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The Batsman’s Name was Mud

Mudassar

Nazar Mohammad was born in Lahore in 1921. At 31 he had a brief Test career when he was Hanif Mohammad’s opening partner in Pakistan’s inaugural Test series, against India. For as long as the game is played nothing will change the fact that Nazar faced his country’s first delivery in Tests, nor that he scored their first run. He couldn’t stop India winning the game by an innings, but he played a crucial role in the second Test when the new boys returned the favour. In that match Nazar set another mark as the first Pakistani to score a Test century, and he carried his bat for it as well, making 124 out of 331. It was enough to bring victory by an innings and 43 runs, so there was another first for a Pakistani as he was on the field for the entire match.

There were two more solid contributions in the final Test of the series, 55 and 47, to leave Nazar with an aggregate of 277 runs at 39.57 in his only Test appearances. Only Waqar Hasan had scored more runs for Pakistan in the series. Almost six feet in height Nazar was a strong back foot player who was not afraid to hook the faster bowlers. He was a fine fielder as well, in a side that did not show to its best advantage in that aspect of the game – the Indian commentators dubbed him the ‘Prince of Gully’.

Nazar did not play First Class cricket again after returning to Pakistan following the tour. He broke his right arm and after treatment the limb ended up shorter and less flexible than it had been before the accident. The cause of the injury is not entirely clear, but legend has it that Nazar was at the home of a famous singer in whom he had a romantic interest. When the singer’s husband returned unexpectedly Nazar felt obliged to effect his departure through a window in the course of which he suffered the fall that incapacitated him.

His playing days behind him by his early thirties a coaching career came next for Nazar, and in time he also served as a national selector. Three of his sons were accomplished cricketers and one of them, Mudassar Nazar, went on to become a key member of the powerful Pakistan side of the 1980s.

Mudassar was just 15 when he made his First Class debut. He was not immediately successful but at 17, in the 1973/74 season, he made a couple of centuries and averaged over 50. He spent part of the English summer of 1974 touring with a Pakistan Under 19 side, who played a number of fixtures against county second elevens. One of the more successful members of the party there were more than 700 runs in seven visits to the crease for Mudassar, including twin centuries against Sussex.

Progress during the following domestic season was rapid. There were six three figure scores and an average of 58. Mudassar’s last appearance that season was against the touring West Indians. It was hardly a baptism of fire, as the only two pace bowlers on show for the visitors were Bernard Julien and Vanburn Holder, and Julien only bowled eleven overs in the match. But Mudassar could only bat against what was put in the field against him, and innings of 94 and 115 certainly got him noticed.

In January 1976 Pakistan toured Sri Lanka, not then a Test nation, and Mudassar enhanced his reputation further, as did Javed Miandad, a year younger. Both of them came to England in 1976, courtesy of Jimmy Irani, father of Ronnie, later of Lancashire, Essex and England. Mudassar played for Little Hulton and Javed for Daisy Hill, both in the Bolton Association. This was a contest Mudassar won. He scored a record 1,709 runs in the season, and in the cup final he scored a century, as Little Hulton defeated Javed’s Daisy Hill.

In 1976/77 Mudassar was selected to tour Australia and then West Indies with a Pakistan side that was just beginning to become a strong one. In Australia, thanks to an injury to established opener Sadiq Mohammad, he made his debut and opened up against Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. Poor old Mudassar was certainly thrown in at the deep end. He had never been to Australia before, and hadn’t been picked for the single warm up match before the Test. He hadn’t even had a net before Sadiq’s late injury, and once he knew he was playing all he got were a few deliveries from teammate Salim Altaf.

When the match began Mudassar was surprised at the bounce Lillee extracted from the wicket at the Adelaide Oval, and that Thomson had all his fielders bar cover point behind the wicket, seven of them in catching positions. He dug in however and survived for an hour for his 13. He relaxed a little when Gary Gilmour came on as first change, and paid the price. In the second innings he and Majid Khan put on 58 as he batted for more than hour again for 22. One mistake he made was to decide to hook Lillee, who was bouncing him regularly. He was felled by the first delivery he went for, struck on the back of the head. Fortunately he got straight back up again. It wasn’t exactly a dream start, but Mudassar did his job and blunted the threat of the famous pair and helped Pakistan to a draw.

Sadiq returned for the second Test and renewed his long standing partnership with Majid. Mudassar had to wait for the visit of England in 1977/78 and the intervention of Kerry Packer before he got his second cap. In the meantime he returned to Little Hulton and helped them to win the league title to go with the previous year’s cup success. Mudassar also met his future wife that summer.

England’s visit to Pakistan for a three Test series in 1977/78 was played out against the backdrop of the World Series Cricket storm that had broken at the start of the 1977 English summer. Packer had signed five Pakistanis including Majid. The Pakistan Cricket Board were desperate to show that they did not need the missing senior players and the players were instructed that avoiding defeat was to be their priority.

Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat. At tea Mudassar was unbeaten on 48. He hit a Bob Willis delivery for four in the first over after the interval and that was it for the day as he batted out the rest of the session without addition. Pakistan finished the day on 164-2. Next day Mudassar toiled on and on in front of his home crowd until he reached 99. A section of the crowd, believing he had reached his century, celebrated one run too early by invading the pitch. It was good natured stuff, the spectators wanting only to congratulate Mudassar, but the heavy handed way in which the police tried to remove them caused the first riot of the match.

The invasion of the pitch itself would have been disconcerting enough for Mudassar, but once the riot started he had the further worry that the match might be abandoned as a draw to leave him stranded. It was as well that almost straight away after the restart his partner, old friend Javed, made sure he was able to complete a quick single to reach the landmark. The innings had taken nine hours and seventeen minutes. It was the slowest century in Test history. It is a record that has never been beaten, and given the way modern Test cricket is played it is highly unlikely it ever will be.

With Geoff Boycott doing his best to try and match Mudassar there was never any doubt but that the first Test would be drawn. The other two matches in the series followed suit and the series squared. Mudassar was not quite so slow again, but he took four hours to get to 50 in the second Test. He reached the same landmark in the third Test as well, this time in the comparatively brisk time of just under three hours. Neither game ever looked like achieving a definite result.

Pakistan toured England just a few months later, but this time they did miss the ‘Packerstanis’; Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Asif Iqbal, Mushtaq Mohammad and Majid. There were two crushing defeats and a rain ruined third Test. Mudassar was no more successful than his teammates although he did rather better against the counties. After the series was over he signed for Burnley in the Lancashire League. Between then and 1990 he would spend nine summers at Turf Moor as one of the most consistent professionals in the league. Perhaps surprisingly Mudassar never played county cricket. He was sounded out by Surrey in the late 1970s, but they chose to employ Sylvester Clarke instead. After that brief dalliance with the possibility of First Class cricket in his adopted home he stuck to the leagues as, after Burnley, he moved to Horwich, back in the Bolton Association. Mudassar also played in the rather less rarefied atmosphere of the Minor Counties Championship for Cheshire in the early 1980s.

The pain of that 1978 defeat in England was eased by a home win over India at the end of that year, although a year later they were defeated 2-0 in a six Test series by their closest neighbours. Mudassar was as disappointing as the rest of his side, although in the first Test he did score the only century that Pakistan managed in the series.

In 1982 Imran Khan began his long and successful reign as Pakistan captain with a tour of England. Such was Mudassar’s success against the counties that he went into the first Test with an average of 291.50. He came back to earth with a pair, dismissed lbw by Ian Botham in both innings as Pakistan lost. Mudassar’s luck changed in the second Test at Lord’s however when, despite scoring only 20 runs he was Pakistan’s matchwinner. His previous 24 Tests had brought Mudassar’s gentle medium pace a total of just eleven wickets at more than 46 runs each, and he had not taken a single wicket in his last nine appearances. His bowling was honed for league cricket in England. Nothing more than medium pace he was accurate, bowled a tight line and could move the ball both ways. His first important contribution had come at Lahore in 1978/79. India were 406-4 in their second innings and the match drifting towards a draw when Mushtaq Mohammad asked Mudassar to bowl. He only send down four overs, but in them he dismissed Gundappa Viswanath and Dilip Vengsarkar to open up a game that Pakistan went on to win by eight wickets.

Back at Lord’s in 1982 a double century from Mudassar’s opening partner Mohsin Khan was the foundation on which Pakistan built an innings of 428. In an age when the follow on was usually enforced Imran was happy to ask England to bat again when they failed by a single run to avoid the indignity. Imran opened the bowling with himself and Sarfraz. For 45 minutes one makeshift England opener, Chris Tavare, blocked everything and the other, the normally free scoring Derek Randall ground his way to 9. Purely to enable himself and Sarfraz to change ends Imran threw the ball to Mudassar for an over. He begun by bowling Randall, and two deliveries later trapped Alan Lamb lbw. Unsurprisingly Imran decided to give Mudassar another over. Like Lamb England skipper David Gower was dismissed for a duck, caught at the wicket by Wasim Bari. The gentle swing of Mudassar had made deep inroads into England’s batting. Botham and Tavare then added 112 before Mudassar returned to dismiss Botham and Mike Gatting. Later still he brought down the curtain on Ian Greig’s brief Test career. His figures were 6/32 and Pakistan went on to win by ten wickets.

England won the deciding Test at the Oval, but only just. Mudassar begun by scoring 65, his only decent innings of the series, as Pakistan got to 275 in their first innings. It was enough for a lead of 19 but after another failure from Mudassar England’s target was just 219. It looked like they would get there at a canter at 168-1, but the last 51 runs saw them lose six wickets, four of which fell to Mudassar. Should he have been brought on earlier? Many believed so, and that the result may have been different if he had been.

In 1982/83 Mudassar reached his peak. He started the winter with some steady rather than spectacular contributions to Pakistan’s historic 3-0 home victory over Australia, but his average was still 66. Against India his performance was Bradmanesque. In a six match series that the home side won 3-0 he was Pakistan’s leading run scorer with 761 at 126.83 including four centuries. To underline Pakistan’s dominance even after that Mudassar wasn’t top of their batting averages, as Zaheer shaded him on 130.00. Javed too averaged more than 100. In the fourth Test Mudassar played his longest innings in Test cricket, 231 in three minutes shy of ten and a half hours. He and Javed put on 451 for the third wicket, equalling a record that had been set by Bill Ponsford and Don Bradman in 1934. Mudassar had no idea at the time – if he had one suspects he might not have tamely turned a delivery from Dilip Doshi into the hands of mid on.

