Rashid Latif: Defying gravity on the field; fighting controversy off it
Rashid Latif © Getty Images
Rashid Latif, arguably Pakistan’s best gloveman across eras, was born on October 14, 1968. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the career that got truncated due to stiff competition and, somewhat unusually, honesty.
If one creates an all-time XI for Pakistan nine or 10 names can be shortlisted without a single thought. One might, however, get stuck at the wicketkeeper. Who does one pick? The agile Wasim Bari, who could stump batsmen without any fuss or make wicketkeeping seem the easiest task on the planet? Or the acrobatic Rashid Latif, who would often fly in front of the slips or the vacant leg-slip position to take up the most miraculous of catches?
There was, of course, the aggressive Moin Khan, but the reason that he often usurped Latif’s place behind the stumps was the fact that he was a no-nonsense, combative batsman who could tear any bowling apart on his day. In fact, he was so good in front of the stumps (and Latif was so better behind it) that Moin had actually played as a specialist batsman in 11 international matches.
Latif was no mean batsman himself. 1,381 runs from 37 Tests at 28.77 and 1,709 runs from 166 ODIs at 19.42 and a strike-rate of 76.39 are not ordinary. He could be explosive on his day and had the ability to go after any bowling when he wanted to. Despite that he came a distant second to Moin, and got lost somewhere in oblivion when a phalanx of Akmals followed one another into the international side.
It was his ability behind the stumps, however, that made Latif stand out among his peers. At times he could be unbelievable with the gloves, stretching himself beyond normal human beings to come up with outstanding catches. Ian Healy was perhaps the only contemporary wicketkeeper superior to him.
When Latif was on song, however, every wicketkeeper was seemed pale in comparison; his anticipation, reach, and fitness put him ahead of the others, and when it came to pouching outstanding catches after adjusting to the extreme swing of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis he came second to none.
Who needs a first slip anyway?
Latif’s tally read 119 catches and 11 stumpings in Tests and 182 catches and 38 stumpings in ODIs. It puts him fourth in terms of victims in Tests (after Bari, Kamran Akmal, and Moin) and second in ODIs (after Moin) among Pakistanis. In terms of dismissals per innings, however, Latif’s 1.88 in Tests comes next to only Kamran (2.08) and he leads the way with 1.34 in ODIs if we put a 25-dismissal cut-off.
For a champion like him it has always been about the basics. “Glovework”, he says, when asked about the primary skill: “the fingers should always point downwards; that reduces the probability of your injury, and doubles the area you will be able to cover.”
In his earlier days his fingers used to remain horizontal, which had made it difficult for him to cope with the outrageous swing by the two champions; the swerving ball often ended up hitting one of the fingers. The self-training and the changed finger position had increased his ability to counter swing to a great extent.
“The wicketkeeper should stand two feet behind the stumps while standing up to a spinner,” he says. “He should also be crouched in a position from where he can watch the hand of the bowler with his head still. You also need to place yourself according to the direction in and extent to which the spinner is likely to turn the ball.”
At the end of the day, however, Latif acknowledges that it is about fitness and hard work, of which there is no substitute; there have been few greater role-models in terms of work ethic when it came to wicket-keeping.
Born in Karachi, Latif had started playing for Malir Companion Club. In his initial days he did not have a pair of gloves of his own, and had to use the pair provided by the club. It was only after he started playing for United Bank Limited [UBL] that he received a pair from Saleem Yousuf.
He made his way through the ladders up the hierarchy and got selected for Karachi Whites. Playing against Pakistan National Shipping Corporation at Sahiwal, he scored seven not out and 21 and finished with a catch and a stumping.
Keeping wickets was not easy on the uneven club grounds, but Latif stuck to his task with diligence. He found employment with UBL, and impressed during his first season, scoring 323 runs, and effecting 44 catches and three stumpings from 11 matches. He was beaten to the World Cup by Moin, but his superior wicketkeeping earned him a spot on the England tour of 1992.
