Home > Features > Moments in history >

Saqlain Mushtaq – the man who revolutionised off-spin in the modern era

Saqlain Mushtaq – the man who revolutionised off-spin in the modern era

In many ways Saqlain Mushtaq was the trend-setter, with many aping his style and tactics in the years ahead © Getty Images

Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at Saqlain Mushtaq’s career on the occasion of his birthday.

Saqlain Mushtaq, born on December 29, 1976 revolutionised spin bowling in the modern game and defined a spinner’s role in one-day cricket. With his craft and uncanny deception, he rose to become the best off-spinner in the world in the late 1990s. In a land that has produced a long line of fast-bowlers, Saqlain along with Mushtaq Ahmed established themselves as the frontline tweakers. In many ways Saqlain was the trend-setter, with many aping his style and tactics in the years ahead.

In 1995, Saqlain burst on to the scene as a promising 18-year old against Sri Lanka. He immediately caught the eye and one could see that he was a natural wicket-taker. He had that typical side on action and the occasional pause on the delivery stride. However, he was the one who perfected the art of bowling the ‘doosra’ – a delivery that goes the other way. That copious variety made him a force to reckon with and the statistics reflect that tale.

A statistical analysis of Saqlain’s career – One-Day Internationals (ODIs) in particular – shows how effective he was. Pakistan already had Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar handling the pace-bowling duties and Saqlain added to that to make it one of the most dangerous bowling attacks in the world. Here is his career record in both the formats:

  M Wkts Avg SR Inngs Best Match Best 5WI 10WM
Tests 49 208 29.83 67.6 8-164 10-155 13 3
ODIs 169 288 21.78 30.4 5-20 5-20 6 -

These are fantastic numbers and show how prolific he was. The detail that stands out in this table is the bowling averages in both formats. In ODIs in particular, an average of 21.78 is simply brilliant – that too in a format where the batsmen try to attack the spinners. Even a strike-rate of 30.4 shows how effective he was in the said format.

However, the table does not reveal a very interesting detail – one that puts Saqlain’s wicket-taking ability into proper perspective. He was the fastest to 100, 150, 200 and 250 wickets in ODIs.

The said details:

Milestone Matches
100 wickets 53
150 wickets 78
200 wickets 104
250 wickets 138

 

Until the 200 wickets landmark, he was going at almost two wickets in a game. He held the advantage until the 250 wicket mark and ultimately finished on 288 wickets. Thus, he couldn’t build on that and his records galore stopped there. In ODIs, he also has two hat-tricks to his credit.

On the tour to India in 1999, he showed his class with a performance that stunned the hosts. In the two Test match series (the third one was an Asian Test Championship contest), he picked up 20 wickets – picking up five wicket hauls in each of the four innings. In that series, he helped Pakistan steal victory from the hands of Sachin Tendulkar at Chennai. Now, that performance was evidence of his ability. Indian batsmen are known to play spin well and are tigers at home. And, to take five wickets in each of the four innings speaks volumes of his efforts.

Saqlain couldn’t maintain a hold over his spot in the Pakistan team after the 2003 World Cup. His final Test came against India at Multan in 2003-04 – where he ran into a rampaging Virender Sehwag who helped himself to a triple ton. A bowler of Saqlain’s calibre should have played a lot more and it is a pity that he featured in only 49 Tests. After being discarded by Pakistan, he went on to play for Sussex and Surrey in County Cricket. He played his last First-Class game in 2008.

Looking back at Saqlain’s career and his contribution to cricket, one wonders whether we would have seen a Saeed Ajmal – someone who is considered his able successor. Would the off-spinners have considered pausing on their delivery stride or tried their hand at numerous variations without Saqlain’s example?

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 30, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 2, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Khulna

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 5, 2014 (14:05 IST)   at Adelaide

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 6, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Ahmedabad

More

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 15, 2014  at Ahmedabad

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 7, 2014  at Bengaluru

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 30, 2014  at Hyderabad

Match cancelled

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014  at Hamilton

No result

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 3 wkts

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test

Videos

Tendulkar provides teaser on upcoming book

Live Cricket Score Duleep Trophy Central Zone vs South Zone, final at Delhi Day 3

Live Cricket Score Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test at Abu Dhabi Day 2

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Mythbusting — the claim that playing for a weaker batting side handicaps a batsman has no basis

Younis Khan’s ban: why the ICC is justified

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Central Zone Duleep Trophy Duleep Trophy 2014-15 India Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Zone South Zone vs Central Zone Sri Lanka Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

Live Cricket Score: Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test, Day 2 at Abu Dhabi

Live Scorecard: Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test Day 2 at Abu Dhabi

Jesse Ryder included in New Zealand A squad to tour UAE in November

Live Streaming: Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test, Day 2 at Abu Dhabi

West Indies crisis: Trinidad and Tobago condemns West Indies’ pullout from India tour

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Younis Khan continues piling up records for Pakistan

Mythbusting — the claim that playing for a weaker batting side handicaps a batsman has no basis

Younis Khan’s ban: why the ICC is justified

KL Rahul could be opening option for India’s tour to Australia

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

678 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Younis Khan century during Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test at Dubai

India A vs Sri Lanka: Fringe players look to impress

NGOs pursue education for all

Dance Basanti from Ungli: Put on your dancing shoes and practice the Basanti move!

Weight Loss Tip #59: Eat oranges to lose weight

Sensex surges 150 points in early trade to regain 27,000-mark

PricewaterhouseCoopers partners Google to offer business solutions to clients

Google X Lab working on nanoparticles to help detect diseases early

Priyanka Chopra has the best no make-up selfie on Instagram, think fans!

Lisa Haydon: I slept off midway while watching the original Shaukeen!

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here