Fifth Time Lucky for JavedGareth Bland |
The 1992 World Cup, Pakistan’s first and only victory in the tournament, is usually associated with the team’s captain, Imran Khan. Imran, then 39 and having made the decision to make the tournament his swansong as a cricketer,is the figure most obviously linked to that victory with his emotional paean to his mother and to his vow of building Pakistan’s first specialist cancer hospital. Pakistan’s often rocky route to the final, however, was often largely the result of that other veteran in the squad, Imran’s fellow survivor of every previous tournament, Javed Miandad. Bringing all his experience to bear, together with the pain of three consecutive semi-final defeats, Mohammed Javed Miandad Khan used a career’s worth of batsmanship and skill to drag Pakistan from almost certain ignominy in the early rounds to ultimate victory in Melbourne on 25 March 1992.
What is perhaps little known, or has been largely forgotten, is that the man from Karachi almost missed out on the tournament itself. Nearing 35 and sensing himself out of favour with Pakistan’s selectors due to persistent back pain, Javed was initially omitted from the World Cup squad. With the team struggling in its warm up games the selectors then performed a volte face and the veteran received the SOS to join his compatriots in Australia. What followed was perhaps the greatest fairy tale in cricketing world cup history. It was the most unlikely of comebacks and with it, Imran’s expression “cornered tigers” entered cricket folklore. Javed and his captain were the only survivors of each preceding tournament and each could have been forgiven for thinking that, at their advanced ages, the chance of ultimate victory had slipped them by. So consistently the bridesmaids, and with India’s victory in 1983 rubbing salt into Pakistani wounds, it looked like the game was up for these two all time greats by 1992. Pakistan’s World Cup history up to that point had been a story of so near, yet so far, of wasted opportunities and unfulfilled talent. It was a story that became the guiding force of Imran’s own accession to the captaincy in 1982; the desire to convert Pakistan’s latent talent into a potential world beating unit.
In the inaugural competition in 1975, on the day before his eighteenth birthday, Javed Miandad was run out for 24 on his one day debut. In his only other outing he compiled an unbeaten 28 against Sri Lanka. That Pakistan, however, contained Mushtaq Mohammed, Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan and Asif Iqbal. Imran, then the young subaltern of the team, was busy studying for his finals at Keble College, Oxford. Regrettably, Imran did not play all the games and Javed made two appearances only. So distracted was Imran that he has attributed his Oxbridge third class degree to the heady excitement of competing in the World Cup. In 1979, four years later, the competition returned, once more, to England. With the Packer schism mostly healed – Australia’s internal wrangling apart – West Indies took their second successive crown. That they competed in the final at all can be attributed to the nervousness of Pakistan’s batting line up when well set. Chasing a then huge West Indian total of 293-6 on an Oval featherbed, Majid and Zaheer were toying with Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft in a grand partnership of 166 in 36 overs full of sublime strokes. Then, with the score on 176-1 Croft returned to dismiss Zaheer, Majid and Javed for 4 runs in the space of 12 balls. Batting brilliantly, Pakistan had the game within their grasp and a place in the final against England within sight. There can be little doubt that witnessing the snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory had a profound effect on Imran when he became captain in 1982. He steeled himself to eradicate this weakness in an otherwise extravagantly gifted team.
In 1983, Pakistan failed once more in the semi final, again falling to West Indies at the Oval. However, this was no repeat of the dramatic match on the same ground four years previously. Competing in the tournament as a batsmen only, Imran had dragged his team to the semi-final. His absence as a bowler, for he was then unquestionably at his peak as a fast man, seemed a blow too much for the team. For much of the tournament the batting never really clicked with Pakistan achieving victories in both Sri Lankan fixtures and in their second game against New Zealand. Their one day in the sun came in the group opener against Sri Lanka where Mohsin Khan (82), Zaheer (82), Javed (72) and Imran with an unbeaten 56, all hit their stride as the team amassed 338-5. Thereafter, a series of disjointed efforts meant that they hobbled rather than cruised to the semi-final. At one point at Trent Bridge they were reduced to 0-3 against New Zealand and to 43-5 against Sri Lanka at Headingley. Javed hit form in only one other game – against England at Old Trafford where he skillfully put together 67 in his side’s 232. Otherwise, it was a predictable tale of underachievement and discontent. All the work of the previous winter, where Imran had been at the apex of a new collective, a team with the potential to challenge the West Indies’ hegemony, now seemed in tatters. Javed’s missing the semi-final through injury, Zaheer’s gentle medium pacers being bludgeoned by Richards as Pakistan attempted to defend 184, Imran, unable to bowl and therefore directing operations from mid on, these all seemed to sum up the sense of despair and helplessness in the camp. Come 1987, however, and the World Cup would leave England for the first time to be held in Pakistan and India. On home soil, in front of their own vociferous crowds, Pakistan’s new generation of talent had a chance to shine and demonstrate the progress they had made to an international audience.
