Like many great Asian batsmen, Javed Miandad was immense on his own
pitches, but in his case he was also versatile and skilful enough to make Test
hundreds when the ball was behaving very differently in Australia, England and
the Caribbean. Spotted at an early age by Mushtaq Mohammad as a great player
in the making, he seemed to be born with a good technique. He scored a century
in his first Test match and a double century in his third. He was still in his early
twenties when he scored centuries against Richard Hadlee in Christchurch and
Rodney Hogg at the WACA, and more than 2,000 runs in a championship
season for Glamorgan. He was the star batsman at the World Cup that Pakistan
won in Australia and New Zealand in 1992, making runs in every match but one,
including half-centuries in the semi-final and final, when his partnership of 139
with Imran Khan laid the platform for victory over England. Imran had asked his
players to fight like cornered tigers at that tournament, and no one fought harder
than Javed.
If the art of batting is allied to the ability to watch the ball closely, then Javed
was an absolute master. I’ve seen him play balls right in front of his face when
the instinct of most people would be to duck their head behind their hands. There
was none of that with him. He watched the ball right on to the bat and knocked it
down, a model of control. He was brave and courageous. There was no fear.
His unorthodox game was in fact ideally suited to one-day cricket, a format
that was just developing into a global product when he arrived on the scene in
the mid-1970s (he actually played in each of the first six World Cups between
1975 and 1996, a testament to his talent and durability). He had quick feet and
supple wrists, and a great facility for manoeuvring the ball into the gaps, a vital
skill in the middle overs of a one-day innings. He was a master at letting the ball
come to him, playing it late and using its pace to his advantage with neat
deflections into the gaps. He cottoned on at an early stage that it was not always
necessary to bludgeon the ball. He must rank as one of the best and earliest
‘finishers’ in one-day cricket.
His one-day record does not look particularly striking to today’s eyes but
when he retired in 1996 only Desmond Haynes had scored more runs in ODIs
and few could better his average of 41.70. What is especially notable, though, is
how he performed in matches Pakistan won when chasing: he finished unbeaten
in almost half his innings and averaged 66.24. His most famous feat in this
regard, and one for which he is as well remembered in Pakistan as for anything
else he did, was hitting a six off the last ball of the match, when four were
needed, from Chetan Sharma to win an Asia Cup final in Sharjah.

He may have been a shot-maker by instinct but he could play the longer
game, as his Test match résumé clearly shows. His 8,832 runs at an average of
52.57 from 124 matches remains the most for Pakistan – Inzamam-ul-Haq failed
to match him by only two runs – and it should be remembered that runs were not
so easy to come by in the 1980s as they were later when pitches and pace attacks
became more docile. There were only four individual Test scores of more than
250 during that decade and Javed made three of them. His ten-hour 260 at The
Oval in 1987 firmly killed off our chances of levelling the series.
His record against West Indies, the powerhouse of that period, was
understandably mixed, but he played a big part in an epic series in the Caribbean
in 1988 in which Pakistan became the first visiting side to hold their own,
earning a 1–1 draw. Javed scored a battling hundred in the match Pakistan won
in Guyana and another in the fourth innings in Trinidad as his team successfully
held out for a draw by batting out 129 overs (they actually needed only 31 more
for victory when the match ended with them nine down).
His unpredictability was probably one of his greatest strengths. Ray
Illingworth, my first captain at Leicestershire, used to like to give himself an
exploratory over just before lunch, just to see if the pitch was taking turn, and
confident in the knowledge that batsmen were unlikely to take risks at such a
juncture. On one occasion against Sussex, however, he got a rude shock when
Javed, who had a spell with them in the late 1970s, saw this merely as an
opportunity and promptly whacked him back over his head three times. Illy did
not bowl again in the innings.
This would have incensed Illy, and not just because it ruined his lunch, but
then needling opponents – and sometimes even teammates – was Javed’s
speciality. I never had any gripe with him but I know plenty of people who did,
including most famously Dennis Lillee, with whom he once very nearly
exchanged blows in a Test match at the WACA. He also played a part, as
Pakistan captain, in stirring the pot after Mike Gatting’s spectacular falling-out
with umpire Shakoor Rana at Faisalabad in 1987 which led to the loss of a day’s
play. He was also captaining Pakistan on the 1992 tour of England on which
allegations of ball-tampering left the teams at loggerheads. If trouble was in the
air, he could generally be counted on to get involved and I’m sure it was a
deliberate ploy. He was a big competitor with a combative spirit, who likened
cricket to war.
But Javed also deserves to be remembered as one of Pakistan’s best captains.
He often stood in when Imran was not available and despite therefore being
without the team’s best all-rounder had a good record, leading Pakistan to as
many Test wins as Imran himself. If Imran was the principal architect behind
Pakistan’s rise in the 1980s, Javed was not far behind.

curtly-ambrose Next post CURTLY AMBROSE