Wasim Bari - Winning Streak
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

AS I ENTER HIS OFFICE, I see a busy Wasim Bari issuing instructions on the phone. He is General Manager, Passenger Sales for Pakistan International Airlines. Back from a stint in Tokyo as in charge of the Japanese and Korean sectors, Bari is imbued with oriental charm.

A brush with the Far East has indeed left its mark on him. As he offers me his visiting card, he stands up to do so, bows from the waist, holds the card in both hands, with extended arms, and bows again after relin-quishing the card to my care.

A general consensus of opinion is that Wasim Bari opted for retirement before his time, that he, who had been Pakistan's ace wicket-keeper for seventeen years, was in great form when he chose to call it a day in 1984. I ask him to shed light.

"I decided to bid the game goodbye ; because I felt that I had achieved my objective," he says.

"In 1984, I was the third most successful wicket-keeper among my contemporaries as far as the number of victims, caught, stumped or run out by me — w . That was the greatest achievement by any wick¬et-keeper from the subcontinent. I held the record of the highest number of dismissals in a Test innings — seven — which was later equalled by two other wicket-keepers. Many of my colleagues were retiring, and I had myself been at it for a long period at the Test level. I felt that ought to go while the going was good. I also thought it was time for new people to come in. I considered my options for and against continuing. It was a decision that I arrived at rationally," says Bari in his 'outright  and well-enunciated manner.

Born on 23rd March, 1948 in Karachi belongs from a family of businessmen. "My grandfather a businessman from Ludhiana, had set up a carpet business on Elphinstine street some fifteen years before 1947, and the family lived in Karachi and Ludhiana. His father was educated in Ludhiana where he went to the same college as Sahir Ludhianvi, the popular Urdu poet among the young on both sides of the border. Wasim studied at Karachi Cantonment Public School, and graduated from St. Patrick's College in 1967. He is married and has a son and a daughter.

His first exposure to international cricket came in 1965, before he was selected for the national side, for an unofficial Test' match in Sri Lanka (before it was granted Test status) captained by Hanif Mohammad. "I did not need to bat. We wrapped up the match before that, but I accounted for three victims behind the stumps."

About his short stint as the captain of Pakistan Test team, he agrees wholeheartedly,

"Of course it was! I had accepted captaincy reluctantly because some of my closest friends, Pakistan's experienced and renowned players, had gone to Kerry Packer, the Australian tycoon, who founded his own World Series Cricket for Channel Nine. I was glad when we were together again and Mushtaq Mohammad was appointed captain."


But in the meantime Bari had to lead a much weakened Pakistan Test team in six Tests against England at home in December 1977 to January 1978 and in England in June-July 1978. Given the odds, Bari led the team commendably during a rough patch for Pakistani cricket.

Undoubtedly Wasim Bari has been the most outstand¬ing wicket-keeper to have played for Pakistan so far.

His innings lasted from 1967 to 1984. The first Asian to claim 200 dismissals behind the wicket, he shares the world Test record of seven catches against New Zealand at Auckland on 23rd February 1979. This record has been equalled twice since then, by Bob Taylor, the English wicket-keeper the following February, and by lan Smith for New Zealand against Sri Lanka on 23-24 February in 1991. His total tally is 228, including 27 victims, and the closest in Asia so far has been Syed Kirmani, Bari's Indian counterpart, with 198 victims. Wasim Bari is only one of sixteen wicket-keepers in the annals of cricket history, and only one of four in Asia to have completed the wicket-keeper's career double of a thousand runs and 100 dismissals.

Bari retired after the tour of Australia that followed the World Cup of 1983. His performance record is enviable, and the precedent set by him is difficult for future aspirants of the game. He has played in 81 Test matches against England, Australia, West Indies, New Zealand and India. Of his 228 victims, 66 were Australians followed by 55 Indians and 54 from England. One day internationals began in 1972-73. Wasim played in 51 matches and accounted for 62 players declared out, 51 of them catches. He was captain in five, won the Lahore Test and lost two each in Pakistan and England in 1977-78.    He also shares the highest number of dismissals in one day internationals — four against New Zealand at Birmingham in 1983. — with Zulqarnain and Salim Yousuf, the other two Pakistani wicket-keepers to have achieved the same mark. At nineteen, Bari went to England and played his first official Test at Lord's. It was also his Test debut. "I remember this Test for several reasons. Ken Barrington and Tom Graveney put up a record partnership against Pakistan in the first innings. But I caught Barrington off Asif Iqbal, my first Test victim. Graveney was bowled by Salim Altaf, the other Pakistani who was also playing his first Test. Hanif Mohammad remained not out with 187 runs, till then a record highest score by a Pakistani captain against any country. This record stood for many years. I scored 13 runs, caught two and stumped one English batsmen. The details of this test have remained with me perhaps because it was part of my initiation rites. But ask me about other Tests and I might not be able to oblige."

Bari may not have been forthcoming about his achievements, but the record books tell that on more than one occasion he saved Pakistani batting from a complete collapse, which is rather odd, for otherwise his batting record is not awesome. In 112 Test innings, including 26 not outs, he scored 1366 runs at an average of a mere 15.88 runs. But when the going was tough, Bari got tough.   

Against England, in the third Test match at Leeds in July 1973, he scored 63 runs, coming in at six down after Pakistan's middle batting order had collapsed. Against Australia in December of the same year at the Adelaide Oval, Bari scored 72 although he came seven down. With Intikhab Alam, Bari established a 104-runs Pakistan record for the seventh wicket against Australia. To appreciate Bari's effort, it may please be noted, that top five Pakistani batsmen had gone for 11, 7, 7, 11 and 3 runs against an attack led by Dennis Lillee, Massie and Mallet. The last mentioned dismissed eight Pakistanis in the sec¬ond innings. Bari helped create still another batting record against the West Indian pace attack of Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown. After Sadiq (9), Mushtaq (6), Asif Iqbal (0), -i Javed Miandad (1), Imran (1), Salim Altaf (2) and Sarfraz Nawaz (6) had been dismissed, Bari, coming in to bat last, and finding Pakistan's back to the wall, scored 60 not out. This was superb batting under pressure, and shows Bari's irre-pressible temperament. With Raja, the other Wasim in the team, they established a world record 10th wicket Test partner ship of 113 runs for all Tests. Bari's highest Test came against India in the last week of October, 1978 in Lahore when he came one down as night watchman and stayed to score 85 runs before he was caught by his Indian coun¬terpart, Syed Kirmani, off Bishen Singh Bedi.

As a school kid Bari played in the inter-school tournament. "It was there that the Karachi Whites player Wazir Mohammad, Hanif's elder brother, saw me keeping wickets. He asked  me to come for the Karachi trials. So instead of the inter-board matches, I got a short Cut to playing for Karachi. Wazir land Waqar Hassan, the Karachi Whites captain, both told me that I was the best among those in contention for the wicket-keeper's slot in Karachi teams, which were clearly the strongest teams in the country. I was chosen from among twelve candidates. If one was selected at the Karachi district level, one could be certain of eventually playing for the national side. In the first class match of my career, I broke several records, claiming nine victims in the match played at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore."


As Chief Selector, Bari wants the captain and the coach to be named, for in his opinion it is they who have to play and win matches. The captain's opinion in the selection process is essential in his view. He must be fallowed a role in choosing players. As for himself, the captain must lead by example. His own performance has to be above par. He must also be willing to play to win because that is what it is all about. The captain's experi-ience, his knowledge of the game, his fair and honest dealing with the players will go a long way in building up the team's morale and cohesiveness.

"The team itself has to be the best that we can muster.  We have to look at the kind of opposition we are likely to face, the wickets we will play on. Remember, our performance will be watched closely. There is the press. They  will analyze. There is the electronic media. They will go over everything, in slow motion if necessary. Our perfor¬mance will be under the microscope. Out there it is very competitive. We will need to maintain high standards," elucidates Bari.

Competitiveness can be taken to extremes. The exces¬sive appealing, sledging, and even abuse. I ask him how he would advise our players to deal with the trend. "With good sense, better performance," he is quick to respond. "As to sledging, I remember Rodney Marsh making clucking sounds like a hen, and the crowds shouting 'kill, kill.' But we worked our way round this by dint of our performances. We tried not to let such tactics mar our style," says Bari, who had seen it all, specially with Mushtaq Mohammad as captain and Col. Shujauddin as Manager in Australia. This was, of course, the extended tour of Australia and the West Indies. "Both very good series. We won our first Test on Australian soil, and though we lost 2-1 to the West Indies, that too was a well-contested encounter. We found our first genuine pace bowler in Imran Khan in Australia. I thought I could place him almost with Andy Roberts, Dennis Lillee and Michael Holding, three really fast bowlers I had faced. He and Sarfraz provided me with the most number of snicks to catch behind the stumps."

"With your own experience as an indicator, do you agree that wicket-keepers do not make good captains?" "Yes, I agree. And my reasoning , is based on my long experience behind the stumps. The wicket-keeper's job is the most demanding among the 13 players on the field. He has to concentrate on every delivery, every ball. He has the' clearest perspective on the batsman on the other side of the wicket. He watches his every move and how he reacts to each ball. You therefore see wicket-keepers constantly telling bowlers what to do. He must also be ready to collect each ball, be ready for a possible snick each time and save on byes. If you make him captain, you affect his performance where it is most needed. You increase the degree of probable error-making. Because this extra, this  additional job will distract him from his basic role of motivating bowlers and fielders. He will have to shift to macro-level, he will have to start thinking and planning strategies. This is a completely different role. There may have been more instances of wicket- keeper captains, but I cannot think of anyone other than Alexander of the West Indies and Imtiaz of Pakistan. The percentage is very small. They did not make captains of Rodney Marsh of Australia and Alan Knott of England, did they? The percentage of wicket-keeper captains is very small," concluded Bari. . "So who is most well-equipped to lead?" I ask. "One who performs well. He could be a bowler, he could be a batsman. Examples of both exist. But if you ask me, there have been more all-rounders successful as captains than any other variety, and lan Chappell, Richie Benaud, Imran Khan and Mushtaq Mohammad spring to mind immediately. But we don't have much time, We should appoint one immediately and take it from there." •

Major teams Pakistan, Karachi, Pakistan International Airlines, Sind

Batting style Right-hand bat

Bowling style Right-arm bowler

Fielding position Wicketkeeper

Batting and fielding averages

Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 6s Ct St
Tests 81 112 26 1366 85 15.88     0 6 2 201 27
ODIs 51 26 13 221 34 17.00 431 51.27 0 0   52 10
First-class 286 357 92 5751 177 21.70     2 21   684 144
List A 85 47 20 451 54 16.70     0 1   95 20
Bowling averages

Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
Tests 81 1 8 2 0 - - - 1.50 - 0 0 0
ODIs 51 - - - - - - - - - - - -
First-class 286   66 30 1 1/11   30.00 2.72 66.0   0 0
List A 85 - - - - - - - - - - - -

By Sikandar Sarwar

published in Dawn.