Javed Miandad © Getty Images
Javed Miandad © Getty Images

By Amir Hussain

The term “impossible is nothing” was given a new meaning on April 18, 1986 when Javed Miandad‘s last ball six resulted in an astounding victory for Pakistan against their arch rivals India in the Austral-Asia Cup in Sharjah. This innings, like many others that he played for Pakistan during his illustrious 21 year international career (1975 – 1996) was symptomatic of the high premium that Miandad attached to his wicket and the hard-nosed, never-say-die spirit with which he played the game for his country.

To many, Miandad’s last international game for Pakistan in 1996 against India in the 1996 World Cup was a less than satisfactory end to an international career that spanned 357 matches in which he amassed 16,213 runs, including 23 Test and 8 One-Day International (ODI) hundreds. He was Pakistan’s man of crisis and was part of many memorable triumphs such as the 1992 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand. He was also appointed captain on two separate occasions and after his retirement, also held the position of coach for the Pakistan team and was later appointed as Director General of Cricket at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Miandad reflected on some key moment in his career, spoke about the qualities that made him one of Pakistan’s most vaunted batsmen and also recalled his famous innings at Sharjah, as well as the key role he played in the successful 1992 World Cup campaign and his much talked about relationship with Imran Khan.

Excerpts from an interview:

PakPassion.net (PP): The image of Javed Miandad we have seen on television or as has been portrayed in the media is an aggressive street fighter. Is that the real Miandad or is that one you had to make up to compete at the highest level?

Javed Miandad (JM): Let me start by saying that the character of any man is forged by a mixture of what his parents teach him and also by what he believes in. I am fortunate that my parents always taught me to abide by the values of truth, honesty and my religion. Islam has also taught me to fight for what is right.

For me playing for Pakistan was the greatest test and honour that any Pakistani could ever ask for. In the same way our brave soldiers defend our borders with their lives, I always considered standing at the pitch in the name of our country as something that required the greatest sacrifice. I was always there to defend my country’s honour and in doing that I earned the reputation of a “street fighter” which I am proud of to this day! So to answer your question, the Miandad that you saw on the field of playing for Pakistan was the real me and I have no regrets or feel any shame about that.

I know a lot of people respected me for that and a few were jealous of me. One such person called me a “rickshaw-walla” in the press, presumably to show that I was a street fighter but to me that just showed that they couldn’t handle the fact that I always stood for what was right. This is still true today.

PP: As a professional cricketer, what was the most and least enjoyable things about the profession?

JM: Playing for one’s country is the greatest honour there is. I enjoyed every moment of my career and I really appreciated the way the ordinary people of Pakistan came to see us play in the heat of the day, sometimes sitting in uncovered stands to catch a glimpse of their heroes. Many stayed up overnight to follow us playing in overseas lands and prayed for us like we were their own children! How can one forget this? It did not matter what hardships we had, I enjoyed every moment of my career although I am not too happy in the way it ended, but that’s a different story.

PP: What was going through your mind before that famous match-winning six against India at Sharjah in 1986?

JM: One has to understand that this particular game was not just about that last ball six. The fact that we even got to that stage where we had to score four off the last ball is more laudable in my view. If you check the records, you will see that I came into bat when there was really little hope. In those days, unlike in today’s world, a target like 249 to win was a massive challenge — it was almost unheard of to chase such targets. In fact, what I said to myself as I walked to bat was that ‘Look, stay at the wicket and let’s lose this game with dignity.’

Not only was the target a huge one but the problem was that we had lost 3 wickets for just 61 runs and throughout the innings we kept on losing wickets. The run-rate had climbed and as you can imagine, it’s easy to score 8-10 runs for a few overs but to do this for many overs is so difficult. I had to maintain that run-rate which I did by taking chances and playing some attacking shots, and then calmed down myself so that I did not lose my wicket.

I had the confidence in my own abilities to continue with this strategy. All this time, wickets were falling and the task was getting harder. Eventually with the Almighty’s help and the prayers of millions around the country and the world, I was able to help Pakistan win this match. I will also say that the famous six wasn’t just about winning that game, this shot gave hope to our future generations of cricketers to never give up to the last ball — this is something which is really important for me.

Dennis Lillee and Javed Miandad nearly had an altercation © Getty Images
Dennis Lillee and Javed Miandad nearly had an altercation © Getty Images

PP: Tell us a little about the incident involving Dennis Lillee how did it come about and do you still keep in touch with Lilliee?