The previous generation of stars had all retired. Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Wasim Bari, Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Raja and Mohsin Khan had all since gone. In their place, Imran set about building a team in his own image and to his own exacting specifications. In place of the old guard came Rameez Raja, Saleem Malik, Saleem Yousuf, Ijaz Ahmed and, of course, Wasim Akram. The credo was a simple one: the team must fight to win and play well under pressure, they must be brave and a unifying team ethic was to trump personal glory. The captain had little truck with those who played for their averages or who compiled huge scores in drawn, meaningless fixtures. The policy had had its results. Pakistan had drawn a home three Test series with the West Indies in winter 1986-87 and had beaten England away from home in 1987 in a full five Test series. Moreover, Imran himself had returned to his best as a bowler even if he had lost the express pace of his pre-stress fracture days. Ultimately, in the 1987 World Cup, it was not to be. Having topped their group Pakistan lost to the Australians in the semi-final. Chasing 267, Pakistan were reduced to 38-3 in no time at all and old flaws resurfaced. At that moment, Imran and Javed underwent a full dress rehearsal for their heroics four and half years later as they joined combat to put together 112 in an effort to steady the ship. In a prelude to their Antipodean rearguard in 1992, Imran and Javed, the old firm, pared down their strokeplay, eliminated risks and set their coordinates for a Pakistani victory. Unfortunately, Imran was dismissed and with the run rate increasing Javed was bowled for 70, swinging wildly at Bruce Reid. Pakistan had lost their semi-final in front of their own support to the Australians by 18 runs. It seemed that this team of all the talents would never win the World Cup.
In his autobiography All Round View Imran admitted to underestimating just how much the World Cup had meant to the people of Pakistan I have never seen the Pakistani public so disappointed as they were after our semi-final defeat. I had underestimated the depth of feeling about the World Cup: most of the people leaving the stadium had tears in their eyes. Javed himself went even further It seemed our national self-esteem had been staked on the outcome of that semi-final in Lahore. The entire Pakistani nation was inconsolable. Imran was then 35 and, once more, toying with retirement. Javed was 30 and at his absolute peak as a batsmen. The months of February and March 1992 were almost four and a half years away at that point, when the tournament would reconvene in Australia and New Zealand. That the two men would still be around and still be at the fulcrum of their side’s efforts – with admittedly fresh and brilliant reinforcements – is perhaps the story of World Cup history. Imran Khan, a man whom Ray Illingworth once asserted had made more comebacks than Frank Sinatra was joined in ultimate triumph in 1992, after 17 years of trying, by Javed Miandad, whose batting efforts on that Melbourne afternoon presented a youthful Pakistani bowling attack with a total to bowl at. In the case of Javed, that effort, along with earlier ones in the tournament, came at considerable physical cost, for the Karachi man was in acute pain for much of the competition.
Pakistan’s preparation for the 1992 World Cup had been dealt a hammer blow already when Waqar Younis was ruled out in the build up to the tournament. Clearly, without Waqar,much of the workload would then fall on Wasim Akram, then still shy of 26 but vastly experienced, the seamer Aaqib Javed, leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed and, of course, Imran himself. An even greater blow to Miandad was his own exclusion from the squad when it was initially announced. Although this was a shock to the Pakistani cricket cognoscenti, it was not, however, such a great shock to the man himself. Though he desperately wanted to be part of the squad, eighteen years of life in the volatile atmosphere of Pakistani cricket politics had left him prepared for the omission. It was, he claimed a shock to me, too, but I had been around long enough and nothing surprised me anymore. What appeared to infuriate Javed was the attitude of sportswriter Imtiaz Sipra, who wrote that Javed was finished and that Pakistan should simply move on without him. It seemed that this stirred the fire in Miandad’s belly as much as anything else, I knew he said better than anyone else that I still had a lot to give Pakistan. I took it as a challenge to prove Sipra wrong.
