Miandad

Javed Miandad exuded none of the gentlemanly spirit so much part of the game on the cricket field or gave the game it’s due respect in terms of grace or sportsmanship .He stood amongst cricket’s most controversial and outspoken characters. However few batsmen or cricketers took combative spirit or defiance to such a magnitude, to ressurect a team from the grave. In many ways he gave fan vibrations of the courage of a boxer blended with the skill of a surgeon. Few batsman or cricketers could deliver the crack of the whip as effectively as Javed,who was cricket’s ultimate streetfighter.Inspite of his cockiness he still gave the game it’s element of life and was great entertainer in his own right.Javed was with Imran Khan the nucleus around what  galvanised Pakistani cricket into binding itself into a side of world beater, More than any other Pakistani batsman previously he shaped Pakistani cricket to reach the top of the pedestal. In his day few cricketers instilled so much spice on a cricket field.

Javed’s mental resilience or fortitude resembled a military commander on a cricket field. No batsman niggled or tormented opponents more or was more of a scourge in the eyes of opponents. In the mind in his time, he won game over bowlers more than anyone, bar Viv Richards. His batting was hardly so refined or graceful like Zaheer Abbas or Vishwanath or as technically correct as Gavaskar or Tendulkar but in a crisis Javed could ressurect a team from the grave more than any of those heroes.

.Few could surpass Javed’s ability to manipulate a cricket ball or improvisation with the subtlety batting craft reminiscent of a wizard. When batting he reminded me of a squash player or a hockey player dribbling ball. I don’t have an expression to do justice to the scale or intensity of Miandad battling a great pace or spin bowler .I simply adored his pull shot and his not evading or ducking but playing rising balls so close to his bat. Javed also beautifully danced down the wicket to tackle a turning  ball of the spinners. Arguably Javed did not do complete justice to the talent he was endowed with. His batting could be extravagant and he was prone to often being trapped leg before, with his technique somewhat suspect against pace, Still on bad wicket he was a more daunting proposition than even a Viv Richards or Greg Chappell, reminding a fan of a drilling operation in a desert. If I chose character to ressurect a team from the grave in his era, then Miandad would be my first choice. At his best Javed could manipulate impregnable gap s like a magician, being master at chipping the ball. What he lacked in terms of elegance or having unorthodox technique, he more than compensated with supreme craftsmanship. In his day in a crisis, no batsman did more as the doctor ordered. In my view Javed’s batting possessed a subtle element of genius.

Statistically, Miandad was the best Pakistani batsman ever, scoring 8832 run sat an average of 52.57, and 23 centuries, including 4 double centuries. In ODI’ s he averaged a remarkable 41.70,scoring 8 centuries and 7381 runs. It is notable that Javed performed better at home, where he scored the bulk of his runs and centuries. Javed averaged 61.38 with 14 centuries at home and 45.80 with 9 centuries away.. It is unfortunate that he was not so prolific in Australia ,or so consistent in West Indies. Still he did give flashes of his ingenuity when scoring 135 at Perth in 1978-79 ,133 at Adelaide in 1983-84 and a fighting 79 at Perth in 1981-82.In West Indies in 1988 he topped the averages at 57. and scored 2 centuries, which were almost both match-winning affairs. In England even if not an epitome of consistency he was the architect of Pakistan winning their 1st ever series in England when scoring 260 at the Oval in 1987 and when averaging above 50 in 1992.Away from home Javed relished New Zealand more than nay country, averaging over 75 and scoring 5 centuries. I have not seen any great batsman play better in New Zealand as Miandad,who the great Richard Hadlee described as a great batsman. Few batsmen made better adjustments to the moving ball or pitches with uneven bounce.

In India strangely he never scored a century but was consistency personified. He twice came within inches of achieving the landmark at Madras in 1987 and Bangalore in 1983.Inpsite of unorthodox technique he beautifully used his feet against the spinners on turning tracks.When Pakistan lost in 1979-80 in India Miandad was resolute in defiance averaging above 39.He held the fort in 1983 in the absence of Imran Khan.In 1987 his innings at Bangalore played an important role in shaping Pakistan’s first series win on Indian soil.

