Moin Khan © Getty Images
Moin Khan © Getty Images

Moin Khan, born September 23, 1971, was a cheeky and chirpy character. He used to chatter non-stop behind the wickets, encouraging his bowlers. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at Pakistan’s “shabash” guy who could unsettle any bowling attack with his ingenious destructive skills with the bat.

Moin Khan was anything but popular among his opponents; he had that irritating ability to get under the skin of any opposition batsman through his incessant chirping and relentless sledging; he could ruin any captain’s plan through his unusual footwork and improvisation while batting (that included sweeps and slog-sweeps against pace); and though his glovework was inferior to Rashid Latif’s his batting was competent enough to earn him a slot in 69 Tests and 219 ODIs.

Moin was not a great wicketkeeper, and was not a batsman good enough to get into an international side based on a single skill; it was his combative nature, however, that set him apart from his contemporaries. He took up the baton of the street-fighter in the Pakistan from Javed Miandad and had managed to live up to the task in a quite competent manner.

The trademark shabash Saqi and shabash Mushy was almost a representation of Pakistan cricket, especially the spinners, when they bowled. If there was one person who kept the fatigued Pakistani bowlers going on at the end of long, tough days it was Moin.

With the bat Moin was not a great accumulator of runs. If anything his reputation was founded on rearguard actions and destructive slog-over onslaughts that made a mockery of strategies; when all seemed to be lost his captain looked to the little man from Rawalpindi, and more often than not he delivered.

Moin’s Test numbers read 2,741 runs at 28.55 with 4 hundreds, 128 catches, and 20 stumpings. Of Pakistani wicketkeepers he is placed only after Wasim Bari (201 catches and 27 stumpings) and Kamran Akmal (184 catches and 22 stumpings at the time of writing).

In the shorter version he had scored 3,266 runs at 23.00 with a strike rate of 81.30 with 214 catches, and 73 stumpings. He is way ahead of Rashid Latif (182 catches and 38 stumpings), the next man on the list among Pakistani wicketkeepers. Of all wicketkeepers he ranks only behind Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, Mark Boucher, and MS Dhoni.

Additionally, Moin ranks only behind Kamran in terms of runs in both Tests and ODIs.

Early days

Moin made his First-Class debut for Karachi against Pakistan International Airlines at Karachi; he managed 2 catches and a stumping and scored 10 and 5. He soon made it to Pakistan Under-19s and was made the captain in February 1990. He attracted the attention of the selectors with a 159 against Anil Kumble, Aashish Kapoor, and Ashish Winston Zaidi at the Wankhede Stadium. Two matches later he helped Karachi Whites to a thrilling one-wicket victory over Karachi Blues, scoring a match-defining 129.

On the tour to England next season for Pakistan Young Cricketers Moin slammed 114 not out at Headingley against a side consisting of Darren Gough and Dominic Cork in August 1990; he added 84 for the last wicket with Ata-ur-Rehman (who contributed 6), and also claimed 4 catches. As it often happens with cricketers from Pakistan, he made his Test debut against West Indies (no less) at Faisalabad later that year at the age of 19.

Test debut

Moin was drafted in for the second Test as a replacement of the underrated Saleem Yousuf, whose career had come to an end in the previous Test at Karachi. Coming out at 99 for 6 Moin kept out Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, and Ian Bishop, and scored a 43-ball 24 with 3 fours, helping Saleem Malik put up 47.

Used as a night-watchman in the second innings; this time he scored a 52-ball 32 with 4 fours and helped Malik add 89. Malik and Moin were the only Pakistanis to have scored over fifty runs in the Test. Carlisle Best and Gus Logie — both caught — became his first victims in Test cricket.

He failed with the bat in the next Test but claimed 3 catches and a stumping; his first stumping in Test cricket was Jeff Dujon, his West Indian counterpart.

The first glimpse of what was in store came in the Wills Trophy match against West Indies about a year later at Sharjah; he unsettled the rhythm of Ambrose and Bishop with a cheeky 14-ball 18, and then pouched 4 catches. With his innovative technique and improving work with the gloves Moin was suddenly the top wicketkeeper of the country.

Climbing heights at twenty

Picked for the 1992 World Cup he kept wickets well but did not really get a chance to bat throughout the tournament till the semifinal. There was still work to be done after Inzamam-ul-Haq had announced himself to the world with a 37-ball 60 against the all-conquering Kiwis. Moin, who walked out with 25 runs to be scored, hit 2 fours and a six, and settled the match with an over to spare with an 11-ball 20.

