Behind the Mushy bushy beard

Twenty20 Vision: My Life and Inspiration by Mushtaq Ahmed £16.99
Methuen; 213pp

The Pakistan and Sussex spinner's brutally honest portrayal of his life and career so far
Mushtaq Ahmed has told his life story in the same enthusiastic way he has played his cricket for the last 20 years. And if Mushy means nothing more to you than the bushy-bearded sorcerer whose legbreaks and googlies have helped transform Sussex into the most successful county in the country, then there is plenty here which will both surprise and inform.

An international at 18, Mushtaq played a key role in the greatest triumph in the history of Pakistan cricket when Imran Khan's 'cornered tigers' won the 1992 World Cup after Imran had personally intervened to get him in the squad. That golden generation should have achieved much more and it often pains Mushtaq to admit it: "Since the days of Imran almost every player believed he was the star and that destroyed any chance of team unity."

There is no attempt to gloss over incidents which cast a shadow over the early part of his career. His involvement in the 1994 match-fixing scandal and the episode on a Grenada beach in 1993, when he, Wasim Akram, Aqib Javed and Waqar Younis were held by gun-toting police accused of smoking pot, are given an appraisal which is painfully honest.

By 1998 Mushtaq had gone off the rails. He had become too Westernised, did not want to bowl for Somerset and regarded himself as selfish and self-centred. The most fascinating chapter tells how he re-affirmed his faith in Islam, initially at a three-day Muslim support group, having been taken there reluctantly by the former Pakistan wicketkeeper Zulqarnain.

Mushtaq was re-born as a person and eventually as a cricketer, although Sussex supporters will be disappointed that only six pages - the smallest chapter in the book - are devoted to his amazing success with the county since 2003.

His outstanding county career is strangely ignored in a statistical appendix that does not do justice to his record and it is a shame that the publisher's budget did not stretch to a wider selection of photographs. But these are minor gripes. Mushtaq has written that rarity among current players - an honest appraisal of his life so far. Sussex supporters in particular will hope there are a few more chapters left to tell.

This article was first published in the March 2007 issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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