The five-pound Test debut
The tour did not begin on an excellent note, but his wicketkeeping scaled new heights, especially against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. There was no Waqar in the match, but Pakistan had gone in with a five-pronged pace attack in the form of Wasim, Aaqib Javed, Ata-ur-Rehman, Naved Anjum, and Tanvir Mehdi.
Rashid’s exceptional wicketkeeping skills impressed everybody. He adjusted to the conditions well, and came up with eight catches in the match. With Moin not at his best behind the stumps Pakistan decided to replace him with Latif. Wisden called the decision “unexpected”.
Graham Gooch won the toss and decided to bat; Latif found his first victim in the form of Michael Atherton, caught-behind off Wasim. After England were bowled out for 207 Latif walked out to bat at 292 for six, and helped lift Pakistan reach 380. He was last out for an 87-ball 50 with six boundaries.
Prior to the Test, Geoff Boycott had mentioned that Latif was not a competent batsman. Boycott stuck to the prediction that Latif would not cross 35. They placed a bet, and on reaching his fifty, Latif managed to obtain £5 from the Yorkshireman.
He caught Atherton (again) in the second innings and stumped Chris Lewis off Mushtaq Ahmed; Pakistan won the Test by 10 wickets and took the series 2-1. He also made his ODI debut in a couple of weeks at Trent Bridge, scoring 29.
Latif also played in the one-off Test against New Zealand early next year; he made crucial contributions in each innings, scoring 32 not out and 33 out of team scores of 216 and 174 respectively. He also finished with three catches and a stumping as New Zealand crashed for 93 in the fourth innings chasing 127.
It was his ability behind the stumps that made Rashid Latif stand out among his peers © Getty Images
The two-way tussle
Inexplicably, Latif was dropped for the first two Tests of the three-Test series in West Indies that followed — perhaps because Moin’s batting was preferred against Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. After West Indies took an unassailable 2-0 lead, Latif was brought back for the third Test at St John’s, where he did another commendable job behind the stumps.
Latif replaced Moin and made his second tour of New Zealand in 1993-94. In the first Test at Auckland Latif claimed as many as nine catches, setting a new record for Pakistan. He went past Bari’s record of eight catches. The record has subsequently been emulated by Kamran.
Latif emulated Bari next season, pouching six catches and effecting two stumpings at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Despite his performances, his tussle with Moin continued. It was the question that has often perplexed selectors over the course of history of the sport: the better batsman, or the better wicketkeeper?
Latif’s skills with the gloves eventually gave him the edge for the 1996 World Cup. Given Pakistan’s supremacy in the group stages he did not get to bat in four of the five matches, but came up with four catches and a stumping against New Zealand at Lahore. This put him at par with Moin’s record of five dismissals set a year back at Harare. The Pakistan record is currently held by Moin (twice), Latif (twice), and Kamran.
Pakistan were eliminated from the World Cup after their defeat against India in the quarterfinal. Latif took an exceptional catch off Waqar to dismiss Mohammad Azharuddin, and when all seemed over he had a valiant go with a 25-ball 26. They were not enough.
Later that year, Aamer Sohail promoted Latif to three after India had scored 305 for five at Sharjah. He launched a furious onslaught, scoring 50 in 30 balls — the fastest fifty of the tournament — but still ended up on the losing side.
Moin and Latif both went to the England tour of 1996. Latif was picked for the first Test at Lord’s. Coming out at 257 for six, he scored 45 not out, shepherding the tail to help Pakistan reach 340. He also picked up three catches, but he could not stop England from winning the Test.
He was dropped for the next Test at Headingley for something that was not his fault; he had done a splendid job behind the stumps at Lord’s, but was still replaced by Moin; grabbing the opportunity with both hands, Moin scored a dynamic 105, sealing the role in his favour.
Shortly afterwards, Basit Ali and Latif accused several members of the Pakistan cricket side as match-fixers. When summoned as witness during the Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum Commission, Latif mentioned that Saleem Malik had actually approached him to ‘lose a match deliberately’.
