Saqlain Mushtaq is one of the greatest spin bowlers to have graced the game. A cricketing pioneer, he was the first off-spinner to consistently utilise the doosra, forming a key part of his armoury in both Tests and One-Day Internationals (ODIs).
His variety and characteristic pause when delivering the ball made him a formidable limited overs bowler — picking up 288 wickets from 169 matches at an average of 21.78. He remains the fastest bowler to 100 ODI wickets, a record that has stood for over 15 years and he played a key role in the Pakistan side that reached the 1999 World Cup final.
Saqlain also experienced success in the 49 Tests he played, collecting 208 wickets including 13 five-wicket hauls and on three occasions taking ten-wickets, the highlight being the ten he claimed in Pakistan’s famous 12-run victory over India at Chennai in 1999.
Saqlain’s career did not have the longevity of the quality spinners of his era, cut short by the mismanagement of persistent knee injuries. Since his retirement, he has been working as spin-bowing coach for the Bangladesh Cricket Board(BCB) and has also had coaching stints in Australia, England and New Zealand.
PakPassion spoke with the former Pakistan international. Saqlain commented on the quality of spin bowling at the Champions Trophy, the lack of leg-spinners in international cricket, his work for the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and the potential of working for the PCB in future.
Excerpts from an interview with Saqlain Mushtaq:
On spinners that impressed him at the recently-concluded ICC Champions Trophy
Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Sunil Narine were the three spinners who really impressed me during the Champions Trophy. Jadeja and Narine are very effective in limited-overs cricket. Ashwin, in my opinion, is an excellent all-round spinner who performs well in Test cricket too, not just the shorter formats. Jadeja and Narine, however are yet to master bowling in Test cricket, which requires the utilisation of a very different set of skills which they are yet to demonstrate.
On the pause in the delivery stride adopted by Ashwin and Hafeez
It’s currently within the rules of the game. Whether this is changed in future is of course up to the ICC [International Cricket Council]. I’d encourage spinners to innovate at every opportunity and if the pause delivery is working and confusing the batsmen, then keep on bowling it as part of your armoury. Bowlers don’t always get the rub of the green when it comes to rules in cricket, but the pause delivery is one that they can use to confuse some batsmen.
On the lack of leg-spinners in international cricket
In the past there have been leg-spinners like Abdul Qadir, Shane Warne, Mushtaq Ahmed and Anil Kumble who have been the inspiration for young leg-spinners to take up the art. These days there are no role models for up-and-coming leg-spinners and it’s disappointing. What leg-spin bowling needs is another Shane Warne, someone who can inspire the next generation.
We have some promising young leg-spinners in Bangladesh who I’m hopeful will one day play international cricket but at the moment they are raw and making their way in the world of cricket. They’re learning fast though, and if they continue to develop then hopefully we’ll see them playing for Bangladesh.
Leg-spin is a unique and difficult art, and one that needs to be nurtured and protected at all levels of the game.
On his role as spin bowling coach for Bangladesh
My contract is for 100 days per calendar year with the BCB and that entails working with Bangladeshi cricketers at junior level, the national academy, and right up to the senior team. I don’t have a prescribed remit — the scope of my work is dependent on whichever level of cricketer the BCB wants me to work with; it may be an individual who needs one-to-one coaching, or group sessions.
I enjoy the varied nature of the role — each session requires me to develop specific plans and advice for the players I am working with, as each is in a different stage of their cricket development.
On the potential of working for the PCB in future
If the PCB wanted to utilise my services as a coach in the future, I’d be delighted to serve my country once again. Playing for my country was a special time in my life and coaching my countrymen in future would be an honour. There are currently some exciting spinners playing in Pakistan at the moment and it would be wonderful to work with them.
However, at the moment my focus is on working for the BCB with dignity and professionalism, but if in future an opportunity arose to work for the PCB then I would jump at the chance.
(Nasser Khanis a writer for Pakpassion.net, from the above article is published with permission)