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Mushtaq Mohammad: Key member of Pakistan’s first family in cricket

Mushtaq Mohammad - a key member of Pakistan’s first family in cricket

Mushtaq Mohammad’s career numbers are impressive: from 57 Tests he had scored 3,643 Test runs at 39.17 and had taken 79 wickets at 29.22 © Getty Images

Of the five Mohammad brothers of Pakistan, Mushtaq Mohammad was born on November 22, 1943. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the career of Mushtaq, once the youngest Test player and centurion in Test cricket.

A billion voices groaned when John Wright managed to catch Sachin Tendulkar off Danny Morrison for 88 at Napier in 1990. The then 16-year-old Indian prodigy had just missed out on being the youngest Test centurion ever. Mushtaq Mohammad’s official record of scoring a Test hundred at 17 years and 82 days had managed to remain intact yet again – until Mohammad Ashraful managed to go past him well over a decade after Tendulkar’s effort. As if that was not enough, Mushtaq held the record of being officially the youngest Test debutant at 15 years and 124 days.

Mushtaq’s career numbers are impressive: from 57 Tests he had scored 3,643 Test runs at 39.17 and had taken 79 wickets at 29.22. He remains the only Pakistani cricketer to have scored a hundred and have taken five wickets on two separate occasions. His First-Class figures read 31,907 runs at 42.07 and 936 wickets at 24.34. However, the man – one of the brightest stroke-players and aggressive leg-spinners even by the high standards set by the Pakistan cricketers – remains one of the characters of the game. He was dogged; he was street-smart; he was a fighter to the bone; and he was innovative enough to be one of the exponents of the reverse-sweep at the highest level (a stroke he claimed he had seen his elder brother – the typically dour Hanif – play first).

Mushtaq was born in Junagadh, Gujarat. After Partition his entire family moved to Karachi where Mushtaq spent his childhood in a former Hindu temple. He also learnt his cricket there. He made his First-Class debut for Karachi Whites against Sind at the age of 13. Coming out at 183 for seven, he scored 87 to lift his side to 396. He then bowled his leg-breaks to take 5 for 28, resulting in a victory by an innings and 268 runs for his side. A string of performances for Karachi saw him break through to the Test side within two more years.

Mushtaq was the third from the family of illustrious Mohammads to play Test cricket. Wazir, the eldest, had played 20 Tests and had scored two hundreds. Raees, the next, stood 12th man for a single Test against India at Dacca (now Dhaka). Hanif, the next, had played 55 Tests, scoring 3,915 runs at 43.98 with 12 hundreds, including his famous 337 against the West Indies in Barbados in 1948. Sadiq, the youngest, followed Mushtaq, scoring 2,579 runs from 41 Tests at 35.81 with five hundreds. Even Hanif’s son, Shoaib, played for Pakistan. He scored 2,705 runs at 44.34 from 45 Tests with seven hundreds. Mushtaq, thus, was part of Pakistan cricket’s – if not world cricket’s – most illustrious family; he was one of the brightest stars even by the high standards set by his family.

Mushtaq had a more or less innocuous debut against West Indies, scoring 14 and 4. The next year, he scored his record-breaking Test hundred – an unbeaten 101 against India at Delhi in what was the last Test of a five-Test series drawn 0-0 (and the 12th consecutive drawn Test between the two countries).

Later that year, Mushtaq scored an unbeaten 229 out of a team score of 416 for six. Batting for the Karachi Whites against East Pakistan, Mushtaq scored a hundred before lunch. And it was the exhilarating strokeplay in this match that earned him a place in the team for England next summer. This selection ultimately went on to change his entire career.

Though he started late, Mushtaq scored a crucial 55 and an unbeaten 100 to save the fourth Test at Trent Bridge – the only Test Pakistan managed to draw in the series. He even scored 43 and 72 at The Oval in a Test that England won by 10 wickets. Overall he ended with 401 runs at 44.55 but without a single wicket. However, on the entire tour, Mushtaq scored 1,614 runs at 41.38 – a tally that was enough to make him Wisden Cricketer of the Year.