Justice Malik’s report said: “He [Latif] maintained that before the fifth one-dayer at Christchurch, he was called by Saleem Malik to his room and offered 10 lacs to throw away the match. There were five other cricketers present in the room. However, he refused to take up the offer. Pakistan, according to Rashid Latif, deliberately lost the match. He added that the main culprits were Wasim Akram and Saleem Malik.”
Basit had scored 57 in the Christchurch ODI where nobody else had crossed 23; Pakistan were bowled out for 145 by Danny Morrison, Chris Pringle, and Chris Cairns. Wasim had then left the ground after figures of 6.3-0-17-0, leaving Akram Raza to finish the over. Additionally, accusations were raised against Malik, Waqar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, and Mushtaq Ahmed on the grounds that they had accepted money from a bookie called Saleem Pervez at Sharjah.
Rashid Latif was no mean batsman: 1,381 runs from 37 Tests at 28.77 and 1,709 runs from 166 ODIs at 19.42 and a strike-rate of 76.39 are not ordinary numbers © Getty Images
Latif did not initially reveal the names of the cricketers present in the room when Malik had made him the offer; however, on further probing, he did name Inzamam, Raza, and Basit. Malik, Inzamam, and Raza all denied the accusation (which was obvious); the opinion of Basit, who was down with jaundice, was surprisingly not even considered on this matter.
Rashid’s allegations, however, were particularly strong against Malik. He accused the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as well, laying emphasis on the fact that an inquiry was only carried out when Shane Warne and Mark Waugh had laid accusations against him. Latif also mentioned that Malik, Wasim, Basit, and (probably) Waqar had used cell-phones during matches in Sri Lanka despite the blanket ban enforced by the manager Intikhab Alam.
In his statement, Latif mentioned that a few months after the Christchurch ODI, Saeed Anwar was approached by Malik with a request to throw a match in the subsequent Singer Cup in Sri Lanka. Anwar had refused, and being a close friend of Anwar’s, Latif had got to know of the offer. Ata-ur-Rehman had refused a similar offer as well.
Just after the Singer Cup there was a 10-day gap before the team headed off for Sharjah, so Malik and Latif flew back to Pakistan. The report said: “Saleem Malik’s luggage was lost and Mr Rashid Latif was asked to look for it. The bag was found by Rashid Latif. In his bag, Mr. Saleem Malik had 50,000 Sri Lankan rupees in cash which, according to Rashid Latif, was the money Saleem Malik had won because of match-fixing and betting.”
Latif sought out Arif Abbasi, the PCB official, and asked him to reach South Africa; PCB sent out Saleem Altaf instead. Latif had already lost his place (which was true for Ata-ur-Rahman as well). Aamer Sohail maintained that exposing the match-fixers was the only reason that Latif and Ata-ur-Rehman were shunned from the national side. Anwar was probably too good to be left out.
During the inquiry Latif produced photocopies of cheques issued in favour of Malik as well as audio cassettes that captured relevant conversations of Anwar and Ata-ur-Rehman. However, closer investigation suggested that the tapes had been edited by Latif before they were submitted to the Commission.
When asked for a reason, Latif put up an explanation that the tapes had contained insults and profanities that he did not want to produce in front of the Justice. When asked to produce the original tapes it was revealed that a part of the conversation (mostly involving Basit) was edited out of the tapes.
When asked why Latif had really done it he came up with a rather unusual response. As the report said, “When asked as to why the tapes had been initially edited, [Rashid] Latif stated that the tapes had been in the safekeeping of a relative of Basit Ali’s and they had been edited by this relative or someone for the sake of this relative of Basit’s, as the relative was a heart patient. Perhaps this was the truth but these actions made the tapes tainted and the Commission is also aware of the chance, albeit not a great one, that some or all the tapes may well have been doctored or manufactured.”
Anwar subsequently denied Latif’s information regarding the bookies or Malik having approached him with cash — a statement that dishonoured Latif’s accusations to a great extent. Mushtaq Ahmed then admitted that he knew Pervez quite well. Mushtaq, however, was left without an answer when asked about the source or history of their acquaintance.
The verdict that came out was rather unusual, and certainly not the most logical one: “The only reason so many people have given evidence against Saleem Malik is that he has an abrasive personality. Similarly, Rashid Latif should not be believed because all the players he has named as co-accused in Christchurch have denied the matter.”
