The players who would have made it automatically into any T20 side, had they been active during the second decade of this millennium
Last week we discussed those Pakistani cricketers who couldn’t play much international cricket because of similarly-styled players or due to lack of consistent chances; this week we are going to discuss another breed of players: Those who did manage to play international cricket and had a decent career, but were still ‘Born in the Wrong Era’. Because they would have made it automatically into any T20 side, had they been active during the second decade of this millennium. Read on:
Before the famous Sharjah victory in the final of the Austral Asia Cup in 1986, nobody had hit the last ball of a mega event for a six to seal a memorable victory before him; when he was playing, he was among the fastest runners between the wickets; he was one of the best fielders during his playing days and his throw that nearly ran out Andrew Jones in an ODI match against New Zealand is ‘the stuff that dreams are made of’. In the future, if some historian told cricket enthusiasts that it was after watching Javed Miandad in action that T20 cricket came into existence, many would believe it to be true. He would have been Mr. Cricket had T20 debuted in his era, or he debuted in its time. Scoring ‘Single, Double’ he might have achieved what many others have so far in the game, combined!
During the ‘70s and the ‘80s, he was rated as one of the best all-rounders, along with Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, and Richard Hadlee. But unlike these three, Imran Khan played many matches simply as a batsman (when he was too injured to bowl), as a bowler (in his early days) and his final tournament as a leader. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that Imran Khan would have taken to T20 like a duck takes to the water as he could bat, bowl, field (not like Jonty Rhodes but yes, he was decent in the field) and lead the side with his unusual tactics. He was the one who promoted Younus Ahmed to open the batting against India in Calcutta long before pinch hitters were introduced; he selected Ijaz Ahmed solely on the basis of his fielding and had the acumen to adapt when his best players got injured.
And before there was Imran Khan, there was Mushtaq Mohammad, the man who instilled self-belief and a will to win in Pakistan cricket. Not only was he a much superior leg break bowler to his Captain Intikhab Alam, he was a world-class batsman and a dependable fielder who took blinders in the field. Before he was elevated to captaincy, Pakistan team was a normal side that would go for a draw instead of a victory but after Mushtaq took over, they defeated teams like Australia (in Australia, twice), India when Indo-Pak cricket resumed in 1978 besides giving future generations a blueprint of how to be a fighting squad. Pakistan’s success in the World Cup 1999 (except the final, of course) was due to Mushtaq Mohammad’s coaching.
He came up with the doosra when the art of off-spin was dying; he bamboozled batsmen with his variety in the final overs, when it was not considered safe to hand the ball to an off-spinner; he changed the way the final overs were perceived and won many matches for Pakistan with his magical bowling. Saqlain Mushtaq left the game too early and would have made cricket more interesting had he stayed back. He did return for a charity match a few years back and was unplayable, unstoppable and above all, unreadable; had he been playing T20 cricket today, cricket would have been the eventual winner!
We all have seen Wasim Akram deliver the goods, be it as a batsman, bowler, fielder, or captain. He could hit the ball out of the ground consistently, all the best batsmen in the world feared him and he knew how to motivate his team even when the chips were down. Isn’t these the very qualities needed in a T20 batsman, bowler and captain - be fearless with the bat, make opponents think while batting and know the strengths and weaknesses of your teammates like the back of your hand! Just imagine, had Wasim Akram started cricket ten years after he actually did, he might have been playing today, winning trophies and tournaments for Pakistan, by being himself.
Not only was this left-handed batsman and leg-break bowler one of the best all-rounders to play international cricket, but he was also a shrewd individual who would have been an ideal T20 captain. Being aggressive was his super power and that’s why he felt no pain when he dispatched the mighty West Indies pacers for sixes or dismissed the best batsmen in the world with his clever bowling. Had Wasim Raja made his debut in the ‘90s instead of the ‘70s, there might not have been a Shahid Afridi on Pakistan cricket’s timeline. He was superior to Boom Boom in every way, but he was born in the wrong era!
Next week: Born in the wrong era III
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