Sportstar archives: Test cricket not for cowards, says Javed Miandad

“I am a nice man. I play good cricket. I have respect all round the world both as a cricketer and a person. Will someone please tell me why it is that I seem to provoke such dislike in England?” asks Javed Miandad in his candid chat with Ted Corbett.

Pakistan's Javed Miandad hits John Embury for four in the first Test match between England and Pakistan at Lahore played from November 25 to 28, 1987.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Javed Miandad, the most controversial figure in world cricket for a generation, is suffering.

He has pain from his long-term back injury, which means he must wear a corset on the field and take painkillers. Unfortunately, the tablets upset his stomach – “I have always had a delicate stomach,” he complains – and his doctor has told him he must try another remedy.

So, as he sits in a plush, quiet hotel suite not more than a long throw-in from Buckingham Palace, Miandad looks anything but the troublemaker the English papers have described with such relish. He is still wearing his pyjamas; even a cup of tea is too much for the uncomfortable stomach.

In addition, there is a worry about the libel actions he and the rest of the Pakistan party have taken out against two English newspapers. One paper has called Miandad the “Gadaffi of Cricket” and the other said cheating had become a Pakistani way of life and called the team the “Pariahs of Pakistan.”

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There are domestic problems, too. His young sons want their toys, want a drink, want their father’s attention. “Dad is busy,” he says. “Mummy, please take care of these children,” he pleads in the direction of the kitchen.

Miandad has the air of a distracted businessman as he tries to answer my questions and half-a-dozen phone calls, either on the hotel phone or the mobile phone that rarely leaves his side unless he is on the field.

He finds one question particularly difficult.

“I am a nice man. I play good cricket. I have respect all round the world both as a cricketer and a person,” he says.

“Will someone please tell me why it is that I seem to provoke such dislike in England?

“Do any of the people who write such things about me know me? I have known you for several years and you know that I am always available, always ready to help or answer questions.

“Yet they write these incredible headlines. I cannot understand why. Incidents happen in cricket; players lose concentration and sometimes players lose their tempers. But that does not mean anything except that they behaved wrongly on one occasion.

Imran Khan with Javed Miandad... Pakistan captaincy went back and forth between the two.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

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“The reason may be that I am a gutsy batsman who believes that to combat the best bowling, you have to be aggressive, and that if someone abuses you, you shout back.

“I was brought up to be a tough cricketer by my late father. If I went home and said that I had made a century, my father demanded to know why I had allowed myself to be dismissed when I was set.

“He did not dish out praise, but instead he told me to aim even higher. He excused me if I got out early in my innings but when I got out after a hundred, he used to say: ‘Why didn’t you go on for 200, 300?’

“That stood me in good stead when I played in Tests in Australia in 1976-77. I was only a teenager, but I received my share of bad language from the Chappell brothers lan and Greg, from Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh.

“The Australian attack of Lillee and Thomson was the best in their history – but they also taught the rest of the world the art of intimidating a batsman.

“If Lillee got the ball past the bat, he had a few interesting expressions which he used to say how lucky the batsman had been. He even made the Sign of the Cross.

“It’s still a tough game. You have a bat – so if you get a bouncer, you can duck or hook. If the bowler says something, make a reply, but only if you have the guts to face the bouncer that will follow.

“You have to be aggressive, particularly when you see the 100-miles-an-hour ball coming.

“I showed my aggression when I took on lan Salisbury, the young leg-break bowler who played two Tests this summer. He took my wicket at Lord’s – and I was happy for a young player. But I was also disappointed for myself.

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“I was trying to settle in when the ball popped. At Old Trafford, when I went in to bat, I was aggressive and waiting for him. ‘Now this time I am going to show you,’ I thought and I hit five fours in an over off him.

“Test cricket is for heroes, not for cowards, and those who cannot take the rough stuff should not play.”

Javed returns to the same theme when I ask about the dust-up at Old Trafford when Aaqib Javed was fined 40 percent of his Test fee for arguing with umpire Roy Palmer.

“Aaqib bowled short to Devon Malcolm and received a warning. The reason, so we were told by umpire Roy Palmer, was that Malcolm was such a poor batsman – One of the worst No. 11s in the world. So what am I supposed to do? Tell my fast bowlers to pitch the ball up? Put on slow bowlers at either end?

“If someone like Robin Smith, a very good batsman, comes to the crease, must I tell Mushtaq Ahmed to stop bowling his googly?

“Or shall I tell him that he must inform the batsman what ball he is going to bowl before he starts his run?

“Neither Smith nor Graham Gooch, England’s best batsman, learnt to pick the googly all the way through the series. They just played with bat and pad together and often misread the way the ball was turning. I did not see one England batsman who could read Mushtaq correctly.

“Malcolm was dressed for battle when he went in at Old Trafford and as a bowler who had sent down a few bouncers at Mushtaq, Waqar (Younis), Wasim (Akram) and Aaqib – all tailenders – he must have expected to get a few back.

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“He was wearing a helmet, visor, chest protector, gloves, forearm guard, box, two thigh pads, and extra padding as well as his ordinary pads.

“Everyone has to bat and field in a cricket match, and if Malcolm or any other batsman cannot take the heat, they should keep away from the crease.

“They are paid to play Test cricket. That is their job. If he is going to play Test cricket, all I can say is, well, my friend, you must be prepared.

“No one has been killed by a bouncer, and no one will be as long as he is wearing all that extra protection.

“Remember that years ago batsmen had to face the quicks without all that padding. They also had to face unlimited numbers of bouncers. Now – and this is the worst rule I have heard of in my time – there is a restriction of one an over at each batsman.

“One of these days, a fast bowler will take the authorities to court because they are stopping him performing as he wants.

“Runs are being handed to mediocre batsmen. If they can face one bouncer and play well off the front foot, they will make runs.

Sunil Gavaskar steps out and drives down the ground   -  The Hindu Archives

 

“Sunil Gavaskar, Geoff Boycott, Allan Border, Viv Richards and David Gower faced as many bouncers as the bowler could bowl. Yet they got seven or eight thousand runs.

“They were tough. They ducked out of the way or they used their bats to hook the ball to the boundary.

“They played for their country as soldiers light for their country – without fear of the consequences.”

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As I leave, Javed’s lawyer rings to say the writs will be delivered in the morning, which happens to be the day of the third Texaco Trophy. Miandad wants to play in the game, but although he travels to Nottingham and watches from the balcony of the Pakistan dressing room, he cannot take part.

In the fourth One-Day game, Miandad top-scores with a typical, defiant 50 out of 204 in 50 overs: the innings of a soldier fighting for his country. He needs a runner for most of his innings, and when the rain-affected match restarts the next day, Miandad hands the captaincy to Ramiz Raja and stays in the dressing room.

He has thoughts of playing next season for Durham, for a league club, even for Yorkshire. “I would go if I got the right offer. I could put 16,000 people into the ground if I was their overseas pro,” he chuckles.

“The Pakistani fans used to come to watch me when I was with Glamorgan, and now when I go back, they say they have stayed away since I left. They say they have nothing to watch now. I am sure I could give them something to watch if I went to Yorkshire.”

Again the chuckle; the world-weary chuckle of an old soldier who has seen it all and achieved so much and who must be wondering how much longer he can continue.

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