April 27, 2010
One from five
Pakistan were never short of allrounders. Imran Khan would be the overwhelming choice but there are four others, all also captains, in this shortlist
How often has a Pakistan side turned out on the field without a very decent and capable allrounder in their XI? Not very, for just as the land has always produced fine fast bowlers, it has also provided, if not the same flood, then a steady stream of allrounders from the very off.
Right from AH Kardar in the first Tests, even through men such as Majid Khan and Asif Iqbal, who were good enough bowlers to open early in their careers, through the 1970s trio of Intikhab Alam, Mushtaq Mohammad and Wasim Raja, through Imran Khan and Wasim Akram, Pakistan has been blessed with men who bring enviable balance to their line-up. In his earliest days, even Javed Miandad was a more than useful leggie.
Some have been modest in nature, the extent of their ability being merely to chip in with bat and ball. Others have been unpredictable but explosive game-changers. At least one has bestridden the game like a behemoth, good enough to win matches with bat, ball and both regularly. The best ones, curiously but inevitably, have also captained Pakistan.
The one pick for the all-time XI should not be a difficult one. Imran would probably make it to a number of world XIs as an allrounder, so a Pakistani XI should be a formality. But there has never been, as was the case with Ian Botham, an interminable, debilitating search for the next Imran, proof that Pakistan have been well-served in this role.
Akram's arrival helped but even when his potential with the bat never fully materialised, no one really agonised. Abdul Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood don't find their names in this list, but they have both had moments others can only dream of; Razzaq has a Test hundred from one-down and a hat-trick to his name, for example, while Mahmood's three Test hundreds came against strong South African pace attacks.
Imran may tower over everyone, but stiff competition is at hand.
By the time he led Pakistan in their first Test, his best days as a player had gone (he had already played for India and enjoyed a productive spell at Warwickshire). But Kardar still brought a feisty southpaw balance to sides with his left-arm spin - he was once a medium-pacer - and naturally aggressive middle-order batting. If the numbers look ordinary it is because they don't take into account his leadership and that trait nudges him into allrounder territory. Like Mike Brearley, he is almost worth a place in the side for his captaincy, for no Pakistan leader - not even Imran - did as much as Kardar to ensure Pakistan arrived with such gusto to the cricket world.
Imran Khan Imran was widely considered by many to be the most accomplished from cricket's golden quartet of allrounders in the 80s; that he was the most successful captain strengthens the case for favourable comparison alongside Sir Garry Sobers as simply the greatest allrounder ever. A devastating fast bowler for 12 years through the 70s and 80s - among the quickest at one stage - and a technically accomplished middle-order batsman, for the last 10 years of his career Imran averaged over 50 with the bat and under 20 with the ball, almost incomparable anywhere. As well as London's swankiest nightspots, he was most often found at the very heart of all Pakistan's most sensational cricketing moments.
Intikhab Alam After the retirement of Kardar, Intikhab plugged a crucial gap through the 60s and early 70s as Pakistan's leading allrounder. Always a quality legspinner - his first ball in Test cricket got him a wicket, and it was, the legend goes, a wrong 'un - Inti was at his best with the bat lower down the order and the side in a fix. The most memorable of his nine 50-plus scores came from No. 10 - 51 in the epic ninth-wicket 190-run stand with Asif Iqbal at The Oval in 1967. He led Pakistan nobly and with good grace, much needed after the captaincy fiascos of the 60s.
Mushtaq Mohammad Mushtaq was arguably Pakistan's best allrounder pre-Imran. Unlike Inti, his legspinning allrounder contemporary, batting was comfortably Mushtaq's stronger suit. But from the resumption of his career in the late 60s, his bowling improved considerably. On his day, as West Indies found out in 1976, when the flipper came out right, he could be seriously dangerous. He was an imaginative, significant captain as well and is only one of four men in Test history - Jacques Kallis, Sobers and Botham are the others - to have scored a hundred and taken five wickets in an innings more than once; also, one of two to score a double-hundred and take a five-for.
Wasim Akram For many years the heir apparent to Imran, Akram has few equals in Pakistan when it comes to turning matches with a short, sharp burst with the ball, or an equally brief but effective swing of the bat. His batting was never sound enough to form the basis of prolonged, consistent success, but Imran thought him to be more talented than himself and on days - Lord's 1992, the the MCG 1992, Adelaide 1989-90 - he could change a game with the bat and show enough flexibility to strongly suggest greater application might have produced greater results. Bowling, though was, more often than not, where it was at with Akram.
We'll be publishing an all-time Pakistan XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your allrounder click here
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo
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