Aamer-Sohail

Mohammad Aamer Sohail Ali, born September 14, 1966, is a former Pakistani opener and a handy, wily fox with the ball. He played 156 One Day Internationals (ODIs) and scored 4780 runs at an average of 31.86. He also took 85 wickets during his career. Sohail featured in 47 Tests and scored 2823 runs. He was not a gifted stroke-maker, but he transformed his game to become an effective player for his country. Ankit Banerjee lists out his career highlights. 

1.  Domestic King: Sohail could not maximise opportunities at the highest level but at the domestic level, he scored truckloads of runs. In the 195 First-Class matches that he played, he amassed 12,213 runs.

2.  Debut: His Test debut against England was an ordinary one. However, he did well on his ODI debut against Sri Lanka. In a low-scoring encounter, he scored crucial 32 runs, which was also the second highest individual score in Pakistan’s total of 181. Pakistan eventually won the game by 50 runs.

3.  One-half of Pakistan’s best opening pair: Sohail was one-half of the best opening pair Pakistan has ever had. He formed arguably Pakistan’s best opening pair along with Saeed Anwar in the 1990s. In ODIs, both added 2856 runs in 73 innings at a healthy average of 39.12.

4.  Captain: Sohail captained Pakistan in six Tests in 1998, becoming the first captain to defeat South Africa in a Test. He also led the side for the famous quarterfinal clash against India in the 1996 World Cup.

5.  “Botham’s mother-in-law”: He famously told Ian Botham that he must send his mother-in-law in to bat after Botham was controversially given out for a duck in the final. This was in response to Botham’s jibe that he would send his mother-in-law to Pakistan, suggesting his dislike for the country.

6.  Needless aggressor: An ugly spat, involving Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad from India during the quarterfinal of 1996 World Cup, has now become iconic and is etched in the hearts of fans from both countries. Sohail and Prasad had a heated exchange of words, which was immediately followed by Sohail’s dismissal. Prasad gave a famous send-off in reply to Sohail’s rude and un-called for gestures with the bat. Pakistan went on to lose the game from a comfortable position and Sohail’s needless aggression was blamed for the loss.

7.  Controversy’s favourite child: Sohail has always been a controversial figure in Pakistan cricket ranks. As if his on-field spats with Botham and Prasad weren’t enough, he once famously blamed Pakistan legend and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan for Pakistan cricket’s poor state of affairs. “Imran damaged Pakistan cricket by encouraging our bowlers to tamper with the ball. This has led to a culture where we can’t produce good new ball bowlers or quality openers,” Sohail had said.

8.  The whistleblower: Sohail was the captain when the match-fixing saga snowballed. He turned whistleblower, a move for which he paid the price as he was sacked from the team.

9.  World Cup winner: He was an integral part of the World Cup winning team in 1992.

10.  Chief Selector: He served Pakistan cricket as the ‘Chief Selector’ twice; first from 2000 to 2004 and later in 2014 for a brief period, when he was unceremoniously sacked and replaced by former stumper Moin Khan.

11.  Broadcaster: Once his career came to an early climax, he opted for a career in broadcasting and is still continuing the same.

12.  Politics: He joined Nawaz Sharif’s political party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) in August 2011, apparently to serve the nation.

13. Sarfraz Ahmed Controversy:  Sohail criticised captain Sarfraz Ahmed during Pakistan’s Champions Trophy 2017 campaign. Sarfraz refused to dedicate team’s win against Sri Lanka to Javed Miandad as he felt the legend criticised the team too much. Sohail came in defence of the former players and said, “If you do something wrong, we will point it out to you; if you do something right, we will tell you that too; and if you do something wrong in an attempt to do something right, we will point that out to you as well.”

He added, “prayers and God; as I cannot name the facilitators of those prayers. You [Sarfaraz] have done nothing special, this match was won for you, we all know how things work.”

The clip went viral on social media and it was thought Sohail implied foul play in Pakistan’s win giving rise to match-fixing controversy. He was slammed by former and current cricketers around the world and even former Indian cricketers Sourav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh came down heavily on him.

Sohail later clarified his stance, ” The other thing I said was that the facilitators of the win cannot be named; however I said nothing about match-fixing or any other foul play — my statement was misunderstood.”

(A cricket geek to the tee, Ankit Banerjee smokes and snorts it all day long. The romance with the sport incepted since the 1996 World Cup semi-final. He is a winner of the 2011 edition of the All-India college cricket quiz.)