It was on Pakistani soil where Miandad’s batting achievements reached a magnitude in regions the very best did. In his debut series he scored a 206 versus New Zealand. Then playing against India in 1978-79 even if overshadowed by Zaheer Abbas who averaged 195, including a double century. It was Miandad who was more instrumental in Pakistan clinching the third test and the series overall. His batting played a most effective role in the run chase at Karachi, smouldering the iron in the furnace to ignite the spark of a famous win. In 1982-83 versus India he scored an epic match winning 280 at Hyderabad and a century at Karachi to average over 118 overall in the series.Even if overshadowed by Zaheer Abbas and Mudassar Nazar it was Javed who was the scalp the opponents prized more than anyone.In 1984 on deteriorating pitch he scored 2 centuries that took Pakistan out of the woods to reach the pinnacle of glory. He scored tons of runs in the 1989 series against Australia. Sadly he was never at his best against the great West Indies team at home, both in 1980 and 1986,inspite of some fine fifties.

In One day internationals Javed was in hi sera 3rd only to Viv Richards and Zaheer Abbas.No batsman was better or more skilled in putting the final icing on the cake to steer a team home as Javed.He simply resembled a surgeon performing an operation in a run chase when manipulating the gaps ,and it was a sheer spectacle witnessing Miandad crystallise a win from the depths of despair.I can never forget his unbeaten 116 when he won Pakistan the Australasia cup in 1986,when he dispatched the a last ball for a six. It was close to the best ODI innings of all time where he singlehandedly won the game for Pakistan ,displaying the nerves of a military commander.Javed simply scripted an essay with a series of dazzling drives, pulls and cuts, piercing the impregnable gaps to take his team home. I have rarely seen an inning so calculating, or executed with such surgical skill, resembling an architect constructing famous monument. Few batsman were ever more of an epitome of consistency as Javed when he scored eight consecutive fifies in 1987 in India,Sharjah and England. His batting all but won Pakistan series against one of the strongest sides as England in 1987 .Perhaps Miandad  not being at his best cost Pakistan the 1987 reliance World cup, but he more than compensated for it when scoring five fifties and averaging over 62 in the 1992 world cup, which Pakistan won. Miandad  was one of the architects in shaping Pakistan’s first ever world cup victory in the 1992 world cup, with his unbeaten 57 in the semi-final against New Zealand in an anchor role a perfect illustration. Without Miandad’s support Inzaman wuld never have been able to flash his brilliance. Even in the final his 57 played major supporting role in Pakistan’s triumph, crystallizing the backbone of his team’s batting line up. I just don’t have an adjective to describe his jubilation in the 1992 world cup semi-final after Moin Khan at the other end delivered the winning hit, with a boundary to the fence.Miandad charged to the pavilion with his bat held high in the air, revealing ecstasy of glory of reaching the summit in regions of the divine, with the oneness of the very moment. In 1993 in South Africa in a triangular tournament his unbeaten 108 was a revelation. Sadly he lost form after 1993.Somehow Javed only was outstanding in the 1992 edition of the world cup with only flashes of brilliance in the other ones.

I do have deep regret that Javed did not retire at his best, in the 1996 world cup and never regained the form of his glorious days from 1993-94.

Even if controversial and over emotional, tactically he was a sound captain, who led many a home series win and an away series win in England. Internal politics jeopardized his prospects as a skipper in many junctures like in 1982,and 1984.He was strongly threatened by Imran Khan and later Zaheer Abbas.Still me must credit Javed for leading series wins at home against Australia in 1980 and 1988 and a test win at Melbourne in 1981-82.He also led Pakistan to a runner up berth in the 1985 world cricket championship in Australia.

