March 15, 1955, saw the birth of one of the most good-looking cricketers, on and off the pitch, to come out of Pakistan. Jaideep Vaidya goes through the career of a thoroughly entertaining cricketer-turned-actor-turned-selector-turned-coach.
Mohsin Khan was one of those dashing cricketers. His filmstar looks and personality complimented his on-field avatar. An opening batsman, Mohsin was a joy to watch when in flow. His strokes were like a well-oiled machine. He was equally capable of playing on either foot, but loved to waltz a couple of steps down the track before slashing his blade at the delivery. Watching Mohsin slashing the cherries is reminiscent of the popular smartphone game "Fruit Ninja"; he could do it all day.
Mohsin had a decent start to his Test career in 1978. His exploits in his first six innings read: 44, 35, 38, 31, 36 and 41. This was followed by a dry patch for a couple of years, before he finally notched up his maiden Test ton in Lahore against Sri Lanka in 1982. That was the breakthrough moment for Mohsin as he went on to establish himself at the top of the order alongside Mudassar Nazar.
His next ton was a double hundred; it came at the sanctum santorum of cricket, Lord's. Mohsin became the first Pakistani to score a double century at the hallowed turf of Lord's and it was an innings where he decimated an attack boasting of the likes of Ian Botham, Robin Jackman and Derek Pringle to help Pakistan win the match by 10 wickets.
Mohsin was one of the few sub-continent batsmen who flourished away from home. Three out of his seven centuries, including the double hundred at Lord's, came on seaming pitches. The other two were back-to-back hundreds in Brisbane and Adelaide. At home, Lahore was his favourite hunting ground; his remaining four hundreds were piled at the Gaddafi Stadium.
It is thus very unfortunate that Mohsin bid a premature goodbye to his cricket in 1986, to pursue a career in Bollywood, at the age of 31, while his face and good looks were still intact. He had met and fallen in love with Indian actress Reena Roy and went on to act in 13 films in an eight-year career. His films did not do too well, but Mohsin still persisted long enough, before giving up in 1997. Eventually, he was to split up with Roy, but not before they had a daughter of their own.
Mohsin returned to Pakistan and was involved with Pakistan cricket in small capacities. His next big break took a long time to come, but when it did, it was the ultimate responsibility. In March, 2010, Mohsin, aged 54 at the time, was appointed chairman of selectors of the Pakistan national team by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Mohsin's appointment followed the resignation of Iqbal Qasim after the team's catastrophic tour Down Under where the team was whitewashed in three Tests, five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and a lone Twenty20 International (T20I). Mohsin was the fourth chief selector tried out by PCB in less than a year after Qasim, Abdul Qadir and a temporary stint by Wasim Bari.
Mohsin's stint as chief selector was not a breeze and came with its share of controversies. He was accused by the Karachi cricket body of favouring the selection of players from Pakistan's Sindh region, where Mohsin hailed from. But Mohsin refuted the allegations, saying that he had appointed a Karachi-born player, Shahid Afridi, as captain of the limited-overs format. The PCB stood by Mohsin, and in October, 2011, added another responsibility to his portfolio.
Following head coach Waqar Younis's resignation from the top job on personal grounds, the PCB appointed Mohsin the team's interim coach, while they searched for a full-time replacement, for the upcoming series against Sri Lanka. Mohsin was unfazed by the burden of the two simultaneous responsibilities and said that he would not let it hamper him or the team in any way. "I am not going to confuse myself with the double responsibility," said Mohsin. "The board has asked me to take up the responsibility. It's a challenging one, a duty that has to be completed with responsibility."
Under Mohsin's umbrella, Pakistan went on to win three Test series — against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and England, then the World No 1 Test team. The Pakistan team, witness to several conflicts and controversies, was looking like a unit for the first time in several years. Asked if he would mind becoming full-time coach, Mohsin said, "I don't want anybody to take me for granted, although I am always available to serve my country. People were saying that performing well against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh was nothing great, okay agreed, but to perform against England, whether they are No 1 or not, is always creditable." Meanwhile, the PCB continued its hunt for a full-time replacement.
In March, 2012, they zeroed in on the experienced Dav Whatmore, who had coached Sri Lanka to their maiden World Cup win in 1996 and had also spent some time at the helm of the Bangladesh national side. The decision polarised opinion in the country on whether Mohsin should have been replaced, but the PCB stuck to their guns. However, with Pakistan's recent poor showing, the pressure is on Whatmore, with a barrage of criticism coming his way, including that of Mohsin's.
So, that's where Mohsin Khan is now, having been made to relinquish both of his posts (he was replaced by Qasim as chief selector last year). Perhaps not a poetic end to a career, but that should not take anything away from memories of his primary role as an entertainer, on the cricket field.
(Jaideep Vaidya is a multiple sports buff and a writer at CricketCountry. He has a B.E. in Electronics Engineering, but that isn't fooling anybody. He started writing on sports during his engineering course and fell in love with it. The best day of his life came on April 24, 1998, when he witnessed birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar pummel a Shane Warne-speared Aussie attack from the stands during the Sharjah Cup Final. A diehard Manchester United fan, you can follow him on Twitter @jaideepvaidya. He also writes a sports blog - The Mullygrubber)
First Published: March 15, 2013, 10:04 am