In the fifth Test, ruined ultimately by rain, there was another fine innings from Mudassar as he emulated his father by carrying his bat for 152 out of 323. Batting was not easy on a pitch that encouraged the outswing of Kapil Dev, then at the peak of his powers and who took 8-85 in the innings. The fact that previously Mudassar had been a batsman who regularly fell to the Indian all-rounder made his effort all the more impressive. There are still only four Pakistanis to achieve the feat of batting through a completed innings (Saeed Anwar and Imran Farhat are the other two), but the father and son from Lahore had the field to themselves for almost half a century.

Inevitably there was a falling off in Mudassar’s form after that Indian series, although eighteen months later against the same opposition in Faisalabad, he became the first man in Test history to be dismissed for 199 when he tried to cut off spinner Shivlal Yadav to the point boundary only to give wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani a sharp catch. Overall though his form began to falter and he must have been relieved when his name once again appeared in the party selected to tour England in 1987.

At the second attempt a Pakistani side led by Imran made history by becoming the first from the country to win a series in England. Rain dominated the first two Tests to such an extent that neither match progressed as far as a third innings. Then in the third match Pakistan’s bowlers, with Imran to the fore, skittled England twice to record an innings victory. After that their ambitions did not extend beyond drawing the final two Tests, a situation made for Mudassar. In the fourth Test Mike Gatting gambled and invited Pakistan to bat first. It was an hour into the second day before Mudassar was dismissed for 124. In the closing overs of the match as England fell short in an attempt to dash to 124 in the last hour the importance of Mudassar’s vigil became clear. Then at the Oval Pakistan piled up 708 in their first innings to bat England out of the game. Javed was the biggest contributor with 260 backed up by centuries from Salim Malik and Imran and 73 from Mudassar. He averaged an impressive 57.75 for the series.

The following winter there was a return trip by England to Pakistan. It was one of the most controversial series ever, the spat between Gatting and Shakoor Rana being the best remembered of a number of unsavoury episodes. In the first match Mudassar recorded his final Test century, 120, and opened the bowling with Wasim Akram. Neither he nor Wasim bowled much however, the damage being done by the mercurial Abdul Qadir with 13-81. On reflection Mudassar should have retired from Test cricket there and then. In the event over the next fifteen months he played a further ten times. There weren’t many runs, and not once did he pass fifty, although there was one last demonstration of his patience at home in Lahore in October 1988. Pakistan went into the third and final Test against Australia 1-0 up. The Australians would certainly have dismissed Pakistan in the fourth innings to square the series had Mudassar not spent more than four hours over an innings of 49.

It might have improved Mudassar’s batting had he not been colour blind. An unusual disability for a top class batsman the only time it caused him real problems was with yorkers, an issue that was exacerbated on smaller grounds with less than perfect sightscreens. An example came in April 1988 at the Bourda ground in Georgetown, Guyana. Curtley Ambrose was making his debut, and a perfectly aimed yorker to Mudassar gave him his first Test wicket.

In the early days of the format Mudassar was a vital member of Pakistan’s ODI side. With the bat he averaged 25 at a strike rate of just 51. He didn’t always open the batting but was rather more successful when he did, his highest score of 95 and all his other 15 half centuries coming from the top of the order. With the ball he played a vital role, almost invariably coming on as first change and generally bowling his full quota of overs. His accuracy was such that he maintained an economy rate of 4.24 and whilst his 122 games brought him the relatively modest reward of 111 wickets he was the first Pakistan bowler to snare one hundred victims.

To all intents and purposes Mudassar’s First Class career ended with his final Test in New Zealand in February 1989. For the next five English summers he turned out once each season at the Scarborough festival, but by then he was living in Manchester and making his living from league cricket and from a pair of grocer’s shops that he owned in the city. Mudassar’s desire to win never dimmed whatever standard of cricket he was playing. The Welsh soccer international, Leighton James, who played league cricket with Mudassar described him as the most competitive sportsman I have ever met. His old skipper Imran summed Mudassar up rather well in his 1988 autobiography when he wrote, whilst conceding that Mudassar wasn’t a great player, that he has achieved a lot in Tests through sheer hard work. He is a very intelligent player and uses his cricket brain to the full.

Based in England now for many years Mudassar has continued to be involved in cricket. In 1993 he managed the Pakistan side that toured West Indies. He demonstrated his skills as a diplomat by keeping the side together despite allegations of drug taking being made against four of the side, but it was not a task he took on again. There have however been a number of coaching roles. Briefly in 2005 he took charge of the Kenyan national side, before moving on the following year to become director of Pakistan’s National Cricket Academy. From there he took on a similar role in 2008 with the ICC academy in the UAE. In his absence the Pakistan academy withered on the vine until, in May of last year, Mudassar was persuaded to return to the job.

 

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