via: The Telegraph



How Imran Khan and Javed Miandad turned Pakistan into world-beaters

In the last extract from his new book on Pakistan cricket, Peter Oborne explains how a Test victory over Australia on the 1976-77 tour was the start of something special


In the 1960s, Pakistan’s cricket was characterised by defiance, dullness, deference and defensiveness. But the sport woke up in the 1970s, with a surge of great players and ebullient personalities. Pakistan embraced the world, bringing fresh forms of expression, a love of experiment, an amazing exuberance and a novel national assertiveness.

For Pakistan, the moment of change can be dated precisely. The witching hour, when history suddenly began all over again, was 1976 – that was when the national side, hardened to defeat for so long, suddenly became capable of beating any other team in the world.

The team that Mushtaq Mohammad led to Australia in 1976-77 contained most of the outstanding players who had emerged in the late 1960s – Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Wasim Bari, Zaheer Abbas, Sarfraz Nawaz. But they were now being joined by a new generation, of whom Javed Miandad and Imran Khan were soon to turn into giants.

The first Test at Adelaide was drawn; Australia won the second Test at Melbourne by 348 runs. In the third and final match of the series, at Sydney, Pakistan awoke, as Imran unleashed a legendary spell of fast bowling. He had remodelled his action, formerly open-chested, into something classical and fearsome. He shot out six Australians, supported by three wickets from Sarfraz Nawaz, and Australia fell to 211 all out.

Pakistan in turn were in trouble at 111 for four. With the match in the balance, Asif Iqbal came to play what Omar Noman, historian of Pakistan cricket, has called “the most important match-winning innings of his career, and certainly one of the major innings in the evolution of Pakistan cricket.” Supported first by the debutant Haroon Rashid, who made 57, and then by Javed Miandad (64), Asif scored 120.


So Pakistan had a lead of 149 – and Imran took a further six wickets to win the match. No Pakistan seam bowler had taken 10 wickets in a Test since Fazal Mahmood in the 1950s. It was Pakistan’s first victory in Australia. To quote Noman again: “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.”


Imran Khan was portrayed by some English writers as a gorgeous manifestation of the Indian princely tradition. This was essentially an attempt to domesticate him for an English audience. In truth, Imran had no princely connections and was not aristocratic. His family had never, like the cricket-loving Indian princes, become apologists for British rule.

Imran’s father, Ikramullah Khan Niazi, an architect who had been educated at Imperial College London, was involved in the independence movement before Partition. Imran describes him as “fiercely anti-colonial”, remembering how he used to tell off waiters at the Lahore Gymkhana Club who tried to speak to him in English. However, much the greatest influence on the young Imran was his mother, Shaukat. She was born into the extraordinary Burki clan, who played a powerful and formative role in the history of cricket in Pakistan, and whose exploits flow through the nation’s cricket like a great river.

Imran Khan was a manifestation of this Burki cricketing culture. A 12-year-old Imran was taken by Ahmed Raza Khan, his uncle and by now a national selector, to watch Pakistan play New Zealand at Rawalpindi in March 1965. His two cousins, Majid Khan and Javed Burki, were both playing. As uncle and nephew watched Pakistan gain an innings victory (without any notable contribution on this occasion from the Burki cousins), Ahmed Raza Khan told his friends that one day Imran Khan too would play for Pakistan. “I never forgot that moment,” Imran later recorded. “For me, his words were gospel.”

After making his first-class debut for Lahore at 16, at the age of 18 Imran was chosen to represent a Pakistan XI against Micky Stewart’s touring International XI, and did well enough to be selected for the 1971 Pakistan tour of England. Before the England tour, he was approached by Wing Commander William Shakespeare, chairman of Worcestershire. Shakespeare arranged that Imran should attend Worcester Royal Grammar School as a boarder, where he would take his A-levels and try for Oxford or Cambridge. A year later, Imran was on his way to Keble College, Oxford.

His studies at Oxford kept Imran away from the Pakistan domestic game. His cricket was therefore confined to the summer months, when he played for Oxford University (where he opened the bowling, batted at four, and eventually captained) and for Worcestershire in the County Championship after university term ended. This Oxford experience may have slowed Imran’s development as a cricketer, but he developed a broader perspective and gained experience of leadership.

When he finally emerged as a top-ranking Test player, Imran was in his mid-twenties. But he was unusually well equipped as a human being for sport at the highest level. Proud, highly intelligent, disciplined, hard-working and charismatic, this remarkable cricketer was about to shape one of the greatest cricket teams the world had known.

Imran took charge of the Test team in 1982, at a vital moment in the evolution of Pakistan cricket. The sport had spread to new areas, where it discovered it could attract all classes and unify the entire country. Pakistan cricketers were no longer patronised by the dominant white cricketing nations. Instead, they came to be feared and resented. Imran came personally to represent the cricketing consciousness of the new era.

Imran was not an especially gifted cricketer. Javed Zaman, his cricketing mentor, told me that, as a young man, “Imran was a very sweet boy, not arrogant. He was a very, very average player. My opinion was that he wouldn’t make it as a cricketer”.

His success is first and foremost a triumph of will and intelligence. Javed Zaman tells how when he first played top-class cricket he had an ugly, slinging action: “Through hard work and dedication, he changed this.” Imran devoted himself to a strict, punishing regime of physical training. “He would run and perform his demanding aerobics daily, with no exceptions,” recalls Javed Miandad, who played with Imran for Sussex as well as Pakistan. “Every day he would bowl six-to-eight overs without fail. He wouldn’t be bowling to any batsman but would just be on his own, bowling at a single stump.”