JM: It was a heat of the moment incident. I was playing for my country and he was playing for his and these things can happen. The fact is that in those days, such incidents happened and died on the field. There was no need for match referees and fines to tell people to behave themselves as they knew their limits. Players would visit each other’s dressing rooms and be friends afterwards. This does not happen much nowadays and that is a pity. As for Dennis Lillee, both of us are good friends now and he always meets me with the greatest of respect which I really appreciate.

PP: Let’s talk about the 1992 World Cup triumph. Ahead of the tournament, did you believe that Pakistan would be returning home with the trophy?

JM: There wasn’t really much hope for me personally as I had been injured before the tournament and my participation was doubtful. The selectors for reasons best known to them, decided to ignore me from the fourteen players to be sent for the World Cup. This was extremely sad as they could have easily included me in the list ‘subject to fitness’ which other countries also did for their players. I was later made aware of the fact that only two days before the start of the World Cup did the ICC expect a final list of players so there was plenty of time to have allowed me to join the team but this was not done. The team actually left for Australia a month before start of the tournament and I was left in Pakistan.

To be honest, I was very upset in the way I had been left behind. Surely, they should have included me in the team subject to fitness but why didn’t they? What was the hurry to exclude me from the team? The Pakistan team was having a torrid time in the warm-up games as they were losing to weak sides. There was a lot of public pressure for me to be sent to Australia to help out even though I was in a lot of pain due to back problems.

The Board secretary Shahid Rafi kept on insisting to me that I should join the team in Australia as soon as possible. I was adamant that I will not travel to Australia as I was not happy with this type of attitude. I told them to give me a fitness test to show that I was fine and that no one was doing a favour to me by including me in the squad. I passed that fitness test and arrived in Australia a few days before the start of the tournament and somehow got myself into form in a few friendly games against South Africa and Sri Lanka, despite jetlag and a very tiring journey. Eventually I was included in the official team list and the tournament began.

My utility to the team is well known to everyone but the fact is that a player who can consistently score 50-60 runs is better than one who scores a century and then scores nothing for next 4 innings! This is no secret that I was the backbone of the Pakistani batting lineup — a fact that I am proud of to this day. At this point, I have to say that there had to be some divine help as people were praying for our success in all parts of the world — how else can one explain our progress in this tournament?

We all know that there was a time where our progress in the tournament depended on the outcome of another game between Australia and West Indies. I recall the whole team watching that game on television to see if we would be going home or not. Many of us were already wondering what kind of reception we would get at home when we arrived and what we would say to the people and the press if we were now knocked out!

We played out of our skins to get to the finals but you also to have to remember that most of our qualifying games were in the bigger grounds of Australia whereas other teams had the luxury of playing in the smaller fields in New Zealand where run scoring was easier. Despite that, I was able to score well throughout the World Cup. It was a struggle for me all the way and even in the final, I was playing the game with an upset tummy and literally threw my wicket away as I was feeling so unwell and weak. However, in the final analysis, our victory in that tournament was a gift from the Almighty to the people of Pakistan and we should all be thankful for that.

PP: There was talk that some of the players weren’t happy with Imran Khan’s speech at the MCG after the 1992 World Cup win. Can you shed some light on this? How is your relationship with Imran Khan?

JM: That was a very happy moment for all of us. As for Imran’s speech, look he had a mission in his life at that time. His mother’s suffering due to cancer had given him an aim in life and we all shared in that spirit. So, I had had no issues with that speech although there may have been others with some different views. It really doesn’t matter, as to this day, Imran and I have remained good friends.

PP: What can current players learn from the likes of Imran Khan or yourself to make them better cricketers? What are the key ingredients missing from today’s Pakistani batsmen?

JM: The most important thing that they should understand is the sheer honour of representing millions of Pakistanis in and outside the country. They need to stop thinking about being senior or junior and just think of making runs for Pakistan — that is the only difference between players and the only thing that makes them better than others.

They should look to improve themselves so that they don’t just score a hundred every few innings and then fail in all others. What good is that to any team? And above all they need to set goals for themselves. As for me, I had a goal in my mind that I will score more runs than Sunil Gavaskar. It didn’t matter if I achieved that goal or not but the fact is that I had that aim in mind and I strove towards that goal.

The fact is that most batsmen know how to bat — they can all play a defensive shot or a cover drive. What makes them unique is how they react to different situations on the field which change in every game we play. Nowadays, we also have players who complain about the pitch being difficult to play on but then how do they explain other batsmen scoring well on the same pitch?

