Saqlain Mushtaq - Pioneer of Doosra
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

In 1998/99 Pakistan made their first Test tour to India since 1986/87. Indeed, the two sides had not played each other in Test cricket since India's tour of Pakistan in 1989/90.

A new generation of players had grown up in the meantime and interest in both countries was intense. Political sensitivities were also running high and there was a very real threat of direct action from Hindu extremists.

In fact, the visit went smoothly and the cricket played was of the highest order. On slow, turning wickets both Tests (the scheduled third, at Calcutta, became part of the Asian Test Championship involving Sri Lanka too) were dominated by spinners.The series is always remembered because Anil Kumble, the Indian leg-spinner, took 10 wickets in Pakistan's second innings in the Second Test at Delhi to win the match and square the rubber. But Kumble was not the Man of the Series.That honour went to Pakistan's Saqlain Mushtaq.

The first game, at Chennai, was a classic Test match. Pakistan batted first and made 238, Kumble taking 6 wickets. India started solidly and were 71 for 2 when Sachin Tendulkar came to the crease. Seeking to dominate from the start,Tendulkar advanced down the pitch to the third ball he received, from Saqlain, but misjudged the length and succeeded only in slicing the ball to Saleem Malik in the gully. Tendulkar was gone for a duck. India were restricted to a 16-run lead and Saqlain took 5 for 94.A responsible maiden Test century from Shahid Afridi set the game up beautifully: India's target was 271.Their highest-ever successful run chase had been 256 against Australia back in 1964/65, so the odds were against them.The situation looked hopeless when Waqar Younis reduced them to 6 for 2, and no better at 82 for 5. But Tendulkar was still there, and he was prepared to graft. Nayan Mongia stayed with him while 136 was added and the Pakistanis began to get worried. Conditions were not easy. The heat and humidity were energy-sapping and the home crowd were passionate in their longing for a big innings by Tendulkar. It was difficult for him too because, halfway through his innings, he began to experience back spasms. At 218,Wasim Akram removed Mongia. Sunil Joshi hung around while Tendulkar upped the tempo, anxious to ease his increasing back pain as much as anything else. He hit 3 fours in an over from Saqlain. Then at 254 - 17 runs away from victory - Tendulkar slogged at Saqlain and was caught at mid-off.

Saqlain polished off the tail to take 5 for 93 and Pakistan won by 12 runs.

They got a standing ovation from the Chennai crowd. Kumble was the undisputed hero of Delhi but it was impossible to ignore Saqlain. He took 5 for 94 and 5 for 122, to give him 20 wickets in the series. His only other 10-wicket haul has been against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo in 2002/03.

Saqlain's potent form continued into the English 1999 season. First there was the World Cup, in which Pakistan were highly fancied. They got to the final but were there eclipsed by Australia. Saqlain had a good tournament, taking 18 wickets including 5 in the controversial loss to Bangladesh at Northampton and a hat-trick - his second in one-day internationals - against Zimbabwe at The Oval.

It was to The Oval that he returned at the end of the World Cup, to rejoin Surrey as one of their overseas players. Saqlain had signed for Surrey in 1997 when, in eight games, he took 32 wickets and headed their averages. He was an even more dominant figure in 1998 when Surrey were pressing for the championship title and were only thwarted in the final game. Saqlain's early departure to join the Pakistan side was a factor in their failure to win.Three times at The Oval he had 11 wickets in a match.

In 1999, Surrey finally reached the pinnacle they had been striving for. Adam Hollioake's immensely strong combination established themselves as the outstanding county team of modern times. Saqlain's contribution to the 1999 title was critical, even though he only played seven games. He took 58 wickets at 11.37.

In between these triumphs in England, Saqlain had had mixed experiences in Test cricket. In Australia in 1999/2000, Pakistan lost all three Tests, but they should probably have won the second at Hobart. Pakistan put into bat by Steve Waugh, made 222. Australia, largely through a typically dazzling display from Michael Slater, were at one point 191 for 1 but were all out for 246. Saqlain took 6 for 17 in 8 overs and his overall figures were 6 for 46. A century from Inzamam-ul-Haq enabled Wasim Akram to set Australia what appeared to be an academic target of 369. But they got them, despite slipping to 126 for 5. Saqlain's figures were 2 for 130 off 44.5 overs. Six months later, a schoolboy fielding error by Saqlain, fluffing a run-out chance in a moment of panic, enabled the West Indies to win the match by 1 wicket and thus secure the series.

It can perhaps be seen from the achievements recorded here that Saqlain was an unusual sort of spinner.

