Born December 1, 1948, Sarfraz Nawaz Malik is a former Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician who played 55 Tests and 45 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for his country between 1969 and 1984. A big, burly, aggressive fast bowler, Sarfraz took up professional cricket quite late in life. Remembered as the first to master the art of reverse swing, Nawaz was instrumental in Pakistan’s first Test series victories over India and England. After retiring from cricket for good, he has acted as a Member of the Parliament, an outspoken cricket commentator, and a crusader against match-fixing. On his birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar takes a look at 22 interesting facts from the life of the cricketer-turned-politician.

1. Early days

Born and raised in Mozang, Lahore, Sarfraz did his matriculation from a public school in Mozang in 1962. Though he wasn t exactly a bright student, he managed to secure second division marks. This can be considered a good performance considering most of Pakistan s sportsmen have passed their matriculation in third division. His father, Malik Muhammad Nawaz, was a contractor and owned a construction company.

2. Family business

For Sarfraz, getting into the family business was natural progression. He started his career as a contractor for the family s construction company in 1965. His first construction project was building a cricket stadium for Government College University in Lahore. However, he had to abandon it because of the India-Pakistan war in 1965. As a result, his company suffered huge losses, but personally for him and for Pakistan cricket it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

3. A chance encounter

As work on construction of the cricket stadium came to an abrupt halt, some boys began playing cricket there. Sarfraz, in charge of the project, went to speak to the boys to try and convince them to abandon it. But instead, they introduced him to the game. The boys included the likes of Aftab Gul, Waseem Raja, Saleem Altaf, Shafiq Ahmed and Naeem Altaf; all of whom, except Naeem, went on to play for Pakistan.

4. Mozang Link Cricket Club and Government College

After developing an interest in the game, Sarfraz joined the Mozang Link Cricket Club. His exploits on the local cricket circuit soon got him into the Government College, where he made it to the college team as well. The Government College team had a number of future Test cricketers; Wasim Raja, Talat Ali, Shafiq Ahmed, and others. His game really flourished there and he even got the honour of captaining both the Government College and Punjab University sides, for which he was chosen after playing only a handful of matches.

5. Mentor

Abdul Rab, who coached at Friends Cricket Club in Lahore, was Sarfraz s first mentor. Later Iqbal Butt, the director of sports at Punjab University, encouraged him a lot and took pains to provide the University team with the best of facilities.

6. First-Class debut

Sarfraz made his First-Class debut in 1967 and from there on there was no looking back for him. In the next season, he was a member of the Lahore side which dethroned Karachi from the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy for the first time in nine years.

7. Northants call-up before Test debut

In the year 1968-69, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) team was on a tour to Pakistan and the then-Northamptonshire captain Roger Prideaux was a member of that team. Sarfraz was a net bowler and he bowled at Prideaux in the practice nets in Lahore before the first game. Impressed by his performance, Prideaux reportedly told him, “Sarfraz, you can swing the ball either way almost at will” and offered Sarfraz a contract to play for Northamptonshire even before he had made his Test debut. This was revealed by Sarfraz in an interview with ESPNCricinfo years later.

He had a great time with the English County side. In the year 1970, he played regularly for Northants in the County Championship and took about 60 wickets. During his tenure with the side (1969-82), they achieved unprecedented success, with the best season being 1976, when they won the Gillette Cup for the first time and also finished second in the County Championship. In 1980, when the team won the Benson & Hedges Cup for the first time, Sarfraz had the best figures for his team in the final: 3 for 23 in 11 overs.

8. Test debut

After playing just five First-Class games, Sarfraz made his Test debut against England in the third match of the 1968-69 series. He bowled 34 wicket-less overs in the match which was called-off after only two days play was possible.

9. Swing and reverse swing

Once in an interview with ESPNCricinfo, Sarfraz shared that he learnt to swing the ball through trial and error. During his early days, he mainly bowled in-cutters. It was only on a friend’s suggestion that he started keeping the shine only on one side and was able to move the ball in either direction.

Sarfraz discovered reverse swing by bowling with balls of all conditions: new, semi-new and old. One day I shone one side of a very old ball and it swung. It was rough on both sides but I shone one side and it swung towards the shine it should not have done this. According to cricket journalist Peter Oborne, in that Eureka moment, reverse swing was born. Sarfraz refined the new technique at the Mozang Link Cricket Club in Lahore.

In 1974, Pakistan toured England and immediately after that, the team had a few unofficial friendly matches in the West Indies. By this time, Sarfraz had realised that Imran Khan would be his regular partner in the Pakistan team. It was only then that he shared his knowledge of reverse swing bowling with Imran, who turned out to be a very good learner and proponent of the art. Imran later passed on the legacy of reverse swing to Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, who, with their deadly pace, went on to become greater exponents of the art.

10. Anecdote I

Australia pace-great Jeff Thomson and Sarfraz shared quite a rivalry. Once in 1975, when Sarfraz was playing for the Northants against the touring Australians in England, Thomson was hurling bouncers at him. Those were non-helmet days and it was considered unfair to bowl bouncers at tailenders. An angry Sarfraz shouted at Thomson saying, “There is a grave vacant at the local cemetery.” When Australia batted, Sarfraz took his revenge by dismissing Thomson off a bouncer.

11. Anecdote II

By the time Pakistan toured the West Indies in 1976-77, Sarfraz was a senior player in the side with eight years of international experience behind him. There were a few youngsters in the side like Javed Miandad and Haroon Rasheed, for whom this was the first tour to the Caribbean Islands, and travelling abroad was still a new experience. Once on that tour at a dinner, the menu showed “Mountain Chicken” as one of the items. Sarfraz had been there before and knew what it was. Miandad and Rasheed ordered it, thinking it was chicken, while Sarfraz ordered something else. When they were finished, Sarfraz asked the boys, “Do you know what you have just eaten is a frog?” They thought he was joking and asked the waiter, who confirmed it was a big frog of the Caribbean; that made them feel nauseous.