He did not get a chance to bat in the final but made up for it with 3 crucial catches — those of Ian Botham, Alec Stewart, and Neil Fairbrother; he became a member of a World Cup-winning side at an age of 20.

Contests with Latif and the Lahore blitz

Moin was mysteriously lost to Pakistan cricket after the subsequent England tour. The advent of Latif on the scenario did not help his cause. Moin played only sporadically before the home series against Pakistan in 1994-95. He was recalled for the third Test in Lahore when Latif had picked up an injury.

[Wicketkeeper trivia alert: Ian Healy had also picked up an injury and was replaced by Phil Emery in this Test. This was the only time between Healy’s debut and Adam Gilchrist’s retirement that someone else had kept wickets for Australia.]

Moin walked out to join Ijaz Ahmed with the score on 209 for 5; within moments it was evident that Moin was set out to control the partnership. With Ijaz taking a backseat, the duo added 85 in no time. Akram Raza fell for a duck, but Mushtaq Ahmed hung around for over an hour.

Moin, dropped on 51 and 73, raced to his maiden hundred, and eventually ran out of partners; he was left stranded on 115 from 185 balls; he had hit 13 fours and 3 sixes. Pakistan had scored 373.

The Sialkot effort

If there was one series that had triggered Sri Lanka’s run in the mid-1990s it was possibly their tour to Pakistan in 1995-96. They had lost by an innings in the first Test at Peshawar but had come back with a 42-run win at Faisalabad (Moin had scored 50 and 30).

Pakistan were set 357 on a lively Sialkot track, and before anyone could realise what was going on they were reduced to 15 for 5 by Pramodya Wickeremasinghe and Chaminda Vaas; Basit Ali (27), till then considered the best thing to happen to Pakistan batting since Miandad, helped Moin add 64; after that it was all Moin.

The last four partnerships yielded 29, 24, 15, and 55; the tail hung around, scoring 23 runs between themselves; Moin counterattacked, pulling off a 208-ball 117 not out with 13 fours and 2 sixes. It would not be the last time that there were suggestions to push him up the order.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan selectors ended up confusing everybody by dropping Moin from the World Cup squad of 1996. Just before he was dropped he helped unsettle West Indies with a ten-ball 27 not out with 3 sixes, and took a catch and 2 stumpings at Sharjah in 1995. Earlier the year he had even led Pakistan in 2 ODIs.

The Headingley counterattack

Pakistan did win the first Test of the 1996 England series at Lord’s; Moin made a return to the side replacing the injured Latif, and found himself out against Andy Caddick, Alan Mullally, and Cork at 266 for 6. As Asif Mujtaba put out the bowling with his grim determination Moin tore into the attack yet again.

The pair added 112 runs in quick time; and after Mujtaba’s departure Moin added 66 more with Mushtaq Ahmed before falling for a 191-ball 105 with 10 fours and a six. He scored a brisk 30 not out in the second innings; Pakistan won the series with the third Test at The Oval; suddenly Moin had found his way back to the side.

He was back in the ODI scheme of things as well. He showed what he was capable of in two Sahara cup cameos at Toronto towards the end of the year: he top-scored with a 67-ball 42 in the third ODI, and then slammed a 21-ball 33 in the fourth ODI to level the series.

Moin Khan took 214 catches and had 73 stumpings in ODIs © Getty Images
Moin Khan took 214 catches and had 73 stumpings in ODIs © Getty Images

The Colombo carnage

When Pakistan toured Sri Lanka in 1997 the hosts were already World champions, and a leading force in World Cricket, especially at home. At the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) Ground they threw up a challenge, posting 331 runs in the first innings. Sri Lanka, without Muttiah Muralitharan, had prepared a seaming track.

With Vaas and Sajeewa de Silva making the ball dart around Moin walked out at 147 for 5 and pulled off an outrageous 109-ball 98 with 9 fours and 3 sixes. Pakistan reached 292 and managed to save the Test.

Captain of Pakistan and the Eden Gardens turnaround

Moin got to lead Pakistan for the first time in a Test against Zimbabwe at Lahore in 1998-99. The Test had a complete day’s play called off due to fog; the last Test at Faisalabad was abandoned without a ball being bowled due to the same reason.

Pakistan toured India next, and after a series that was drawn 1-1 the sides met in a clash for the first match of the Asian Test Championship. With Javagal Srinath breathing fire and Venkatesh Prasad playing the perfect support act Pakistan were reduced to 26 for 6 in 9 overs.