The county games show that he could run through sides and cause precipitate collapses. At Hobart in 1999/2000, he caused genuine mayhem in Australia's first innings.The fact is that, although always described as an off-spinner, Saqlain was never an off-spinner pure and simple. Like Cleopatra, he had infinite variety. In particular, he had a 'mystely ball'. It was Saqlain, rather than Muttiah Muralitharan, who invented the 'doosra' - Urdu for the 'other one'. As early as 1995/96, when he toured Australia, it was acknowledged that he could bowl what was in effect, a leg-break with an off-spinner's action.Australians were reminded of their own 'mystery spinner'John Gleeson.

He took a little while to get established in the side. Against Zimbabwe at Sheikhupura in October 1996 he made 79, helping Wasim Akram add 313 for the eighth wicket; but he was unable to bowl Pakistan to victory. He was to make a - very dull —Test hundred against New Zealand at Christchurch in 2000/01. He helped secure victory in the First Test at Auckland, taking 4 for 48 and - in 25.4 overs - 4 for 24. He was the leading wicket-taker, with 14, in the two Test series in Sri Lanka in 1996/97. He was involved in a bizarre incident on the tour of South Africa in 1997/98. The Pakistani management requested the postponement of the First Test because two of their players - Saqlain and Mohammad Akram - had been mugged outside the team hotel. Eyewitnesses reported the players as having been seen at various exotic nightspots.The players' story changed various times and before long the team management were virtually hiding from the press.
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Be that as it may, Saqlain was a high-class performer, who was equally effective in one-day cricket.

Indeed he came to be regarded as something of a one-day specialist. Only Muralitharan, Kumble and Shane Warne have taken more wickets in one-day internationals than Saqlain, and they have all played more matches. And his strike rate is better than any of them, the fifth best in one-day internationals. He was the youngest bowler to reach 100, 150 and 200 one-day wickets.

He has a lovely side-on action after a curious stuttering run-up. He is also an expert at varying his pace and his line of attack. He has never been a big spinner of his orthodox off-break and his real strength is the doosra. Even as careful a player of spin bowling as Michael Artherton said he found it difficult to pick the doosra out of the hand: it was delivered with a slightly higher arm action.The doosra wreaked havoc with tail enders. Atherton felt that if a batsman could deal with the doosra, Saqlain was much less of a handful then Muralitharan. Interestingly, Abdul Qadir, the guru of modern Pakistani spinners, felt that Mushtaq Ahmed was a more effective spinner than Saqlain. Certainly Mushtaq, although he ended up with fewer wickets, won more matches. Murali and the other great unorthodox finger spinner, Harbhajan Singh, have won far more games at home than Saqlain.

England's batsmen certainly proved equal to the task in 2000/01. Saqlain took 8 wickets in the first innings of the First Test, but they cost 164 runs. And although Saqlain took 3 for 64 in England's second innings in the Third Test at Karachi, he could not prevent them from securing an historic 6-wicket victory, Pakistan's first defeat at the National Stadium. Revenge, of a sort, was gained six months later at Old Trafford when, in the second and final Test, Saqlain's unusual - for a slow bowler - tendency to bowl no-balls was overlooked by the distracted umpires as he helped skittle England's lower order to gain a series-equalling victory in a frantic final session. Saqlain took 4 for 74 in a marathon spell of 47.4 overs.

In recent years a series of injuries have blighted Saqlain's progress. It remains to be seen where he goes from there.

Major teams Ireland, Pakistan, Islamabad Cricket Association, Lahore Badshahs, Pakistan International Airlines, Surrey, Sussex

Batting style Right-hand bat

Bowling style Right-arm offbreak


Batting and fielding averages

Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
Tests 49 78 14 927 101* 14.48 3603 25.72 1 2 82 7 15 0
ODIs 169 98 38 711 37* 11.85 1434 49.58 0 0 45 4 40 0
First-class 194 263 59 3405 101* 16.69     1 14     67 0
List A 323 182 67 1339 38* 11.64     0 0     80 0
Twenty20 9 4 0 24 14 6.00 24 100.00 0 0 2 0 2 0
Bowling averages

Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
Tests 49 86 14070 6206 208 8/164 10/155 29.83 2.64 67.6 12 13 3
ODIs 169 165 8770 6275 288 5/20 5/20 21.78 4.29 30.4 11 6 0
First-class 194   44634 19630 833 8/65   23.56 2.63 53.5   60 15
List A 323   16062 11261 478 5/20 5/20 23.55 4.20 33.6 16 7 0
Twenty20 9 9 210 265 14 3/24 3/24 18.92 7.57 15.0 0 0 0

By Bill Ricquiery Bill from "The Pakistani Masters"

Source : WikiPedia