I would rank Javed Miandad the best Pakistani batsman of all time, as no batsman ever was more instrumental in shaping Pakistan’s position to the very top in test and ODI cricket. With Javed at his best in 1987-89 Pakistan were arguably the best test and ODI side in the world. Bad umpiring robbing Pakistan of the unofficial world championship title in 1988 in West Indies, with series drawn at 1-1. More than any other Pakistani batsman previously he shaped Pakistani cricket to reach the top of the pedestal.Inzamam Ul Haq won more matches and had a better average in wins and Younis Khan had a higher aggregate but both did not equal Javed’s temperament or craft in a crisis.Ofcourse Miandad was not as technically correct as Hanif Mohammad , as elegant as Zaheer Abbas, or as skilful as Inzamam against sheer pace, but on bad wicket or a crisis he was the best of all Pakistani batsmen.

When the ship was sinking Javed could perform a rescue act better than even Viv Richards or the Chappell brothers, being the ultimate man to bat for your life. Combining test matches and ODI’s I would rank Miandad amongst the dozen best batsmen of all time, edging greats like Steve Waugh, Alan Border, Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell. It is commendable that in his entire career his test average never fell below 50.However much I am a fan of Miandad I must state that he did benefit at home from Pakistani umpire being most arbitrary or partial, and not adjudging their own players leg before, even when plumb. More than once did Javed get a reprieve of an lbw verdict.

In ODI cricket to me Javed ranks amongst the top 10 ever while in test cricket in the top 20.In his 50 greatest cricketers of all David Gower has ranked Javed at 33rd place, above Greg Chappell and Steve Waugh ,while Cristopher Martin Jenkins places him at 55th place amongst the 100 best cricketers of all time. In my view from 1987-89 Miandad was the best batsman in the world, overshadowing even the great Viv Richards

Overall what went against Miandad being ranked with the very greatest was his not being at his best in West Indies and Australia or against West Indies overall. Still it is ironic that many cricketers have selected Javed in their all time test XI like Ian Botham, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding. Viv Richards chose Javed as the ultimate one to bat for your life, while Dennis Lillee ranked Javed as the sixth best batsman he ever bowled to. His position may be debatable, but his place a virtual certainty in the club of truly great batsman. His lack of consistency overseas in test matches would prevent him from joining a Viv Richards, Sachin Tendulkar ,Brian Lara ,Sunil Gavaskar or Greg Chappell in test cricket or even a Rahul Dravid or Steve Waugh. In West Indies and Australia combined he averaged around 35 and averaged around 46 in England. His overall test average v West Indies was only 29.87.Javed also did not win as many matches as the very best. Still Javed averaged 59.65 and scored 10 centuries in test matches won ,in comparison to averaging 61.75  And 12 centuries in test matches drawn. Only in one test when he scored a hundred, did Pakistan lose. Noteworthy that in One day Internationals Javed averaged 51.72 in winning causes with Five centuries and 3931 runs. Fans must remember that the game is not all about statistics and ho win the moral sense Javed was more impactful than many who averaged above 50 in test cricket and above 40 in ODI’s.

What may count against Javed was his cocky behaviour on field often inciting brawls or rivalry like a cowboy. The 1981-82 incident with Dennis Lille to an extent was conjured by Miandad.His gestures to fielders or the wicketkeeper like in the 1992 world cup game against India acted against the spirit of the game. He was also outspoken often, making mockery of other cricketers

Javed had very sound judgement of the game rating Dennis Lillee as the best bowler he ever faced and West Indies team under Clive Lloyd as the best test team ever.Inspite of duels he never hid his admiration for Imran Khan or Zaheer Abbas who he selected in his all -time teams. In Miandad has more admiration for Sunil Gavaskar,than Sachin Tendulkar.Javed also ranked Wasim Akram and Michael Holding as amongst his 5 best pace bowlers ever.

After he retired Miandad served as coach. It is sad that inspite of flowering with talent Pakistan cricket only gave occasional flashes of brilliance and could never rekindle the nucleus of yesteryears.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist.Toured India,particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com

Email-thakor.harsh5@gmail.com


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