As the three T20 matches against World XI marked the return of top-flight cricket to the country, I found myself get nostalgic for the bygone days of Pakistan cricket and decided to pay tribute to the best days of the greatest cricketing hero to emerge from Pakistan.
From a nation of legends such as Hanif Mohammad and Younis Khan, to mention a few, the name which, even after two decades of leaving the game remains at the top, is of Javed Miandad.
They say that a batsman can turn the tables, on his day. Javed Miandad did that so many times for his country that people lost count. He hit his famous six on the last ball, changing the history of Pakistan cricket; guided Pakistan to its first World Cup victory, and was never a sweet pill for opponents. His average never fell below 50 in Tests and he introduced ‘pressure cricket’ from the third world. A lot has been written on his achievements, but one thing rarely explored are nine consecutive innings when he was never dismissed before 50 runs, something achieved only in dreams.
In the days when cricket was still covered by ‘one-TV-channel’ and was black and white in colour, Javed Miandad was at his cricketing peak. The best of the best was witnessed in between March and October 1987, the 30th year of his life, 30 years ago.
For eight months that year, he remained unconquered. 697 runs at an average of 140 in 9 matches can only be termed fantastic. He had nine consecutive scores of 50 plus to his credit, including two centuries.
It began in India where Pakistan were busy in an ODI series. Despite winning the six-match series, Pakistan were in crisis in the 5th match at Pune. At 83/4, Javed Miandad joined Imran Khan, putting on 142 runs for the fifth wicket. With five fours and one six, Miandad scored a match-winning 78 runs off 88 deliveries. An identical score followed in the next match, where India ended on the losing side, again.
Pakistan proceeded to Sharjah, where successive fifties against Australia, England and India kept him in-form for the next series: Pakistan’s tour to England. His 113 in the opening match at The Oval went in vain, as there was no support from the other end. In the next match at Trent Bridge, an undefeated 71 kept the series alive. In the third and final ODI at Birmingham, despite six visitors failing to open their account, Javed Miandad played his part. In overcast conditions, he put on 73 with Ramiz Raja and 95 with Salim Malik. He eventually got out for 68, after his team was out of danger. England had a close shave as they won the match by just one wicket, and eventually the series.
After Miandad scored a century in Pakistan’s opening encounter in World Cup 1987 at Hyderabad against Sri Lanka, he became the only batsman in the game’s history to have most successive scores of over 50 to his credit. He had his eyes on the 10th such score when he came out to bat against England. He was at 23 when one of the two neutral umpires ruled him out. The big man was not happy, but with no reviews available back then, he had to go. As Miandad was returning, English captain Mike Gatting taunted him for his ‘missed’ milestone. One could have expected an explosion from someone who lifted his bat to hit Dennis Lillie for kicking him at Perth years earlier, but Miandad patted the cheek of Gatting in not a very ‘friendly’ way. He had his revenge when as stand-in skipper in the same match, he snatched victory away from the jaws of defeat.
30 years have passed since Miandad ruled. Cricket has changed and big names like Kumara Sangakkara, Saeed Anwar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Sanath Jayasuriya came and played their part. They had ‘their days’, but none could emulate Miandad’s feat. The only batsmen from modern era who came close were Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson. Both fall in the category of those who have scores of over 50 in 6 innings in a row.
It can be argued that cricket has become more of an entertainment than a game nowadays. Legends have been made out of good players in the last two decades. As a critic of the modern era, I simply find peace in watching matches from the bygone days. I miss Miandad’s pestering, the way he used to transfer pressure to opponents, the sudden change in field, the precise use of bouncers and above all, his anticipation of what’s to come.
Cricket might come back to Pakistan, but Javed Miandad would always be missed.
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