Additionally, the verdict contained the words: “The statement of Rashid Latif does not contain an iota of evidence and contains baseless allegations. The fact that players used mobile phone cannot be used to draw inferences of match-fixing against him. The allegations arise out of bitterness for having been replaced in the team by a competent all-rounder in Moin Khan. He has failed to report the matters complained of to any BCCP or the team manager at any relevant time.”
The fact that Pervez had himself confessed to paying Malik and Mushtaq Ahmed was forgotten, as were Warne and Mark Waugh’s allegations against Malik. Ata-ur-Rehman’s testimony against Wasim (which included his last-moment withdrawal from the World Cup quarterfinal at Bangalore) also did not hold ground.
Years afterwards, Latif has been quite candid about the incident on his own website: “This [The Christchurch ODI] was also the match in which Wasim Akram gave money to Ata-ur-Rehman to bowl poorly, so that Pakistan lose the match. Ata told me about it and the conversation is saved in an audio cassette. We lost that match. The match was 110 per cent fixed. I’m not going into the details of this match because newspapers were filled with the news about the match. But the board members always swept the matter under the carpet, clouded the facts of this illegal practice.”
He has not held anything back about the Singer Cup as well: “Before Singer Cup, in a one-day match Saeed Anwar told me that Saleem Malik told him that we have to lose [a] one-day match against Sri Lanka and he will get [a] handsome amount. He forbade Saeed not to tell this to me. Intikhab Alam was the coach of the team and we informed him about that but he didn’t do anything. After that, Singer Trophy started and we played our first match against Australia. The hotel in which our team stayed, some bookies from Lahore were also staying there and they freely visited the rooms of some players of our team. In this match Australia played first and scored 162 runs, which was a very easy target for us. We were 80 for one but suddenly our wickets started to fall and we lost this match very suspiciously. During this match, a message was sent to Saeed Anwar through Zahid Fazal, and after that Saeed Anwar returned to pavilion due to some fitness problem.”
Latif had got his facts slightly wrong, but the incidents were sufficient to make a person suspicious. Australia had scored 179 for seven in their full quota of 50 overs; after Sohail’s quick departure Anwar and Inzamam had taken the score to 77 and Pakistan were cruising alone.
It was then that Inzamam was stumped off Warne; soon afterwards, with the score on 80, Anwar walked to the pavilion, and there was a collapse. Anwar did resume his innings at 124 for five but fell five runs later, and Pakistan eventually crawled to 151 for nine, losing an easy match by 28 runs. The wrecker-in-chief was Steve Waugh, who returned figures of 10-1-16-3.
Shortly afterwards, Latif, along with Basit, announced his retirement from international cricket.
A strange succession of events
Latif made a surprise comeback towards the end of the season in the Independence Cup at home. He played three matches, scored 15 runs, and had a tally of two victims. Pakistan did not reach the finals, Wasim was sacked, and in one of those quirks of PCB that have baffled the world of cricket for ages, Latif was named the captain of Pakistan.
Pakistan competed hard with India in the Independence Cup at Bangladesh, losing eventually in the final match of the best-of-three-final with a single ball to spare. Pakistan then left for South Africa, with both Latif and Moin in the squad. Unfortunately, Latif missed the first two Tests as Sohail led, and Pakistan went up 1-0 following a close encounter at Kingsmead.
Latif’s maiden Test as captain was not the most auspicious one: he scored a golden duck in the first innings and a four-ball duck in the second, thereby becoming only the second captain to register a pair on captaincy debut (after Mark Taylor; Habibul Bashar also achieved this dubious feat subsequently). Allan Donald and Fanie de Villiers then bowled out Pakistan for 106 and 134 and South Africa won by 259 runs.
He was retained for the two-Test series against Zimbabwe where the hosts put up a stubborn fight, drawing at Bulawayo and putting up a great fight before losing by three wickets at Harare. Latif finished the Test with 10 catches, and his first victory as a Test captain under his belt.
