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Javed Miandad: the man they called Mum and Dad

Has Pakistan ever seen a player like him?

Khawer Rabbani
Javed Miandad played six World Cups for Pakistan  •  Getty Images

Javed Miandad played six World Cups for Pakistan  •  Getty Images

In 1972, the Karachi team was playing against a local club and their captain (a rather defensive sort of batsman) was at the crease. The match was a 'nail-biter', tough and tense when the scoreboard showed Karachi needing 18 runs off 3 balls to win. A young boy in the Karachi squad asked the manager to call back the captain and offered to go out instead! The manager hesitated but then agreed. Out went the youngster and won the game for his team by hitting three consecutive sixes. He never knew that one day, he would be the 'Mum&Dad' of Pakistan cricket.
Only 17 in 1973, he smashed a triple-hundred for Karachi playing against Pakistan Railways. This world record still stands, a mammoth 311 runs to become the youngest player to hit a triple-century in first-class cricket.
Two years later in 1975, this young lad was selected for the Pakistan World Cup squad. He played his first match against the giants of world cricket, West Indies, a team full of uncompromising bowlers and slayer-batsmen. As the sixth batsman he scored 24 and was run-out but denied any bowler from getting his wicket. While bowling in the same match he captured the prize wicket of the great West Indies captain, Clive Lloyd. Initially, commentators were confusing him with Pervez Mir but with this ODI debut performance, he had made his presence felt and they were soon calling him by his own name.
Next year in 1976, the Kiwis toured Pakistan for a 3-Test series. In the first Test match this young man made his Test debut. He came out to bat when Pakistan had lost Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammad, Zaheer Abbas, Sadiq Mohammad at a score of only 44 and Asif Iqbal was on the crease. The youngster scored a scintillating 163 in his first innings reaching the ton with three successive boundaries. After the game, Asif Iqbal said the young boy was even guiding him during their tremendous partnership and was happy he did made 3 runs more then the emerging cricketing giant! In the third Test, that young man permanently engraved the writing on the wall by hitting a marathon 206 not out against a side that had the services of great bowlers like Richard Hadlee. This innings was another unbeaten world record, the youngest in the world to score a Test double-century. It was at this time that cricket pundits around the world started raising eyebrows on the 'new-arrival'.
In 1978, archrivals India visited Pakistan and this young man helped Pakistan win the series to be added to the list of great cricketers.
When only 22 in 1979 the BCCP President, Air Marshal (Rtd) Nur Khan bravely appointed him captain of the Pakistan team superseding some senior players. A decision that many thought was unwise. But as I see it, I don't agree with them because the young captain had already proved himself to be the best player. Subsequent cricket managements in Pakistan played musical chairs with his captaining career rather than grooming a long-term captain.
In 1981-82 he skippered Pakistan on the Australian tour, though losing the series 2-1 the Pakistan team did give a tough time to the Aussies. That series is famous for the legendary fast bowler Dennis Lillee's, kicking incident and the riposte he got.
In that year he stepped down from captaincy for Imran Khan and accepted a place as his deputy, content with Imran and his strategies. The cricketing world recognizes the IMRAN-MIANDAD combination as peerless. Thereafter, these two giants of Pakistan cricket started to lift the babes of the sport towards a destination that they achieved after a decade.
In the next memorable season 1982-83, India again visited Pakistan for a six-Test series. In the second test match at Niaz Stadium Hyderabad he scored 280 not-out and helped equal a then world record for the highest partnership for any wicket in Test cricket partnered by Mudassar Nazar (451 runs). A world record set in 1938 by William Ponsford and Donald Bradman against England.
The maestro was stopped from possibly breaking the individual Test world record of Sir Garfield Sobers by captain Imran Khan, who decided to declare when the wonder-boy was on 280 and going great guns. Imran did not even give him a particular time or the number of overs he could bat on for. Most critics agree that this was one of the worst decisions by Imran as captain of Pakistan. But the great batsman never complained about it, instead he went on to make four more double-hundreds in his remaining career.
In 1984, Imran Khan got injured and the captaincy reverted to Miandad and he proved to be the right choice yet again. He led Pakistan to a 3-0 win over Sri Lanka in the Test series and also hit a double-hundred.
During this time he had played in all of the three World Cups held in England and helped Pakistan win many games but not achieve the ultimate goal.
