player. I didn't worry that I would be facing Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.
Later in my career when I played down the order in Tests, it was a piece of cake. I couldn't believe how easy Test cricket was when batting at No. 6. The bowlers were tired, the ball was soft. When I played Thomson at No. 6, he was like a medium-pacer to me. That's why I don't believe specialist batsmen who play down the order are great players, unless it's someone like Garry Sobers, who also bowled a lot.
|"I couldn't believe how easy Test cricket was when batting at No. 6. The bowlers were tired, the ball was soft. When I played Thomson at No. 6, he was like a medium-pacer to me"|
The greatest feeling for me as a child was whenever Hanif Mohammad would come to town. I would pester my father that I wanted to shake hands with Hanif. My father would get one of the young cricketers, like Shafqat Rana, to take me to see Hanif and I would come home really, really happy. I don't know how many times I shook hands with Hanif.
When Imran became captain nobody knew what to expect. He was temperamental when he bowled, hated people misfielding off his bowling, and hated losing. But he quickly set himself apart. On the 1982 tour of England, he dropped Majid Khan in favour of Mansoor Akhtar, who had been scoring a lot of runs in the county games. Majid was the prince of Pakistan cricket, so dropping him could not have been easy. That's how the Imran Khan era started, by being fair to all members of the team. That one act had a huge impact, not just on the team but the administrators as well. Suddenly Pakistan cricket became more important than individual players.
Sadiq Mohammad was one of my heroes, and in my playing career there was no better opening batsman for Pakistan than him. But fortunately for me the team had some ageing players and they needed an extra seamer and a good fielder. That gave me the edge over Sadiq.
My first Test was the first time I faced genuinely fast bowlers. When I came on strike to face Thomson, I noticed all the fielders were behind the wicket. I was a front-foot player and the ball kept going past my nose, and Rodney Marsh collected it over his head. I didn't know what was happening and thought the ball was swinging a lot. I looked towards the dressing room and everyone was doubled over laughing. No one had said a word to me about what was going to happen and how to play, and I was completely unprepared. I thought it was cruel, and when I became a senior player we made sure that sort of thing didn't happen.
I could have achieved more if I wasn't colour blind. If a tall bowler bowled a yorker in front of a marginal sight-screen, I would lose sight of the ball and get bowled. It was only in 1980 that I found out I was colour blind. Then it all started to make sense. When I was about 16, AH Kardar had noticed something was wrong. I heard him say to someone, "Nazar's son doesn't pick the ball early enough".
I enjoyed batting with Javed Miandad the most. We were both quick between the wickets and I had played with him since our Under-19 days. We had a few partnerships of over a hundred runs. Javed was a fantastic team man. If I had to pick a batsman to bat for my life from any of the players I played with or against, it would be him.
On the night before the final day of the 1983 Hyderabad Test, Sarfraz Nawaz told me that he had figured out Gundappa Viswanath and Kapil Dev. He said he would get Viswanath lbw and knock out Kapil's stumps. I just laughed. But the next morning he trapped Viswanath on the back foot and then looked over at me. A few balls later he bowled an outswinger to Kapil and bowled him. Sarfraz came running over and picked me up, shouting, "I told you! I told you!"
When I carried my bat, I hadn't been thinking of becoming part of the first father-son pair to do so. I was aware that my father had carried his bat, but I don't think it crossed my mind when I was batting, as Kapil Dev took three quick wickets to end the innings.
If I had shown more faith in Wasim Akram's batting abilities, instead of slogging and getting bowled, I could have carried my bat again in Auckland.
The first time I ever asked for the ball was in an ODI in Perth against West Indies. I could see the ball was doing a lot. And if someone was confident Imran appreciated it and gave him an opportunity. I bowled two overs for 14 runs. I felt I had let the team down, but Imran gave me a third over. Desmond Haynes came down the track and got out. Then I beat Viv Richards twice - the first leg-before shout was better than the one that got him. I finished with 3 for 36.
I should have bowled more. I went about 15 ODIs without bowling. In Test matches I could get crucial breakthroughs. But on Pakistani pitches, with my height and pace, I can understand why I wasn't bowled as much. One of my better spells was against New Zealand, opening the bowling. I bowled 11 overs before lunch, taking 3 for 8 and wasn't bowled again in the innings.
I was lucky that I never had a serious injury or never missed a tour for Pakistan because of injury.
When Javed and I put on 451 runs against India, we didn't know we had equalled the world record for any wicket. When I went into the dressing room after being dismissed, team-mates kept coming up to me to say "bad luck". I couldn't understand why someone would say that to a batsman who just scored 231. Then Intikhab Alam told me we had levelled the world record when I got out.
Faraz Sarwat is the cricket columnist for the Toronto Star and the author of The Cricket World Cup: History, Highlights, Facts and FiguresFeeds: Faraz Sarwat
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