“Few people have left a mark so emboldened on a whole culture. Imran Khan is often described as the wave of change that swept Pakistan. But with Miandad, the approach was different. He has perhaps had a left a bolder imprint on Pakistan cricket”.
Cricket in Pakistan was defined by a defensive approach and dull mindset in the 1960s. Like their million street cricketers, the game awakened to a massive influx of talent and extraordinary personalities with the start of 1970s. A new Pakistan had embraced cricket. There was a never before found freshness, amazing energy and most notably the inkling to fight till their last breath.
Led by the exuberant Mushtaq Mohammad Pakistan’s squad on the tour of Australia in 1976-77 boasted of some exceptional cricketers in Zaheer Abbas, Wasim Bari, Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal and Sarfraz Nawaz. Little known among them were two lurking giants who would go on to rule Pakistan cricket for several years – Javed Miandad and Imran Khan.
Omar Noman, a noted historian of Pakistan cricket, remembers the series thus: “The emergence of Imran had qualitatively shifted the level and capacity of Pakistan to win Tests. Here was an outstanding strike bowler around whom an attack could be shaped. This was the first time that Miandad and Imran had contributed to a win, but this pattern was to be repeated to telling effect over the next decade and a half.”
While the journey of Imran Khan in its most devastating and full-fledged avatar is well known, the competitive edge and the will to fight forever that still marks Pakistan cricket first came to full bloom with Javed Miandad, often called the most annoying cricketer.
Ian Chappell, in a lengthy discussion about Miandad, describes him as the “aggrannoying” which stems from aggravating and annoying. He describes the daredevil that Miandad was in one simple sentence: “champion if he’s on your side, bastard if he’s an opponent”.
Such was Miandad’s demeanour on the field that the first thing that strikes you about him is how he is constantly in the face of the opponents despite sporting an impish smile always.
Miandad was a true batting genius, one who could weather down teams with his uncanny, queer approach. He announced himself to the World at 19, scoring a match-winning 163 on debut but much has been made of his shenanigans on the field. That, though, doesn’t mask the brilliant tactician and cricketer that he was. The President of Board of Cricket Control Pakistan then, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, was believed to have described Miandad as the find of the decade. It indeed turned out to be so.
To understand the mindset of Miandad it is important to delve into his comments on his inaugural World Cup in 1975. Asked if he was overwhelmed at the prospect of playing the World Cup with a star-studded team, he is said to have been surprised and nonchalantly replied, ‘Why would I be overawed?’
Such was Miandad’s attitude. He had a calm ahead and was forever plotting the downfall of the opposition.
“People talk about using computers to improve play. I used to analyze, I didn’t leave any shot, I used to improvise. If any cricketer wants to become better, your computer should be your brain,” he says of his game awareness.
Miandad had such an eye for detail that he was Imran Khan’s right hand and sage. In a Test in Bangalore, he is said to have convinced Imran Khan to drop the great Abdul Qadir for left-arm spinner Iqbal Qasim. Imran eventually conceded after Miandad failed to stop talking, Qasim played, took nine wickets and won the game for Pakistan.
As a captain, Miandad is most noted for leading his side against England in 1992, with all of England against him and his men. The press tortured Miandad and his team, calling them cheats. Umpires and most of the opposing sides hated them. And without Imran Khan, Miandad managed to pull off one of Pakistan’s most remarkable Test victories.
As a batsman, he was relentless, looking to score always and constantly putting pressure on the fielders. Getting runs, irrespective of the manner in which they were made, was Miandad’s sole aim. Independent of the track, the opposition, the scorecard, the target, he made runs and plenty of them. In every shot he played, in every movement he exacted at the wicket, the intent to make runs was stamped with authority.
He went through a not-so-common poor run of form for two years from 1985 and 1987. In this time, he went as many as sixteen Tests without a hundred and critics were starting to zero in on his record away from home. Nonchalant and unperturbed as always, he arrived at the Oval and made 260 against a strong English attack. It was his maiden hundred in England and it made for an appropriate response to all those questioning him.
Against India, Miandad was at his competitive best. From mocking Kiran More to swatting a brilliant last ball six off Chetan Sharma to win the game, Miandad was a thorn in India’s flesh. The with was Pakistan’s first major trophy and he turned into a national hero post that.
Few people have left a mark so emboldened on a whole culture. Imran Khan is often described as the wave of change that swept Pakistan. But with Miandad, the approach was different. He has perhaps had a left a bolder imprint on Pakistan cricket. With him, Pakistan learnt not to fear defeat. They learnt the nuances and advantages of playing an attacking game irrespective of the situation. His methods were designed to win matches, taking a huge step into the opposition’s den when waiting and attacking was a general opinion. With him, Pakistan cricket changed. Forever.