There were other factors at play, too. The troublesome back which had dogged Javed since his early twenties had again flared up. Though he was confident that this would respond to rest and his usual exercise routine, it seemed that the Pakistani Board was not so certain. Furthermore, in the series with Sri Lanka in early 1992 which preceded the World Cup, Imran had tinkered with Javed’s batting position, sending him in on different occasions at numbers 3, 5 or 6. Miandad felt that he was a career number 4, the anchor who could control the destiny of the innings. It also made cricket sense to have the side’s most experienced batsmen, the fulcrum, at such a position in the order. Imran, conversely, felt that Javed was too precious to bat at four in case of an early dismissal which would then leave a relatively inexperienced side exposed. Additionally, Javed had received assurances from both Intikhab and Imran that he would not only be in the World Cup squad but also be its vice-captain. Instead, neither ambition reached fruition and when the squad was announced, Saleem Malik was named as Imran’s number two.
Arriving in Australia well in advance of the tournament, Pakistan immediately struggled in their games against modest club teams. So dire were their performances that Javed received the summons he had dreamed of and flew to Australia to join the 14 man squad. After proving his fitness to the BCCP, he landed in time to face an unofficial warm up game against Sri Lanka where he contributed 89. From there on it was an upward struggle to the final. In Pakistan’s opening game against West Indies in Melbourne, Pakistan’s 220 was never going to prove enough as the West Indian openers picked off the runs without loss; both Haynes and Simmons hitting centuries. Earlier in the day, Javed had contributed the first of his many gems in the 1992 World Cup. Joining Rameez Raja when it was necessary to quicken the pace, and batting in his favoured number four spot, he improvised to make an unbeaten 57 off 61 balls. His fellow veteran of the previous decade, Malcolm Marshall, playing in his last international tournament, could not help but smile and admire his adversary as he worked the crease to leg glance him finely several times in the closing overs. At Hobart in the next fixture, Javed’s 89 set Pakistan up for victory. It was to prove Pakistan’s only victory in their first five games. In Adelaide for the game against Graham Gooch’s England, cloud cover and damp conditions worked in favour of Botham and Pringle as Pakistan were shot out for a paltry 74. Then, incredibly, the heavens parted and rain washed out the remainder of the match so that both teams had to share the points. This match constituted Javed’s only personal failure, he being dismissed for three in a limp all round batting effort. In Sydney Pakistan fared little better as they came unstuck against India. Javed’s 40, famous for including his frustration with and mimicry of Indian ‘keeper Kiran More, was Pakistan’s only significant contribution after opener Aamir Sohail’s 62. Predictably, the run chase proved too pressurised a situation and Pakistan folded, losing the game by 43 runs.
In the next game at Brisbane Pakistan came away pointless once more as the returning South Africans continued to impress. The South Africa game proved to be something of a watershed in the tournament for Pakistan for it was here that the direction and sense of purpose of the side began to take a turn. It was now simply a matter of perform or return home in shame.
Prior to the game Miandad had had to withdraw through injury. What was initially thought to be a stomach ailment proved to be gastritis. Javed’s stomach was suffering from inflammation and bleeding as a result of the heavy medication he was taking to ease his back pain. While the medication alleviated his pain, it had the draining side effects of exhaustion due to the inflammation, bleeding and increased production of stomach acid. After losing the South African game when time had been lost to the weather and their required run rate had been hastily recalculated, Pakistan had achieved one victory in their first 6 matches. In the England game they had taken a crucial point due to the game being flooded. With Javed rested and determined to play in the remainder of the tournament under hugely debilitating personal circumstances, Imran roused his young team and famously invoked the spirit of the tiger when cornered. The Big Cat, he argued, was at its most dangerous and aggressive when cornered by its enemy. If Pakistan were to advance and not return in shame to a country where, in Javed’s words,the public’s mood was turning nasty, they had to come out and fight to stay in the competition.
