The XI May 24, 2010

A batsman's nightmare

With a bowling line-up in which Imran Khan is an afterthought, Pakistan's all-time team looks well-nigh invincible
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And so finally, 10 men, six categories and 198 Test players come together to produce one all-time Pakistan XI.

It wasn't, on final balance, as difficult a task as it may have initially appeared. As many as four players were unanimous picks: Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis would in all likelihood be among the top contenders on any such global list. Two more batting greats, Hanif Mohammad and Inzamam-ul-Haq, were near-unanimous selections, with nine votes each. And with Abdul Qadir picking up eight votes as the sole spinner, it means as many as seven of an all-time Pakistan XI pick themselves.

Pleasingly perhaps, the XI takes in players from all eras, recognition of the prolific ability of the land to keep producing talent no matter the circumstances of the time and era: Hanif Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood from the 50s and 60s, Zaheer Abbas, Miandad, Imran and Qadir from the 70s through to the early 90s, and the rest from the mid-80s onwards. Tellingly, given how Pakistan have fared this last decade, the latest Test debutant is Rashid Latif (1992). The choice of Latif, in fact, wasn't a straightforward one; his greater batting ability tips the scales in his favour.

Finally, a word about the shape of the line-up. Pakistan have been at their best when they have played attacking, aggressive cricket, Almost exclusively, that has come from the nature of their bowling attack, which is why the all-time XI has a four-man bowling attack and Imran Khan.

Some might argue that another specialist middle-order batsman should have been in the line-up, but the selection assumes picking players at the peak of their skills. So Imran's naturally solid technique provides a robust enough presence at six, around which the line-up pivots. Latif and Akram below him add up to almost another batsman.

That leaves the bowling attack to be as spectacular as any that can be conceived. Just imagine a four-man fast-bowling attack of the variety, skill and pace of this one: Imran, Fazal, Wasim and Waqar. With Qadir backing up, there is enough wicket-taking threat here to trouble any batting side, on any surface, from any era.

The XI

Saeed Anwar
"He used an eclectic approach to batting - classical betrothed to unorthodox, footwork against spin as quick as a hiccup, and wrists supple yet powerful to brush the field like a Picasso." Ramiz Raja

Hanif Mohammad
"Hanif bestrode the cricket world like a Colossus of Rhodes. His patience was monumental, his judgement unique; fearless of his opponents, he shared his respect for them, both in victory and defeat. In common with many great sporting figures of the 20th century, his legend continues to grow with time." Khadim Baloch

Zaheer Abbas
"Zaheer Abbas' consistency both at first-class level and in Tests was phenomenal. Where his contemporaries struggled he remained calm and calculating, displaying his technique against great spinners of time; and not a bad player of fast bowling." Qamar Ahmed

Javed Miandad
"He was positive and aggressive in his approach, and the tougher the situation the more he seemed to revel in the challenge. His enthusiasm was extremely infectious, which made him one of the best team men I have ever had the pleasure to play with or against." Tony Greig

Inzamam-ul-Haq
"Inzamam was colossal in frame, ability, and attitude. He could play strokes all around the wicket with brute strength or exquisite subtlety. But what made Inzi great was his determination to stand firm as his illustrious colleagues collapsed around him. He was the rock that broke the onslaught of Pakistan's opponents. A few last stands would have been remarkable. To do it for over a decade was genius." Kamran Abbasi

Imran Khan
Imran combined thoughtfulness with a natural ability which had always been outstanding. What brought about this transformation, as Imran readily admits, was his appointment to the captaincy of Pakistan. This sense of responsibility turned a fine cavalier into a great cricketer. Wisden Cricketers' Almanack

Rashid Latif
"Few wicketkeepers in Pakistan have been as athletic and yet as unobtrusive as Latif. A dive in front of first slip was often accomplished with the same ease of a regular, standing take; and to spin, he was outstanding and swift. His errors are difficult to remember. His batting, combative and elegant, was vastly underrated." Osman Samiuddin

Wasim Akram
"If I ever get a chance to be reborn as a cricketer, I would want to be Wasim Akram."
Allan Border

Fazal Mahmood
"Fazal Mahmood was a great human being, always willing to help anyone who sought his advice. He was the doyen of Pakistan bowlers in the formative years and all our wins since we started playing Test cricket were indebted to him. It was just because of his bowling feats that Pakistan achieved the rare honour of beating every country in our early series in the 1950s and 60s." Hanif Mohammad

Abdul Qadir
"In the pantheon of wrist-spinners he [Qadir] surely ranks near the very top. Facing him or Warne at their best must have been as severe a test of a batsman's nerve and capacity as any slow bowler has ever represented. But unlike Warne, Qadir was always on the attack. He knew no other way... When it comes to deception, as in the way in which he disguised his googly and various legbreaks, not to mention his flipper, he was a real little sorcerer." John Woodcock

Waqar Younis
Beyond doubt Waqar is an outstanding bowler, probably the finest to emerge from Pakistan since Fazal Mahmood. This is a bowler of brilliance and élan, a bowler as entertaining in his way as any batsman, as enthralling as any spinner, a bowler who could become, as Imran predicted, the greatest of them all. Wisden Cricketers' Almanack

Cricinfo readers' XI
We invited readers to vote on the nominees in each segment. Here's who they picked:
Saeed Anwar, Hanif Mohammad, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Bari, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Qadir, Waqar Younis.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo