Hanif Mohammad - His Defence was Impenetrable
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

Towards the end of last year, Hanif Mohammed, Pakistan Test cricket's sheet anchor of the fifties and sixties, published his autobiography Playing for Pakistan.

his coincided with the turn of the century and provided an opportunity to assess his contribution to national and international Test cricket.

Hanif hit 55 first class centuries, which include 12 Test centuries in a career from 1952-53 to 1971-72. His innings of 337 runs, the longest ever Test innings, is Pakistan's pride. But its significance is not generally realised. Of the 15 triple Test cen¬turies scored in the 122 year history of Test cricket since March, 1877, it is the only one to have been achieved by a batsman whose team was following on. Thus, it is one of its kind. The West Indies, playing at Bridgetown, declared at 579 for 9, skittled Pakistan out for 106, and enforced the follow-on. Pakistan had to wipe off the deficit and, more important, play out the remaining three and a half days in the six-day Test if they wanted to avoid defeat. With Hanifs unrivalled rearguard action, Pakistan did both. His share, 337 runs was 51 per cent of 657 runs, the team total.

In addition, Hanifs feat is unique in history because no other batsman has scored three hundred or more in his team's second innings.

Hanifs partnerships in this innings, too, are unsurpassed in three ways: one, sharing over a hundred runs each with four team mates; two, these being consecutive, and three, they relate to the first four wickets. Except him, no batsman has made more than half of his team's score when it exceeded 650 runs.

Armed with this analysis of his immortal innings, this writer went to interview this great player.

Hanif is polite, soft-spoken, smiles mildly, and if he ever laughs aloud, this scribe has not seen him do it.

He is not given to demonstrating emotion. Perhaps inside he is steel, which wouldn't be surprising, considering the opposition he has faced on the field. 

Hanif held the record for the second highest score, 499 runs, in a first class match for many many years. Some hold that Bahawalpur's was a weak bowling attack. But that is unfair. The same bowlers got four of Hanifs Test team mates out in the same match inexpensively, namely, s Alimuddin (32), Waqar Hasan (37), . Wazir Mohammed (31) and Mushtaq Mohammed (21). And Hanif had till then hit 21 first class centuries, including 337 the year before. Nobody grudges Sir Garfield Sobers his 365, even though Pakistan's attack was depleted. Similarly, has any one analysed Brian Lara's opposition when he hit 501?

Hanif owes his 499 (now Pakistan's highest record) to his guardian angel.

"When I surpassed my earlier highest score of 230 made on a home ground in 1954-55 against Sindh for Karachi, Wazir bhai, our 'Wisden' for his knowledge of records and rules, told me I must go for Bradman's record. I didn't know what the record was. When he told me, I said, 'But that is more than 200 runs more!" But Wazir bhai said must. So I did.

Hanif regrets not playing against South Africa. "They were a strong team. But he did play with and against some of them as a member of the Rest of the World Eleven in the mid-sixties. He recalls Shaun Pollock's uncle and father Graeme Pollock and Peter Pollock.

Hanif has played with and against, watched and admired many players. Among the all-rounders he mentions Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee and lan Botham, but places Gary Sobers above all. "Sobers was five in one: a superb batsman, a medium pace bowler, a slow spinner, an excellent close-in fielder and a dynamic captain."

The bowler Hanif found difficult to play was Subhash Gupte, the Indian leg-spinner. "His flippers came in whistling much faster than his ordinary deliveries. He could confuse batsmen." Another Indian, Desai, "got me four times in one series". Roy Gilchrist of the West Indies "was menacing with his scorchers".

Vinoo Mankad, the finest Indian all-rounder before Kapil Dev, "single-handedly won the first 1952 Delhi Test against us with his unplayable — 13 for 131 — slow left arm bowling." Sunil Gavaskar, a compact, neat and balanced batsman scored 20 tons in his first 50 Tests' Kapil Dev, independent India's fastest bowler to date, and explosive batsman, was a capable leader. Azharuddin is a daring cricketer attacking batsman, and a hugely successful captain. He scored three consecutive centuries upon debut, a feat never achieved before. "Tendulkar will break Gavaskar's record of 34 Test centuries", predicts Hanif. "He is technically sound."

Htnif places Lala Amarnath higher than all Indian captains, "He was shrewd, tactical and had an aura that lifted his team." As for ours, "Kardar was the best captain. He knew how to control, manage and motivate his players; he was shrewd,  perceptive, and could appraise the comparative worth of his own and the opposite team."

After several ineffective captains, came Mushtaq. He could assess the game at all stages, decided boldly, and led by example. Javed Miandad was an excellent batsman, showed an intuitive understanding of the game, was competitive in the field, but called it a day somewhat early. Imran, of course, was a superb all-rounder, Pakistan's best, and a most effective captain, lead-ing from the front."

Richie Benaud was a master tactician and a fine all-rounder. Others that Hanif admires are Mike Brearley, Bobby Simpson, Allan Border and Mark Taylor. "Pakistan has produced many outstanding performers," says Hanif.

"The lion-hearted Fazal Mahmood. He was the best in his time. Even Len Hitton couldn't succeed against him. He is the only bowler who have captured 12 or more wicket- against four teams."

Nazar Muhammed was attractive and bold. "He kept encouraging me, then only a school boy, in 1952 in India." Waqar Hasan was Pakistan's most stylish batsman and Aleemuddin was a decent human being, apart from being a fine opener."

Zaheer Abbas, Hanif'says, was a run machine. He played some memorable innings, especially his first double hundred, 274, in England. Asif Iqbal was one of Pakistan's first all-rounders. He earned the title of 'the man of crisis' because he could take charge of any situation. A delightful batsman, a useful swing bowler, an electrifying fielder, a superb runner between the wickets.

Little Master rates Wasim Bari as one of the world's best wicketkeepers. Abdul Qadir has been the best spinner of the era, said Hanif. He bowled leg spin, flippers and googlies in a swift movement. Unluckily, he was sidelined in his prime. According to Hanif, Salim Malik is technically the most correct Pakistani batsman. "He has perfect timing."

Wasim and Waqar remind Hanif of Lillee and Thomson bowling in tandem.

"Wasim surpasses all other left hand fast bowlers who have ever played the game," Says Hanif, and of Waqar: "his reverse swing can be unplayable." Saqlain Mushtaq is an effective off-spinner: "he reminds me of Laker and Lock in their prime."

Hanif regrets the injustice done to him and his son. It is common knowledge that he was told to resign or else... "But was Shoaib's career blocked because he was my son? Did politics or professional jealousy have to become dynastic? Shoaib's batting averages have been better than all us Mohammed brothers," he says. Hanif claims that being short-statured has its own advantages; one can hook, pull or play the ball square with greater ease. "But taller players such as Zaheer Abbas can drive more fluently, though they need to duck more often then the shorter guys to avoid vicious bouncers."

Left-handed batsman affect the line and length of bowlers, But with more and more left-handed players coming up, perhaps things are levelling out.
bwd  Set 1/2  fwd

In Hanif's heyday, batsmen had no head gear, or chest and elbow protection. "We relied on our bat," he says. One can only guess how Hanif might have done in one-day internationals. Could he have found the going difficult in limited over matches? But expert opinion has it that he had shots to match each ball. And he never ducked bouncers. In England, during his Captain's innings of 187, which he thinks is the best he ever played, Brian Statham tried to intimidate him, and saw both of his bouncers immediately hooked for sixes.

Hanif treated all deliveries on merit. Of course, the best of batsmen have off-colour days. Even the great Bradman was bowled for a duck, and by a bowler known only for that chance feat. Hanif s brief was always to tie one end up, and he thus had to curb his natural instinct for shots. After Nazar Muhammad's unfortunate departure from Pakistan's Test side after just one series, this became all the more necessary. "With Nazar I felt there was some body to support and guide me. He was my best partner."

Hanif was coached by one Master Aziz at Sindh Madressah. He thinks boys should be caught young, prefer¬ably from eight to ten years onwards. After the age of 14 or 15, it is difficult to change their style and approach as their game is set.

Reverting to his favourite innings, 187 against England, Hanif says that the 337 innings was not his style.

"I was required to stay at the crease for the duration. My style was determined by team objectives." And achieving the team objective has largely been the factor that determined the pattern of his 'batting career while playing for Pakistan.

Finally, Hanif asserts that he batted for 999 minutes at Bridgetown for 337 runs, Wisden (970 minutes) notwithstanding. Hanif has the gramophone record from the local broadcasting company of the radio commentator's words to prove it.


Major teams Pakistan, Bahawalpur, Karachi, Pakistan International Airlines

Batting style Right-hand bat

Bowling style Right-arm offbreak

Fielding position Wicketkeeper

Batting and fielding averages

Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 6s Ct St
Tests 55 97 8 3915 337 43.98 12 15 2 40 0
First-class 238 370 44 17059 499 52.32 55 66   178 12
Bowling averages

Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
Tests 55 13 206 95 1 1/1 1/1 95.00 2.76 206.0 0 0 0
First-class 238   2766 1510 53 3/4   28.49 3.27 52.1   0



by Sikandar Sarwar