Despite all this, The Oval Test turned out to be the last Test Mushtaq would play for five years. Northamptonshire decided to invest in Mushtaq at a very young age. It must be remembered that this was before instant registration began in 1968, so Mushtaq had to stay in England to earn the right to play for the county. Mushtaq declared himself unavailable for national selection to stay in Northamptonshire and to turn up for the Second Side. He played for Northamptonshire from 1966 to 1977. He scored 1,000 runs in each season (barring 1974, where he fell short by only 27 runs), topping the charts with 1,743 runs in 1972. When Pakistan toured England in 1967 and 1971 he played only the Tests (and a few other matches).

Mushtaq also captained Northamptonshire from 1975 to 1977; the county won the Gillette Cup – their first major tournament – in 1976. Thereafter, he resigned on the grounds that the county had not stated his future in clear terms. He joined Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket in 1978.

Meanwhile, Mushtaq resumed playing Tests during Pakistan’s tour of England in 1967. His appearances were infrequent – he played only two home series against England and New Zealand – between the two England tours of 1967 and 1971. However, after the 1971 tour he became a regular Test player, teeing off with a gallant 121 against Australia at Sydney in a losing cause.

Against New Zealand at Dunedin, Mushtaq got involved in a 350-run fourth wicket partnership with Asif Iqbal In the process, Mushtaq registered his career-best innings of 201, and Pakistan declared at 507 for six. He then took two for 15 and five for 49, and helped Intikhab Alam to bowl out New Zealand for 156 and 185, thereby inflicting a massive innings defeat. In the process Mushtaq became only the second cricketer – after Denis Atkinson – to score a double hundred and take a five-for in the same Test.

A month later, playing England at Hyderabad, Mushtaq scored 157 and took five wickets at Hyderabad. Then, at Karachi, he played a part in the “Test of three 99s”, where Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammad and Dennis Amiss all scored 99s – the only such instance in Test history.

He was granted Test captaincy in the home series against New Zealand in 1976-77. After an indifferent first Test he scored 101, 107 and 67 not out to play a significant role in the series win. Then, in April 1977, he pulled off what can go down easily as one of the best performances by a Test captain in the history of the game.

It was against the West Indies in their pomp: coming out at 51 for three, Mushtaq battled Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner to score 121. Pakistan managed 341. Then, bowling his leg-breaks, Mushtaq took five for 28 to bowl out West Indies for 154. Once again, coming out at 58 for three, Mushtaq scored a dour 56 and Pakistan scored 301. Then, to round off things, Mushtaq bowled 31 overs to take three for 69 to bowl out West Indies for 222. It remains the only case in history where a captain has scored a hundred, a fifty and has taken a five-for in a single Test.

In 1978-79 Mushtaq led Pakistan to a 2-0 victory over India after a drought of two drawn series. Mushtaq played his bit with two fifties, but the series was dominated mostly by the stars of the next generation. He then led Pakistan to a series victory on New Zealand soil, and then led his side to a historic win at Melbourne. He top-scored with 36 in the first innings, but the hero of the Test was Sarfraz Nawaz with his spell of seen for one. Though Australia squared the series at Perth, Mushtaq ended his career with eight wins and four defeats from 19 Tests, making him one of the most successful Pakistan captains ever.

It was also the last time Mushtaq played a Test. He later coached Pakistan for a long time and helped them reach the final of the 1999 World Cup. His dogged street-fighter attitude has inspired generations of Pakistan cricketers, and he continues to remain one of their greatest cricketers.

(A hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobiac by his own admission, Abhishek Mukherjee is a statistical analyst based in Kolkata, India. He typically looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – not necessarily as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the game with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a rather steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers the sport has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks and googlies in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in.)

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