Pakistan went past Zimbabwe in the Standard Bank International Series that followed in South Africa but lost to the hosts in the final by nine wickets. Not only was Latif sacked as captain, he was also axed from the side, and was not recalled in three years.
To sum up the events of the season, a retired Latif was recalled, made captain without any apparent reason after three ODIs in which he had failed, and then dropped from the side altogether, and was not considered for three years. Go figure.
The second comeback
Once again Latif was called up, out of nowhere, in the summer of 2001. He did a commendable job in the second (and last) Test at Old Trafford. With Pakistan down 0-1 in the series he scored a combative 114-ball 71 with 10 fours and scored 25 more in the second innings.
The wicketkeeping, however, was the attribute that impressed the viewers more. He took seven catches in the Test, but even that statistic is not enough to reflect how well he kept wickets to the swinging ball of the two Ws and Abdur Razzaq and the spin of Saqlain Mushtaq. Suddenly, at 32, he was back as Pakistan’s primary wicketkeeper.
Latif made the most of his opportunity: he scored 94 at Dhaka, and then pulled off the best batting of his career against West Indies at Sharjah. Coming out to bat at a below-par 178 for five he added 204 with Yousuf Youhana; he scored a 234-ball 150 with 18 fours and a six. It remained his only Test hundred as well as the highest First-Class score of his career.
He was not done: with quick runs the need of the hour, he scored a 42-ball 47 not out with four fours in the second innings before setting West Indies 342 to win the match. His 197 remains the third-highest match aggregate by a Pakistan wicketkeeper after Taslim Arif’s 210 and Imtiaz Ahmed’s 209. Shoaib Akhtar and Razzaq proved to be more than a handful, and West Indies lost by plenty.
Once again Latif was established as the leading wicketkeeper of his side. He got picked for the World Cup (which meant that Moin and he had played alternately for the four World Cups from 1992 to 2003). In the first match of the World Cup against Australia at New Wanderers Adam Gilchrist accused Latif of racist abuses. The match-referee Clive Lloyd, however, let Latif go with a warning.
After an early exit in the World Cup several heads rolled for Pakistan — the most significant of them being Wasim and Waqar (both of whom retired with immediate effect). Inzamam, Shoaib, and Saqlain were also axed (though all of them made comebacks), and Anwar retired after the tournament, leaving Pakistan without a leader. This meant that Latif was reinstated at the helm.
In the Cherry Blossom Sharjah Cup that followed, Pakistan won every match under their new captain. The tournament saw the emergence of three debutants in Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Gul, and Naved-ul-Hasan. The team also consisted of other youngsters like Shoaib Malik, Taufeeq Umar, Faisal Iqbal, Naved Latif, Mohammad Sami, and Danish Kaneria. The new generation of Pakistan cricket had arrived.
Pakistan also managed to eliminate Sri Lanka in the Bank Alfalah Cup at their den, but lost to New Zealand in the final at Dambulla. They also lost to England 2-1 in the NatWest Challenge, but it was evident that they were on the rise once again.
Shoaib had already been recalled; it was now time for Inzamam to make a comeback. Pakistan had four Test debutants in the first Test at Karachi in the form of Shabbir Ahmed, Gul, Hafeez, and Yasir Hameed. Bangladesh were blown away in the two Tests at Karachi and Peshawar.
Then came the third Test at Multan. Bangladesh put up 281 and bowled out Pakistan for 175. However, they could not capitalise on the 106-run lead as Gul and Shabbir bowled them out for 154. Inzamam then masterminded a one-wicket chase (they had needed 97 for the last three wickets).
Latif finished with 17 catches and a stumping: it was a new series record, going past Bari’s tally of 14 catches and two stumpings. Bari’s record, however, had come in a five-Test series. The record still stands. With a won series, several rookies under his belt, seniors like Inzamam and Shoaib back in the side, he should have prepared himself for a long run.
Unfortunately, that was not about to happen. In the second innings of the final Test, Alok Kapali had edged one towards slip; in characteristic style he flew towards his right and came up with an acrobatic catch. Replays, however, showed that he had grassed the ball after completing the catch, and taking advantage of the fact that his back was towards the umpire, had claimed the catch. Kapali was given out.