In Perth against the hosts, Australia, the comeback began as Pakistan went about their business with a sense of purpose hitherto unseen. Imran’s pre-match chat with Ian Chappell saw him relay his famous tiger mantra and he was not slow to explain publicly what was expected of his team. Javed, for his part, hit 46 and Pakistan next went over to the west coast to take on Sri Lanka. Once more, Javed contributed as he allowed himself to be the corner stone of an innings where he contributed 57 and his team won by 4 wickets. On to Christchurch where the co-hosts lay in wait and, again, Pakistan pulled off a victory with a vastly improved team performance where Javed’s 30 was made in a 115 run partnership with Rameez Raja. When Australia defeated West Indies in Melbourne in the day/night game, Pakistan’s path to the semi-final was assured. Pakistan, amazingly, would pair off against New Zealand in Auckland for a place in the final.It had been the most unlikely turn around.
Of all Miandad’s performances in 1992, his semi-final innings against New Zealand in Auckland that March afternoon must rank as his best. Here was a batsmen utilising all the skills he had learned throughout his career: manipulating the strike, encouraging younger partners and being aware, at all times, of prevailing conditions, bowling changes and run requirements while still absorbing the pressure. It was a masterful performance and, although he contributed an unbeaten 57, its value was in the effect it had on his teammates and the way it enabled them to play their own game. New Zealand had earlier posted 262 with Martin Crowe’s 91 being the significant contribution. The miserly medium pace of Larson and Harris had throttled less talented batsmen throughout the tournament and, initially, Pakistan were in danger of perishing in the same way. Joining Imran with the score at 84-2, Javed and his skipper added 50 before Imran departed. Saleem Malik quickly followed and suddenly Pakistan’s hopes were in the balance with 15 overs remaining to settle the match at an asking rate of over 8 per over. Javed himself expected Wasim Akram to be next to the crease but, instead, Imran chanced his arm by sending in the young Inzamam-ul-Haq. Sensing the younger man’s acute nervousness, Javed put him at his ease by insisting that he simply play his own game. Inzamam hit a rapid 60 from 37 balls, all the while being encouraged by his senior partner, constantly strutting down the track between deliveries to wish him well after each glorious shot. After adding 87 from 10 overs for the fifth wicket, Inzamam was run out, bringing Wasim Akram to the crease who promptly fell for 9. When Moin Khan joined Javed 26 runs were still needed. Again, Javed’s pastoral role as senior figure came into play. By turns encouraging, chiding and admonishing the young ‘keeper, Miandad – exhausted by this point – watched the team home as Moin thumped a 6 into the balcony and then hit the winning runs at the end of the 49th over. As the teams ran off the field, it was clear from his reaction that this ebullient figure was more elated than usual by the achievement. In the middle of Ramadan, where he had fasted on the days Pakistan did not compete and where he observed prayers as assiduously as usual, together with reading passages from the Quran, this combative cricketer had guided his inexperienced teammates to the final of the World Cup itself, having himself being guided by his faith. For much of the tournament this had not been the Miandad of days gone by; the hero of Sharjah with that victorious,last ball six against India in 1986 seemed a distant memory. Instead, here was a veteran campaigner content to occupy the crease and allow others to bat more aggressively around him while he nudged, flicked and worked the ball around to achieve a still sound scoring rate of 62.60.
Pakistan’s opponents in Melbourne’s final, England, had made more serene progress to the final, although they had been the beneficiaries of an absurd flaw in the law governing rain reduced matches which enabled them to reach this stage of the competition.Their opponents,South Africa,had needed an impossible 22 from the remaining delivery in their semi-final. In one of their previous groups games, England had also been found wanting against Zimbabawe, then the only non-Test playing nation in the competition. However, like Pakistan with Imran and Javed, England had veterans in Botham and skipper Gooch who were desperate to win the World Cup, both having failed in 1979 and Gooch also coming up short in the previous final against Australia in 1987. At the age of 37, it would the last tournament for Allan Lamb, too. The Northants veteran had also failed at the final hurdle in Calcutta four and a half years previously.