In 1986 he suddenly turned the table around for Pakistan, when in the Australasia Cup in Sharjah he showed the perfect way and combination to win a game at this level. In an emotion-packed final against India chasing a target of 246 runs the cricketing brain made it possible by hitting an unbeaten 116 with a six on the last ball. A shot that echoed round the world and almost finished off the unlucky bowler's (Chetan Sharma) career. He was a real super-hero by that time, people started to copy him all over the world, he was given names like, the 'Man of Crises' and the 'Master batsman'.
The next year, 1987 at the extravaganza of the World Cup in India and Pakistan, he was again Imran's deputy and helped steer Pakistan to the semi-final. Lady luck favoured Australia when Pakistan was set a target of more than 250 and Pakistan's wicket-keeper got injured, Miandad told Imran not to worry for he will keep, and he did it magnificently against bowlers like Imran, Abdul Qadir and Wasim Akram. He kept wicket for 45 overs then batted and made 70 runs, but in vain as Pakistan lost, another chance missed, the nation shocked.
Next season he proved he was the only man in the world who just could not be dominated, as he hit two hundreds in West Indies, a double hundred in a Test against England and a hundred in a one-dayer in England too.
In 1989 he was again awarded captaincy and yet again helped wash the Kiwis out 3-0 in a three-Test rubber. During the series he hit yet another double-hundred in Auckland.
In 1990 Imran became skipper again and Miandad had a bad back. He was not very prolific during the 1990-91 season but remained a dangerous batsman. Because of the injury and unpleasant Pakistani cricket politics he was pressed to miss a match or two in the different series, but he remained confident and the nation waited for his return to magical form.
Then came the famous year for Pakistan cricket - 1992. When the World Cup team was first announced on national television his name was not included, the whole nation was dejected. But soon, Imran realised that Pakistan could not win without Miandad, so he was called 'down-under' and immediately proved his fitness in the first outing in a warm-up match against Sri Lanka by hitting an unbeaten 80. Then he almost scored the most runs in that World Cup, second to Martin Crowe who may have had the advantage of smaller grounds and home crowds. Miandad scored 437 runs with 5 fifties in 9 outings.
After winning the World Cup, Imran retired and left the 'Mum&Dad' in-charge. He took Pakistan to England and helped defeat them 2-1 in the Tests and then the Kiwis 1-0.
When he came back to his country he was thrown out from captaincy and his fans were dismayed in the manner adopted by the Board and lamented the return of politics that would affect Pakistan's cricket future in the years to come.
In 1993 he agreed to play under his pupil Wasim Akram, as he hit another hundred against the South Africans with brilliant strokes against Allan Donald towards the areas patrolled by the brilliant Jonty Rhodes. When, after that match Jonty was asked about his failure in stopping those masterly shots he commented, "I've got the legs, He's got the brain".
In 1994, for the first time in his illustrious and brilliant career, his own pupil, Wasim Akram, dropped him from the team. That decision subsequently cost Akram his captaincy and fame in Pakistan. The master batsman announced his retirement on 6th April 1994, tears filling his eyes, during a press conference. Cricket lovers in Pakistan raised a hue and cry, chanting 'No Miandad, No Cricket'. The Prime Minister and President of Pakistan had to step in and request the batting wizard to reconsider his decision. In the best interest of the nation and Pakistani cricket he made himself available for selection again.
In 1996, he was selected for the World Cup squad on merit, by scoring lots of runs in trial matches. Wasim Akram asked him to bat at sixth position, most critics said "what a waste", a spot where he was of little use as he was no longer a young and energetic man and only had the charisma and experience to help anchor the team batting higher in the order.
In Bangalore, after Wasim suddenly declared himself unfit, Miandad replayed the scene for those who were children or not born till 1975 when he had made his World Cup debut. Just like the debut match when he denied every bowler from taking his wicket he did the same in Bangalore but batting again in the 6th spot, wickets fell around him and he was eventually run-out near the end.
Pakistan had lost their match in 1975 and the same happened in 1996. Was there any difference? Indeed, a huge one; in the 1975 match Miandad was coming to cricket whereas in 1996 'Mum&Dad' was leaving it!
Players will come and players will go, but will there be any other 'street-fighter', will there be any other such conqueror, will there be any other wonder-boy and will there be any other 'Mum&Dad' in Pakistan cricket? Unfortunately, the answer is 'NO'.