Moin walked out to join Malik; the situation was not new to any of them. This time Eden Gardens saw a cautious Moin Khan, adapting to the seaming conditions, and blunting Kumble and Harbhajan Singh with his footwork. He added 84 with Malik and then 63 more with Wasim, and though Pakistan lost the last 3 wickets quickly they had managed to reach 185. Moin had scored a 207-ball 70 with 9 fours and a six.

After India acquired a 38-run lead the historic ground witnessed one of the epic tussles of all time between Srinath and Saeed Anwar. Pakistan set India a target of 279, Tendulkar was run out (somewhat controversially) by Nadeem Khan, and India collapsed to 232 after a 108-run opening stand.

The 1999 World Cup

The 1999 World Cup was the tournament where Moin turned out to be a nuisance to the bowlers all around the world, toying with their field placements and making their line and length go awry with his amazing improvisational skills.

The first blitz came against Australia at Headingley. The start was iffy, the innings was lost in the doldrums of the middle overs, and 250 looked a distant possibility; Moin came out and hit the Australians all over the ground with his signature strokes.

For once Glenn McGrath had looked clueless. The 12-ball 31 not out was special. What made it even more special was the fact that the innings was the reason that Pakistan had managed a ten-run victory.

He was not done, though. Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock were sorry that they had crossed his path at Trent Bridge a few days later. Once again runs came in a canter; Moin scored a 56-ball 63 with some amazing strokeplay to lift Pakistan to 220 for 7.

Moin finished the World Cup with 242 runs at 34.57 — but, more importantly — at a strike rate of 110.50. His later-order strokeplay was one of the reasons that Pakistan had managed to reach the final.

Captain of Pakistan

Moin was appointed full-time captain of Pakistan in early 2000. He immediately responded with a 70 against Sri Lanka at Karachi, leading Pakistan to a 222-run win. He also helped Pakistan clinch the Asia Cup in Dhaka later that year.

Moin began with a typical 47-ball 46 against India, but really came into his elements against Sri Lanka in the final. Moin walked out with the score on 173 for 4 after 39.5 overs; he outscored Inzamam-ul-Haq in an unbeaten 104-run partnership, scoring a 31-ball 56 not out.

Moin lost the home Test series under England but managed to take a 1-0 lead in New Zealand after 2 Tests in 2001. He pulled out of the last Test at Hamilton; Inzamam led, Humayun Farhat kept wickets, and New Zealand won by an innings. In another bizarre decision Moin was dropped from both the Test and ODI sides altogether for two-and-a-half years.

Moin Khan during his 137 at Hamilton in 2003-04 © Getty Images
Moin Khan during his 137 at Hamilton in 2003-04 © Getty Images

The comeback and the Hamilton epic

Moin came back in the home series against South Africa in 2003-04 but did little of notice. In the Hamilton Test that followed, however, Moin played one of his finest innings.

New Zealand had accumulated 563, and Pakistan were reduced to 285 for 6 with the dark shadows of a follow-on looming. Moin then came into his elements; Mohammad Sami hung around for 116 balls, and the pair added 152 in 173 minutes. Moin was eventually out for a 174-ball 137 with 20 fours and 2 sixes. New Zealand led by only 100 and the Test was saved. Pakistan won the next Test at Wellington to clinch the series.

Final days

He played only 2 more Tests — against India at Multan and against Sri Lanka at Faisalabad, but neither with a lot of success. He continued to play ODIs for a few more months, but eventually lost his position in the side as a batsman-wicketkeeper to Kamran Akmal.

Back to domestic cricket Moin scored the first domestic Twenty20 hundred for Pakistan. Playing for Karachi Dolphins against Lahore Lions. Moin walked out at 3 and raced to a 59-ball 112 with 8 fours and 6 sixes.

His last First-Class match was for Karachi Harbour against Hyderabad at Hyderabad. After the hosts were bowled out for 72 Moin scored 200 not out in 211 balls with 17 fours and 10 sixes. The runs were scored out of 310 runs scored during his stay at the crease.

Post-retirement

Not being blessed with the happiest of married lives Moin was arrested in January 2007 for beating up his wife Tasneem. He was released subsequently.

He coached the Hyderabad Heroes in the 2007 ICL and coached Lahore Badshahs the next season. A couple of months back Moin replaced Iqbal Qasim as the Chief Selector for the Pakistan cricket team.

Random trivia: When Akbar, coach of “MCC” in Main Hoon Shahid Afridi goes on a wicketkeeper hunting, he comes across a man called Michael Magnet (isn’t that cool?). Akbar throws a ball at Magnet: the question that goes on his mind is whether Magnet will turn out to be a Moin or an Akmal.

In Photos: Cricketing career of Moin Khan

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)