Saqlain Mushtaq belongs to a generation when international cricket teams possessed spinners of good quality. If Pakistan had Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain in its ranks, India had superstars in Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.
While they enjoyed rivalry on the field, the cricketers across the borders were friends off the pitch. In an Instagram live with Sportstar on Sunday, Saqlain revealed how Kumble helped him immensely in his career.
“We were in England and I told Anil bhai that there are not many good opticians back home, so I am struggling and if he could suggest some ophthalmologists. So, he suggested that I go to Dr. Bharat Rugani. Even he said that he and [Sourav] Ganguly consult him often. He gave me the [contact] number of the doctor and I visited him in Harley Street (in London),” Saqlain said.
“The doctor checked my eyes and gave me lenses. I had cataract, the vision power was cylindrical and also the eyes were weak. I had consulted many doctors in Pakistan and none could treat it. So, it was Anil bhai who would help me get in touch with the doctor. It was because of him that I could recover. He is a gem of a person,” the Pakistan spin ace said.
Before undergoing the treatment, he would struggle with his vision. “If I [stood] in the boundary while fielding, my anticipation power was zero. That’s why I would be slow and would react late. Now, I can see everything clearly,” Saqlain said.
“Our culture has taught us to respect elders and Anil bhai is just like my elder brother. Whenever we meet, we have good chats. Even during playing days, you could walk up to him and seek suggestions in middle of a series. He would help you with necessary tips and would never misguide it. I have a lot of respect for him,” the 43-year-old said.
Saqlain still remembers how the entire Pakistan dressing room was in awe of Kumble’s 10-wicket innings haul against Pakistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla in 1999. Saqlain rued that he never got a chance to play together with the Indian spin legend. “We have played against each other, but never together. I wish I could play at least one match, where both of us could have been in the same team,” he said.
“I have played together with Muttiah Muralitharan in MCL league matches, and it was super fun. I hope someday we can perhaps play in some veterans’ match where Anil bhai and I will be in the same team,” Saqlain said.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the India-Pakistan cricketing rivalry in his long and illustrious career, Saqlain believes that it is important for the bilateral series to resume. “I recently read two articles about having India-Pakistan charity match to raise funds for COVID-19. While Shoaib (Akhtar) batted for it , Kapil (Dev) paaji had a different view . Well, at this time, we all are same. Patriotism is essential but we are human at the basic level,” he said.
“Why just this charity match? All cricket, trade equations between India and Pakistan should resume. This pandemic has taught that we are humans, who feel things the same way on either side - be it India or Pakistan. We should renew our relationships, and should develop a strong equation with everyone and be united. That’s the need of the hour,” Saqlain said, hoping that things will improve in the near future.
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