12. Part of the invincible Pakistani team

Sarfraz was a part of the Pakistan team for the 1974 tour of England, which was the most memorable one for the team, as they didn’t lose a single match on the tour and thus became only the second side to do so (Don Bradman s invincible Australians from 1948 were the others).

13. Christmas disappearance

Consistent performances in the West Indies and Australia elevated Sarfraz to the post of vice-captain to Wasim Bari in 1977-78 against England. However, protesting against pay, he disappeared before the second Test. It was the period of Kerry Packer s World Series Cricket, and speculations were rife about his recruitment by the rebel group. But soon Sarfraz was discovered in London, where he had flown to enjoy Christmas even as the English team was playing in Pakistan. He returned in time for the third Test. Though he was the vice-captain then, by his own admission, he was never interested in captaincy.

14. Best performance

Sarfraz s best performance came during the first Test of 1978-79 series in Melbourne, where he ran through the Australian batting order with a spell of 7 for 1, dismissing them for 310 and winning the match for his team out of nowhere. The Aussies were cruising at 3 for 305 in pursuit of 382. That is when Sarfraz told his captain Mushtaq Mohammad that they should try to waste time. As planned, Sarfraz went back to his normal longer run-up to slow things down before the start of the mandatory overs. This disturbed Australia s momentum as he soon cleaned up the set batsman Allan Border for 105, thus starting the collapse. The old ball was swinging and the new batsmen couldn’t cope with that. He ended with the innings-figures of 9 for 86 and won the game for his country by 71 runs.

15. Handling-the-ball controversy

In the next Test at Perth, Sarfraz was involved in a controversy, when he got Andrew Hilditch dismissed handled the ball. The incident happened when Hilditch picked up a wayward throw that had dribbled onto the pitch and handed the ball back helpfully to Sarfraz, who promptly appealed successfully for `handled the ball.’ Hilditch was given out and thus became the only non-striker to have been given that decision.

16. Anecdote III

Sarfraz has always been vocal about the menace of match-fixing in cricket. As a matter of fact, he was the first person to testify before the Justice Qayyum commission in Pakistan for match-fixing. His crusade against fixing and betting in cricket once put him in an ugly situation. In September 2010, while having a stroll in an Islamabad park, Sarfraz was confronted by a few armed men, who threatened him with dire consequences if he didn’t stop talking about gamblers in cricket. He got a First Information Report (FIR) registered at the local police station.

17. Match-fixing allegations on Sunil Gavaskar

Sarfraz was one of the first to raise questions about match-fixing. When Pakistan toured India in 1979-80, Sarfraz was omitted from the side, allegedly due to his differences with skipper Asif Iqbal. Years later, he claimed that Asif and Sunil Gavaskar were involved in fixing matches in that series. His allegation came in the wake of playing the Bombay (now Mumbai) Test of that series on a wet wicket. It led Gavaskar to counter, I dare say this man s reflection in the mirror will never believe what he s telling. It s all very well to make allegations against different players without producing a shred of proof. Pity we have to talk to the scum of the earth on television. And I don t care if I sound strong but some people need to be talked about in such language.

When Bob Woolmer was found dead in Jamaica, Sarfraz Nawaz was quick to suggest that he was murdered, even before the post-mortem, linking it to corruption in cricket. He also claimed Woolmer and Inzamam-Ul-Haq were getting threats from bookies without naming his sources, and that the match Pakistan lost against West Indies in the 2007 World Cup was fixed. Later Sarfraz insisted that Woolmer’s death in a Kingston hotel on March 18, 2007 was linked to match fixing and extended his help to track the gang of bookies. The investigating team of Scotland Yard later declared that no foul play was involved in Woolmer’s death, rejecting Sarfraz’s allegations and vindicating the Pakistani team.

18. Politics

In 1985, Sarfraz joined politics and was elected to the parliament from his home constituency in Lahore, a seat he served for three years. Those elections were non-party. Later, he joined the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) and contested the 1988 elections. He was declared successful, but on a recount, the result was reversed and he lost by about 400 votes. Later, in 2011, he joined the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party.

During the two governments of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Sarfraz served as the federal advisor on sports. He tried to resolve conflicts within various national sports federations through out-of-court settlements and was mostly successful. One of his significant achievements was when he stopped the practice of sending joy riders with the touring national teams.

19. Multiple retirements

Sarfraz announced his retirement from cricket on multiple occasions but came out of it every time before finally retiring in 1984. He can be credited with starting the often-repeated Pakistani tradition of retiring multiple times. Shahid Afridi is perhaps the best-known ‘oft-retirerer.’

20. Coaching

Post-retirement, Sarfraz has worked as a fast-bowling consultant at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore and helped unearth talents like Shoaib Akhtar, Azhar Mahmood, Shabbir Ahmed, and Abdul Razzaq. In 2006, Sarfraz conducted a week-long fast bowling clinic for Delhi s bowlers ahead of the Ranji Trophy season.

21. Personal life

Sarfraz married one of the subcontinent s famous actors Rani, who was also from Mozang, in 1982. She had cancer when they got married and Sarfraz knew it. She died in 1992 after spending nearly a decade with him.

22. Movie offer

Sarfraz was first offered a role in a movie when he was in England in 1974, but he declined since acting was not his forte. Then in the late ’70s, his friend Younis Malik, the famous Pakistani film director, offered him and his actress wife Rani lead roles in his film. He again said no, and Rani had pledged to do no new movies after their wedding.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricLife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)