Selecting All-Time XIs based on curious categories is always great fun. Composing one from the cricketers with Ahmed in their names, Arunabha Sengupta finds a reasonably balanced side with some excellent spinners.
This particular XI has been selected with the same intent as our Khan XI.
The Alphabetical XIs published in these pages were followed with plenty of enthusiasm. However, while making teams with the cricketers whose last names began with A, B, C etc, we had to repeatedly clarify that for names that end with Khan, Mohammad, Ali or Singh, we would be considering the first letter of the first name of as the category to map the cricketers to.
This was because, as we repeated often enough, Khans and Mohammads are so numerous, as also the Singhs and the Alis, they can form their own respective XIs.
Hence Mushtaq Ahmed was considered for the M side and not A.
To prove that the reason behind our disclaimer is valid, we decided to go ahead and show that the Ahmeds could indeed have their own XI. And that too from amongst Test cricketers.
Looking at the record books we find 22 men with Ahmeds in their names who have played Test cricket. Among them, as many as seven did enjoy accomplished careers.
The most established batsman among them was perhaps Saeed Ahmed, the Pakistani top-order stalwart who batted with plenty of panache and style from 1958 to 1973.
Of course, fresher in memory is the spirited batting of Ijaz Ahmed, who scored as many as 12 hundreds (6 of them against Australia) in his 60 Tests but had a rather high failure rate, finishing with an average in the high 30s.
Of course, there is Sarfraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper-batsman who recently led Pakistan to their maiden Champions Trophy title. Sarfraz currently has figures that will qualify him as a specialist batsman for this team. Imtiaz Ahmed, the excellent stumper from the early days of Pakistan Test cricket who could also open the batting, can wear the big gloves as the specialist ’keeper of this side.
The other men with rather impressive careers were the three spinners.
Ghulam Ahmed is perhaps the most underrated spinning great of India, with some numbers that are far more impressive than some of the more vaunted names. Tauseef Ahmed, another low-key and self-effacing off-spinner, ended up with a better average than his more glamorous contemporary Abdul Qadir. And finally Mushtaq Ahmed, the champion leggie with the genuine googly, was one of the best in the world in that trade during his career.
This provides us with some excellent depth in the spin department. In fact, we have to leave out Zulfiqar Ahmed, whose off-breaks earned some eye-popping results — albeit not against the strongest of oppositions.
But, after this we run out of established names.
There are no pace bowlers among the Ahmeds who enjoyed substantial careers. The most impressive among the lot is perhaps Shabbir Ahmed, whose 10-Test career got him 51 wickets at 23.03 before he was pulled up for suspicious action. To partner him, we are left with the Kuwait-born fast man Tanvir Ahmed, who played just 5 Tests and his 17 wickets came at a decent 26.64. He could be a rather handy batsman as well.
That leaves two slots up for grabs. We still need to look for a opening partner of Imtiaz and someone to bat in the middle order.
Fortunately, we do have men with reasonable credentials to fit into these positions.
The second opening batsman has to be Ahmed Shehzad, who has shown a lot of promise at the Test level so far in his career.
And into the middle order comes in Younis Ahmed, the man who created a world record by returning to Test cricket after a hiatus of 104 Tests. This half-brother of Saeed had an excellent First-Class record, and would probably have played many more Tests had he not travelled to South Africa with Derrick Robbins’s XI in 1973.
Thus we end up with a fairly balanced side, with reasonably steady batting line up, and while the fast bowlers do lack experience there are plenty of resources when it comes to turning the ball.
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