By Amir Husain
As Pakistan and India prepare to renew their age-old rivalry on the field of cricket with a limited- over series beginning December 25, they will not only be watched and cheered on by thousands of fans at the stadia, but also by a select group of distinguished individuals who have served Pakistani cricket with honour and distinction.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has decided to send a delegation of 10 legends of Pakistan cricket’s bygone era to represent the country in an official capacity where they will undoubtedly join their counterparts from India in witnessing the resumption of Indo-Pak cricketing ties.
The Executive Coordination Committee (ECC) of the PCB has invited Hanif Mohammad, Imtiaz Ahmad, Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Mushtaq Mohammad, Imran Khan, Javed Burki, Wasim Bari, Intikhab Alam and Sadiq Mohammad. PCB Chairman Zaka Ashraf said, “the purpose of this visit is to bring both the cricketing nations closer and will play an important role in strengthening the future relations between both the countries.”
Whilst Imran Khan has declined this invitation due to his political commitments and Majid Khan has also opted out, the remaining eight members of this elite fraternity are expected to travel to India in time for the 1st T20 International in Bangalore and are undoubtedly looking forward to playing a role in this momentous stage.
Sadiq Mohammad, the youngest of five Mohammad brothers, which include such illustrious names as Hanif and Mushtaq, is understandably overjoyed at being given the honour to represent Pakistan at this occasion. In exclusive remarks toPakPassion.net, Sadiq said: “It’s indeed an honour to be nominated by the PCB for this role and to be recognised as an ambassador for the tour of India which is happening after five years. We are all very proud of being selected in this manner. We are all thankful to Mr. Zaka Ashraf for giving us this opportunity and making us feel really good and it shows that the PCB hasn’t forgotten about us. It’s also a great gesture by the Pakistan Cricket Board to allow us this opportunity to meet with our counterparts from India who are also our friends.”
Sadiq played 41 Test matches and retired with an average of 35.81. His opening partnership with Majid Khan against some of the world’s fastest bowling attacks, at a time when helmets were considered a novelty, was a treat to watch. His record against India was not as glorious as he would prefer – scoring 163 runs in four Test matches at an average of 23.28. Despite the euphoria of his impending trip to India, this is one aspect of his career that he does look back on with some regret.
“I have great memories of playing against India…The 46 I made at Madras (Chennai) does stand out as I had hit 10 fours and was batting really well when I was dismissed by an excellent leg-side catch by Syed Kirmani off Kapil Dev. It was one of my most enterprising innings. I always enjoyed playing against India. It was like a Derby. Playing against India was and is always very special.”
In terms of the most memorable and enjoyable match against India, Sadiq could look no further than the 3rd Test of the 1978-1979 series. Although he was dropped for that game in favour of Muddasar Nazar, he fondly recalls this game as one he will always remember for the drama of a typical India Pakistan encounter.
“The match that really stands out in my mind is the 3rd Test in Karachi where we had to chase down a target of 160 plus on the final day. We made some changes to the batting order during the run chase as there wasn’t much time left. Asif Iqbal, Javed Miandad and Imran Khan came in and won the game for us. This was the most exciting game ever I witnessed.”
The India-Pakistan rivalry always seems to bring out the best in both teams with apparently no quarter asked or given. However, behind this facade of bravado lies a deep sense of mutual respect for the skills that both sides bring to the fore. Sadiq has great admiration for his Indian counterparts and has no hesitation to mention the names of some of the players he considered as most worthy opponents during his playing days.
“Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev were on the top of my list. It was a treat to play against Bishan Bedi and BS Chandrasekhar, but I never felt too threatened by him even though he had taken quite a few wickets. In my mind, Bedi was the best of the Indian spinners.”
Given the tremendous amount of interest being generated in the media and amongst ordinary fans regarding this series, it is a mystery as to why it has taken almost five years to restart this process. Whilst the reasons behind this interruption can be blamed on mutual mistrust and political factors, former combatants such as Sadiq are eager to see this relationship established on a more permanent basis – even suggesting that both teams should consider neutral territory such as England to continue their battles.
“We should put political considerations to one side and play each other. If it means playing in a neutral venue, then England would be a great place for that due to the interest amongst people of Indo Pak origin and I believe it will be very successful series. Other places such as UAE may not get too much interest for Test matches, but obviously ODIs would still get a lot of people to watch.”
For former players like Sadiq Mohammad, the prospect of an India Pakistan series is a great one to savour and if the glorious history of some tantalizing encounters is anything to go by, there is always a special feeling when the two sides meet – regardless of whether one is a spectator or a player
“The India Pakistan rivalry is great – maybe because we don’t play often enough so players and fans are always looking forward to it. Then again, it’s a neighbouring country with whom we have some history due to events of Partition and after that as well. To me the most important part of this rivalry is the quality of cricket and the players that participate in these games. From the old days of Gavaskar, Vishwanath, Bedi, Kapil Dev to the new breed of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Harbhajan – there are always special players and performances in these matches. It’s a local Derby and great for players and spectators alike.”
Pakistan are scheduled to play two T20I games followed by three ODIs, with the first T20I commencing in Bangalore on December 25 and the final game of the series being played on January 6.
(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net)