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The youngest of Pakistan's famous Mohammad brothers looks back on his life and times in the game
Interview by Ijaz Chaudhry
February 22, 2011
Being the youngest of Pakistan's most distinguished cricketing family put great pressure on me. Everyone expected me to emulate my brothers. It was pressure day in and day out. But it was an inspiration as well, to be famous like them.
One of the earliest coaching camps I attended was when I was only 13, at the National Stadium in Karachi. Such famous cricketers as Nazar Mohammad, Alimuddin and Maqsood Ahmad, all Test cricketers, put us through our paces.
I made my first-class debut in 1960 but had to wait almost 10 years for my first Test cap. In those days Karachi was a star-studded team, with a number of Test cricketers playing for them, so it was difficult to get a place. Players were almost always blooded in home Tests, and there used to be very few Tests in Pakistan in those days. In 1967 I moved to England and didn't appear in Pakistan's domestic cricket for a couple of years.
I have almost 250 first-class wickets. I was considered an allrounder early in my career. I could have been utilised in Tests but there were quite a few legspinners in the Pakistan team: Intikhab [Alam], Mushtaq, Wasim Raja, etc.
I had two seasons for the Northants 2nd XI and also played a number of televised one-day matches for the International Cavaliers against county sides. In 1968, Gloucestershire offered me a contract. Around the same time I had done well in a trial match for Middlesex. The charm of calling Lord's my home ground made me delay getting back to Gloucester and they signed a West Indian. And then Middlesex didn't want me either. So I had to wait further. Gloucestershire offered me a contract again in 1971 and I started appearing for them that year.
The best bowler I faced was Andy Roberts. His finest quality was the ability to make you play every ball.
My debut Test, in Karachi, our hometown, was significant because all three Mohammad brothers were appearing in the match. It was only the second instance of three brothers in the same match in Test cricket. Hanif and I were to open the innings. Our mother asked Hanif to guide me. He directed and encouraged me throughout. I managed to score 69, which turned out to be the highest in the match for either side. But the joy was short-lived. As soon as the Test ended, the president of the cricket board came to Hanif's room and told him his time to quit had arrived. "Sadiq is going to be a suitable replacement." I felt really bad that indirectly I was responsible for my brother's exit.
As a kid I used to be a right-hand batsman. Since my older brothers were right-handers and Pakistan cricket had very few left-handers in those days, my brothers decided to convert me into a left-hand batsman. In the beginning I found it difficult. They even used to tie my right hand when I batted, so that I became accustomed to using the left hand. To encourage me, they also gave me more turns to bat.
I scored four consecutive hundreds for Gloucestershire in 1976.
Before Majid Khan became my opening partner in 1974, I had had about seven or eight different partners in my first 16 Test matches. I developed a good understanding with him and we opened for Pakistan for a long period. I used to be mostly defensive at the start of the innings, while Majid belted the bowling.
The IPL is the same as all other Twenty20 cricket. Players are paid heavily for a slogging competition, where the art and grace of the game is absent.
|"Lillee ran in for the fourth time. I moved away and asked for the balloon to be taken away as it was disturbing me. Lillee's fury knew no bounds and his next four balls were all wayward bouncers. I had succeeded"|
In 1974-75 I was playing grade cricket in Tasmania when West Indies came to Pakistan for two Tests. The club said they would release me but that I would not be paid for the period of my absence. I telephoned Mr [Abdul Hafeez] Kardar, the president of the Pakistan cricket board, and asked him if the board would compensate me for that loss, and to provide me with a return ticket. He was reluctant and I missed the first Test. A lot was said against me: "Sadiq is a mercenary" and so on, which was definitely not the case. My replacement, Agha Zahid, failed miserably and the board asked me to come for the second Test. This time I only asked them to provide me with a return ticket. They hesitated initially but eventually agreed.
In the second innings of that second Test against West Indies, I was hit on the back of my head while fielding and almost fainted. I had to be carried off the field and I didn't come to bat for Pakistan later that day. A wicket fell early on the last day and we were effectively 3 for 5. I came to bat on strong painkillers but managed to have long, time-consuming stands with the tailenders and we saved the Test. I was left stranded at 98 not out. Overnight the mercenary had become a national hero.
I was the favourite of my mother, as well as of my eldest brother, Wazir.
I was always well versed with the laws of the game, so umpiring attracted me. After officiating in domestic cricket for a few seasons I was called upon to umpire a Pakistan-Sri Lanka ODI in 2000. The non-cricketing umpires didn't like it. They conspired and made false reports about my umpiring in domestic matches. My marks were reduced and so I got fewer domestic matches. I complained, with evidence, and eventually in 2002 I was named for a Test and an ODI against New Zealand. But the tour was called off after an explosion outside the team's hotel in Karachi.
My team-mates at Gloucestershire included world-class players like Mike Procter and Zaheer Abbas. The county experience taught me a lot. Those days you played against some of world's finest cricketers day in and day out, in different conditions.