Given the margin of the victory the catch might have decided the fate of the Test. However, the match referee Mike Procter was not amused: “As captain a lot of responsibility falls on Rashid Latif and he committed a serious offence by claiming that catch which constitutes unfair play and a level-three offence of the ICC Code of Conduct (offensive and penalties). Therefore, the Pakistani captain shall be banned for five One-Day Internationals.” Latif was banned for five matches.
Latif claimed that he was not sure that the catch had been taken cleanly: “If I had been convinced that I had not taken a clean catch and that the ball popped out of my gloves before I completed the catch motion, I would have called the batsman back. I dived, took the catch, rolled over and then just threw the ball to Inzamam [ul-Haq].”
It took five years for Latif to come out with the confession that he was actually aware of what he had exactly done in an appointment to Desh TV: “I dived to my right to take a [Alok] Kapali nick. The ball dropped from my gloves as I rolled over but quickly picked it up from the ground before claiming it as a clean catch.”
Years afterwards, as late as in 2013, Latif was livid when Denesh Ramdin had got away with a two-match ban after claiming a similar catch of Misbah-ul-Haq in the Champions Trophy: “It happens in the spur of the moment but for [Denesh] Ramdin to say he is not guilty is not right. He knew he had not completed the catch and had picked up the ball from the ground. He should not have claimed the catch. He might say anything but basically he cheated when he claimed a catch after picking up the ball from the ground. A keeper knows well what he is doing and when he has taken a clean catch,” Latif told in an interview to the Times of India.
Latif stood down as Pakistan captain and was replaced by Inzamam. However, a more lasting damage was done when he was replaced by Kamran as the national wicketkeeper. Latif came back for the five-ODI series against South Africa that the tourists won after being two matches down. He never played an international match again.
Latif played on for another season. He scored 258 runs at 25.80 with two fifties and finished with 34 catches and two stumpings from the eight matches he played. Even in his last match for Allied Ban Limited against Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited at Karachi he picked up five catches in an innings.
Latif was appointed as the wicketkeeping coach by PCB in June 2008. He resigned after he fell out with PCB after a period of only five months, but withdrew his resignation almost immediately.
When the spot-fixing scandal involving Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Amir broke out in 2010 Latif drafted a letter to ICC, requesting them to adjust the laws in order to ensure that future occurrences of such instances did not take place.
He later told in an interview to Hindustan Times: “In that letter, I told them to change the rules and laws in One-Day Internationals which were more prone to spot-fixing. I even offered to assist the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit but I got no response. The key is to design laws and rules that do not allow players and bookmakers to manipulate things. I told the ICC to remove the fielding restrictions and they introduced the power-play which only encouraged fixing.”
He had also recommended, in what may turn out to be an excellent move even today, a novel concept. As he said in an interview with AFP, “I guarantee that even a delay of 30 seconds in live telecast of matches will put an end to the spot-fixing. The ICC will have to bear the loss as the media companies would possibly disagree with the idea, but I can guarantee spot-fixing will die with delayed telecast of matches.”
Latif took up a job as a batting coach for Afghanistan in 2010 and was later promoted to head coach. In what turned out to be a fairytale encounter, Afghanistan went on defeat Pakistan in the semi-final of the 2010 Asian Games at Guangzhou. After Afghanistan scored 125 for eight they managed to restrict Pakistan to 103 for seven. However, they had to remain content with a silver medal as they lost to Bangladesh by five wickets with only three balls to spare.
Shortly afterwards, Afghanistan beat Scotland in the ICC Intercontinental Cup final despite they had conceded a 41-run lead to Scotland; some excellent bowling from Hamid Hassan, Samiullah Shenwari, and Mirwais Ashraf bowled out Scotland for 82 and Afghanistan romped home by seven wickets.
He stood down from the post in 2011 following a 0-3 series defeat against Pakistan A. He currently runs the Rashid Latif Cricket Academy in Gulbarg Town, Karachi.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)