In my time, I used to assess the situation I was batting in, and I used to make sure that the opponents did what I wanted them to do, rather than reacting to their tactics. I would play shots that would change the field or make the bowler change his line and length — this is what makes a batsman different and this is what is involved in making a complete cricketer. In short, there is no point having talent when it cannot be used for the benefit of the team.

PP: You had three stints as coach, how do you feel the coaching stints went? Did you have any issues with some of the players?

JM: As a coach, I prided myself on being able to identify and help remedy faults of players as they cannot always see their own problems. I introduced the whole idea of using a marble slab to help practice playing fast bowling. This is a technique that many people around the world are still using for their benefit. I am not sure many people know this but in the 1975 World Cup, I asked for a roller to be placed in the nets and the ball to be hit on that so I could practice playing balls that could come at me from odd angles from the likes of Thompson and Lillee! If you think about it — this is common sense. If you wish to be able to play a 100mph bowler then you must practice with the ball coming at you at 120mph or in a more difficult manner, so that when you do play that in match conditions, you are able to cope easily!

During my association with the Pakistan team, I was involved all day with the team. I would be gesturing at the players from the dressing room — just to provide as much guidance as possible. The reason I would be doing that is because I just couldn’t understand what the player was doing on the field — he would be playing against all logic and cricketing knowledge!

Apart from that, there were conspiracies against me and I left the coaching assignment but then the condition of the Pakistani team after that was there for all to see. There are people who think that you can coach players with a laptop in hand but can a laptop teach a bowler how to land six balls at the right place or for a batsman to understand the game situation and plan his innings accordingly?

You know very well that at the end of an ODI innings, the only way to take wickets is with a yorker or a full toss. You need a ball that will take out the stumps — that is the length you bowl at but which laptop will teach that? It appears to me that nowadays having a coaching qualification is enough to become a coach. How can a coach teach if he hasn’t played at the highest level himself?

Coaches are too busy teaching people to play properly but look at Viv Richards — he didn’t play according to any coaching manual but it would only be a problem if the ball ever went past him! Fact is that no one gives any value to practical experience of the coach. I could never subscribe to this theory and I say again that the state of Pakistan cricket is for all to see after my departure as coach.

PP: How important was it to for you to captain Pakistan? Were you treated fairly in this matter?

JM: Consider this — I had won a series in England in 1992 and then I was removed as captain for the series against the West Indies — why was that? My only question is that when I wasn’t the captain, the same people who removed me later were begging for me to be captain!

I never wanted to be captain and I told the Board that I only wanted to play cricket but they had insisted on me to become captain. I have always believed that a player should play for his country just for the honour of representing his nation and not because he wants to be captain. Out of eleven players, there can only be one captain and this has been my belief so captaincy is not what I chased after.

However, I do resent the way I was treated towards the end of my career — especially in the quarter-final between India and Pakistan in the 1996 World Cup. Wasim Akram was injured and I was the senior most player. I was sent into bat at No 6 and also not considered to be made captain for that match when it was necessary to have an experienced hand guiding the team. These are things that are now in the past and I have moved on but everyone knows the details and how people went behind my back to get me removed.

PP: Why is Pakistan cricket not producing Miandad’s and Inzamam-ul-Haq’s as let’s be honest after Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq the batting cupboard looks pretty bare?

JM: Where will such players come from? There is no grass-roots cricket in Pakistan. We don’t even have proper grounds. Our kids are playing on the road, streets and even roofs! There is virtually no college or school cricket played on proper grounds, which is where the players of tomorrow should come from.

Cricket is not an easy game to play, it needs years of training but apart from coaching, you also need proper surfaces to play on as well. In other countries of the world, the local government takes care of such facilities but in our country there is no such arrangement and as a consequence we are unable to produce enough quality players over time.

PP: The Roy Palmer incident and the Pakistan team being labelled cheats by some sections of the media when you were captain, were some of the incidents that took place during the 1992 tour of England. Talk us through these.

JM: Like I said before, I never took playing for Pakistan lightly and when players are playing with so much personal and patriotic pride, they will do what it takes to show their commitment. This is all that happened in the Palmer incident. I have no regrets about it. Being labelled cheats by certain media people did hurt but we didn’t care as we were playing for Pakistan.

On the subject of cheating, I would like to say that if I had my way, a person like Mohammad Aamer should have been banned for life and not for a few years. I hear that a small country like New Zealand is planning to have a law which could send match fixers to jail for up to seven years and in our country, such corrupt people are treated as heroes and appear on TV as if nothing happened! Aamer didn’t care for his country or his family and indulged in such acts and we think so highly of him that, is what really hurts me.

(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net. The above article is reproduced with permission from http://pakpassion.net/)