In the second Test against New Zealand in 1976, Mushtaq and I scored centuries in the same innings. The Mohammads had waited almost a quarter of a century for such a feat. We became only the second pair of brothers after the Chappells to have achieved this.
Viv Richards was my favourite cricketer. He was confidence personified and never let the bowlers dominate. A close second was Zaheer Abbas. He was elegant and graceful, a real treat to watch. Zaheer was a special friend during the Gloucestershire years.
In the third Test against West Indies in 1977, we began the second innings trailing by more than 250 runs. I missed a hook shot off Roberts and got hit in the face, which swelled up like a balloon. The next day was a rest day and the swelling subsided somewhat, but my eyes were still half shut. The third wicket fell shortly after they had taken the new ball. Asif Iqbal was ready to go in but I stopped him. "The opener should face the new ball," I said. Roberts welcomed me with bouncers but I managed to stay in and got 48 runs. More importantly I spent quite some time in the middle, which helped us save the Test.
Self-belief was my best attribute: I am as good as anybody else.
Coaching has always been my love. I have coached various domestic teams, like Karachi, Hyderabad and Multan. In my three years with Hyderabad, an unfashionable side, we were able to defeat quite a few higher-ranked teams. A high point was in 2009-10, when I coached Karachi to win the Quaid-e Azam trophy.
I had a different sort of coaching experience in Malaysia for two years in 1997-98, when I was called upon to train their national team. Only a few players of Indian origin could really play the sport. Most of the other players were not very keen. The team was being trained only because being the host, Malaysia had to participate in the 1998 Commonwealth Games, where cricket was included for the first time. Interestingly they were more interested in fielding than batting and bowling. They considered running after the ball or catching it interesting, rather than learning the more technical trades of batting and bowling.
In terms of my personal performance, the 1972-73 season was the most satisfying. In nine Tests in three countries, I scored almost 900 runs at an average of more than 55. That season brought me international recognition.
When I was not selected for the third Test against England in 1977-78, it was the first time a Pakistan side played a Test without a Mohammad brother. The whole family felt very bad. But the selectors were right in dropping me as I was struggling with my form. I had scored only 50 runs in four innings
"I will not get out off his bowling" was my thought whenever I faced my brother Mushtaq, especially on the highly competitive county circuit. I don't think he got me out many times.
I joined Pakistan's United Bank Limited in 1977 and played regularly for them on the domestic circuit till 1985. Then I served in their sports department for a few years before being transferred to corporate banking, where I was mainly involved in public relations, to bring in deposits. In 1997 I was given a golden handshake. Since then it has been the family business.
I had the privilege of participating in the first two World Cups. In the 1970s one-day cricket was in an embryonic stage. Apart from England, who had three domestic competitions, it was still just taking root in other countries. Pakistan were among the favourites in 1975 as well as 1979 but were unlucky both times. In 1975 we were well in control throughout the match against the West Indies, the eventual champions, but their last pair put on more than 60 runs to see them through.
Melbourne has been my favourite cricket ground. I scored centuries in both my Test appearances there. The atmosphere at the MCG has always been electric.
Apart from Shoaib [son of Hanif], no other sons of the Mohammad brothers managed to make it to the international level. Raees Mohammad's son Asif was quite good and stylish. He scored a lot of runs in Pakistan's first-class circuit and also appeared in youth Tests for Pakistan Under-23 and Under-19 sides, but like his father he was unfortunate not to get a Test call. My son Imraan Mohammad played first-class cricket for Cambridge University. He played for Gloucestershire and also two seasons in Pakistan, mostly for Customs. I think if he had shown some patience he would have made it for England or Pakistan. Let us hope Hanif's grandson, Shehzar Mohammad, who made his first-class debut last season, makes it to the highest level.
Twenty20 cricket is a fun game meant for entertainment. Crowds enjoy it. Only a few batsmen in this format play correct and apply the basics. Most adopt a wild approach. Bowlers have got chances to get batsmen out but they have to bowl a good line and length consistently in their four overs. They go for like 35-40 runs in four overs. Unfair to both batsmen and bowlers. No time for either to settle down.
In the 1977 Melbourne Test, the first innings, the great Dennis Lillee was into a menacing spell. Majid and I were being beaten every second ball. I went to Majid and said, "I'm going to upset him". Lillee had a long run-up. He was about to send down the first delivery of a new over when I moved away, saying I had something in my eye. I did it again next ball and asked the umpire to look at it. At the same time I undid my shoelaces. When he ran in the third time, I moved away again, pointing to my shoes. Majid had difficulty controlling his laughter. The crowd joined in and a balloon arrived on the ground. Lillee ran in for the fourth time. I moved away and asked for the balloon to be taken away as it was disturbing me. Lillee's fury knew no bounds and his next four balls were all wayward bouncers. I had succeeded. We put on a century opening partnership. Even the Aussie skipper, Greg Chappell, made a sly remark, indirectly appreciating our "tactical move".
Ijaz Chaudhry writes on cricket and other sports. For more about him and samples of his published work, visit www.sportscorrespondent.infoFeeds: Ijaz Chaudhry
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