Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Foreword: Cricket Fever

By Mushtaq Mohammad

Playing cricket itself offers enormous pleasure but there is something special about Indo-Pak matches. Unfortunately there have been deadlocks denying regular cricket between the two countries.

Not surprisingly the administrators of the game have pushed for too many contests whenever the relations between the two neighbhours have improved leading to the loss of interest among the masses.

Ideally the Indo-Pak tours should be planned on the pattern of ‘The Ashes’ series between Australia and England. There should be a series only after two years. Now when Pakistan has toured India in 2007-08, the Indians should be invited to visit Pakistan in 2009-10 and Pakistan should go there again in 2011-12.

This is probably the best way to retain the charm that’s associated with the series between the two traditional rivals. I do understand that factors other than cricket are also involved and it may not always be possible to have the tours possible as planned but it’s worth making an effort in this direction.

I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of the Indo-Pak Test series more than once. In fact I was the only surviving member of the 1960-61 series to have played the 1978-79 series when the ties were finally restored after 18 long years.

A lot had changed in the interim period. I was just a ‘kid’ while touring India in 1960-61 trying to find a permanent place in the team. By the time the next series against India took off, I had matured into one of the elder statesmen in the side.

I had been leading the Pakistan team since 1976-77 and I was recognized as a successful captain, having won Test matches against the strong outfits of Australia and the West Indies in their own backyard.

But I had not played a Test match for more than a year and a half when the Indians, captained by my Northamptonshire colleague, Bishan Singh Bedi, reached Pakistan for the landmark series in the winter of 1978.

I was reinstalled as the Pakistan captain only after government intervention. The Kerry Packer issue and its political connotations had made me to sit out of the home and away series against England.

It was only because of the team having fared poorly in the absence of the Packer-contracted players that we were recalled. The issue was debated by the public and the media. Ultimately the government advised the Cricket Board to include all the Packer players for the series against India.

In fact I was preparing to play again in the Packer series when I received the call to play for Pakistan and lead the team in the series against India and what a fascinating series it turned out to be.

We accomplished the mission of taming the Indians, who were quite strong on paper. They had a formidable batting line-up to back up their famed spin quartet. They also had in their folds a promising young fast bowler by the name of Kapil Dev.

We also possessed a very powerful team but we knew we had to stay positive all along in order to extract results. We were a lot more aggressive than the Indians in our tactics in that particular series.

We bullied India in the same way that the Aussies had bullied us. The Indians were very mild. When they appealed against us they also appeared apologetic while asking the umpire the question but our appealing was hostile and aggressive.

Both the Test matches that we won, after drawing the first one, had an exciting finish. On both occasions we had to beat the clock. Our aggressive all-round cricket helped us overcome the Indian challenge. They went down fighting. It was Test cricket at its best.

Syed Khalid Mahmood has done the game of cricket a favour by producing this beautifully written book on Indo-Pak cricket tours. I know that the cricket followers all over the world look forward to such literature. Cricket Fever should be a welcome addition to their collection.

***For further details about Cricket Fever please write to jumbopublishing@yahoo.com or call Asad Raza at 0333-2304024

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