On Wednesday 25th March, 1992 Imran walked out and won the toss. On a warm, sunny morning with a gentle breeze blowing across the cavernous MCG the Pakistani captain opted to bat. Hoping for a good start, Pakistan were reduced to 24-2 as Pringle took advantage of the conditions. According to Javed, nothing was said between he and Imran regarding the match situation as they joined each other in the middle. It was almost, he felt, as though their entire cricketing careers had prepared them for this moment. With painstaking obduracy each man eschewed all shot making and opted for survival, only putting a foot on the throttle when it was clear that the team was out of danger. For much of the partnership the scoring rate was barely 2 runs per over. Eventually Imran hit out and the rate had increased to reflect a score of 163-2 around the fortieth over. After a partnership of 139, Javed, visibly spent, reverse-swept Richard Illingworth to Botham and was out for 58. Imran was eventually dismissed for 72 and Pakistan closed on 249. From the platform of that earlier, precarious position, in a pressurised position, this had been an incredible effort. Thanks to their skipper,Imran, and leading batsman, Javed, both Inzamam and Wasim Akram were able to hit out at tiring bowlers late on in England’s bowling effort.The Pakistani team had their stalwart to thank, though. As Javed himself put it My stomach was killing me and the severe, constant pain had sapped all my energy. I was exhausted and felt I would collapse any minute. In fact, so exhausted was Javed that he was unable to take the field for Pakistan’s bowling stint. With his final innings of the 1992 World Cup complete, Javed Miandad had compiled 437 runs at an average of 62.42.
The rest, of course, is history. England were dismissed for 227, 22 runs short. Wasim Akram had delivered the three main hammer blows in front of a crowd of 87,182 by dismissing Botham for a duck and then, in an over to rival Michael Holding’s to Geoff Boycott in Barbados in 1981, Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis in successive deliveries which were both practically unplayable. Imran, Javed and Pakistan had their World Cup triumph at last. As the presentations commenced, Colin Cowdrey handed the Waterford Crystal trophy to Imran. Very few of us, of course, are required to give a speech in front of thousands of spectators and millions of television viewers at the exact moment when the pinnacle of our professional lives has been reached, especially when that moment conspires us to envision a late, beloved parent. However, there is little doubt that Imran’s speech at the tournament’s conclusion rankled with many of his teammates, not least because he failed to thank or mention them. Javed described it as quite a silly speech, although he recognised the high emotion of the moment as he himself was choked with a multitude of feelings.
Although they did not always see eye to eye, Imran and Javed enjoyed a healthy mutual professional respect. Imran’s definition of the qualities that constitute a great player, rather than merely a very good one, could almost be a description of Javed himself As far as I am concerned, the sign of an outstanding player is his ability to perform consistently under pressure. He must also be a complete team man. Javed, meanwhile, devoted a whole chapter of his autobiography to the relationship entitled Imran and I. Despite the differences in their backgrounds and their occasional tiffs – Javed had famously taken umbrage that Imran declared with him on 280* in the ’82-’83 Hyderabad Test with India – each knew that they could rely on the other. By the end of the 1992 World Cup they had been at the heart of Pakistani cricket for 17 years together. The glorious Wednesday of late March 1992 was Pakistani cricket’s finest hour and was all the more fitting that the two players who dragged Pakistan up from the depth of Packer era mediocrity should have taken them to the summit.
Although Javed Miandad had an instinctive and intuitive understanding of the game, his combative nature too often got the better of him as captain. It would be difficult, for instance, to imagine Imran getting involved in the kind of spats for which Javed is famed for. The run in with Dennis Lillee at Perth in 1981 and the fit of pique with umpire Roy Palmer during the 1992 England series are two examples of a combustible temperament unsuited to captaincy. Unlike his former team mate Zaheer Abbas, he was never the aesthetes’ darling, with his slightly hunched stance rarely rendering his batting style a thing of beauty. Neither did he convey the Corinthian glamour of that other patrician, Majid Khan, Imran’s cousin. Javed did, however, leave a greater footprint on Pakistan’s cricket history than either. For almost two decades, in often turbulent times, Javed Miandad was the feistiest tiger in Pakistan’s batting landscape. When he departed the scene in his final innings at the 1996 World Cup, the commentary duo of Tony Greig and Geoff Boycott lamented the loss to the game of the then fading 39 year old batting star. The adjective great, Greig and Boycott argued, was one commonly over used when describing modern cricketers. In Javed’s case, they added, it was merely a fair reflection of the qualities that had brought him 8832 runs in Tests at 52.57 and 7382 at 41.70 in the one-day game.