The slinginess noted by Javed Zaman was still in evidence when Imran made his first, disastrous Test appearance in 1971. When his cousin Javed Burki asked the seasoned professional Khalid Ibadulla to assess Imran, Ibadulla said he had a “young man’s action” and would not last long. Colin Cowdrey told Imran to focus on batting, while Worcestershire tried to model him into an English county third seamer.

Imran refused to comply. He was essentially self-made as a bowler. He turned himself into one of the greatest fast bowlers the world has known through hard work, determination and high intelligence, allied to magnificent physique. So he followed the opposite trajectory to another great all-rounder to whom he was often, at the time, compared.

Ian Botham burst on to the Test match scene as an astonishing talent, but got steadily worse, both as a batsman and a bowler. Imran was the opposite – always learning, always seeking to improve himself and always seeking out responsibility. He relished the fight against the greatest teams. Here was another contrast with Botham, who consistently failed against the West Indies. The national captaincy is a burden which has overcome many players, with Botham again the textbook example. Imran became a far better player as captain. Before his appointment as captain in 1982, Imran played in 40 Tests, scoring 1,330 runs at an average of 27.14. Thereafter he played 48 Tests, scoring 2,477 runs at 50.55. Before the captaincy, he took 158 Test wickets at 26.56. As captain, he added 204 at 19.90 apiece.

Imran was the only captain in Pakistan’s history, apart from Kardar, Pakistan’s first Test captain, who led his country to a string of victories in the 1950s, and Mushtaq Mohammad, with the strength of character to stand up to the cricketing bureaucracy. Again like Kardar, he was autocratic. Like Kardar (who greatly admired Imran) he made his own selection decisions. Both came from Lahore. They were both individuals of unassailable personal integrity. Both were educated at Oxford, an experience that gave them an intricate understanding of western culture which enabled them to know their enemy.

Unconstrained by selection panels, Imran’s captaincy was marked by a series of brilliantly intuitive decisions. The most notable of these concerns the brilliant wrist spinner Abdul Qadir, whose career was languishing before Imran was made captain. Imran gave Qadir the unqualified support and loyalty that all leg-spinners must have if they are to perform at their very best. For several years, the most enthralling sight in cricket was Imran, one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time, operating alongside Qadir, the reinventor of wrist-spin bowling as an art form, and as an attack weapon. Again and again this pair would dismantle world-class batting orders.

In his recent history of spin-bowling, Amol Rajan noted that “cricket has yet fully to service its debt to Abdul Qadir”. Imran played an important role in the Qadir story. Towards the end of his time as captain, Imran showed similar faith in Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed, a faith that was rewarded in the 1992 World Cup.

Imran’s hunches did not always pay off. The batsman Mansoor Akhtar was kept in the Test side after a long run of disappointing performances, while others felt frozen out. Nevertheless, Imran was a great leader who brought out qualities in his players that they hardly knew they possessed.

Any serious consideration of Imran, however, demands an accompanying assessment of Javed Miandad, whose role has rarely been properly understood. Javed was a batting genius who announced himself at the age of 19 with a match-winning 163 in his first Test. Javed has been misrepresented, in particular by the white, western press, as morally inferior, a lower-class cheat, unreliable and untrustworthy. For these reasons, it has been assumed that Javed was never a great captain. All these assumptions need to be corrected.

Like so many other Karachi-born players, Javed’s family came to Pakistan at Partition. His father, Miandad Noor Mohammad, had been an intelligence officer in the police department in Baroda before 1947. Upon moving to Karachi, his father worked as a grader at the Karachi Cotton Exchange. In his spare time, he was a keen cricketer and sportsman, secretary of the Muslim Gymkhana, and an office-holder in the Karachi Cricket Association.

In cricketing terms, Javed was born into the purple almost as much as Imran. Javed attended the Christian Mission School, whose alumni included Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and (more relevantly) Intikhab Alam. Javed’s schooldays were dominated by hours of street cricket, still a permanent feature of Karachi, where passing cars weave in and out of cricket matches without apparently disrupting the games.

He was spotted early, Mushtaq Mohammad telling Javed’s father that one day his son would play for Pakistan. Mushtaq also gifted the young Javed a cricket bat. Javed made his first-class debut during the 1973-74 cricket season, aged 16, and scored 50, playing for Karachi Whites against Pakistan Customs at the Karachi Gymkhana ground. The following year, batting for a Sindh youth team, Javed was watched by Kardar, then president of the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan. Kardar summoned the young man and congratulated him. The following day, Kardar was quoted in the newspapers saying that Javed was “the find of the decade”.

So Javed was hardly the dangerous, half-educated street urchin relentlessly portrayed in the western press. He was well educated, with a grounded set of values. It is certainly the case that he was a classic product of Karachi – urban, bustling, with a chip on his shoulder and an eye for the main chance. “I have always had a militant approach to cricket,” he said. “To me it is not so much a game as it is war.” But this did not mean that Javed was a cheat, as detractors claimed.

As a captain, Javed would take up the reins whenever Imran was unavailable, then willingly step down when Imran came back after periods of injury, disagreement with the authorities or on one occasion premature retirement. This can be put in another way. Imran was almost always able to call on Javed, who played in 46 out of the 48 Tests when Imran was captain. By contrast, Imran played in only 13 of the 34 Tests when Javed was in charge. In other words, Imran could rely on the loyal presence of Pakistan’s star batsman, while Javed was normally without Pakistan’s star all-rounder.

Both men led their side to victory in an identical number of Tests: 14. Strikingly, Javed’s percentage of victories was higher than Imran’s. Javed Miandad deserves to be taken very seriously as one of the finest captains of Pakistan. He played almost as significant a role as Imran in forging the great teams of the 1980s and early 1990s. Pakistan’s success would not have been possible without Javed Miandad’s acumen, forbearance, grace, grit – and superlative batting prowess.

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