The Cutting Edge does cut deep

He loved the sniff of the battle and the whiff of a conquest.

S. DINAKAR

Cutting Edge — My Autobiography, by Javed Miandad, Oxford University Press, 344 pages, Price Rs. 495.

He loved the sniff of the battle and the whiff of a conquest. Put him in a pressure cooker situation his eyes would light up. Indeed, he was the kind of cricketer who looked adversity in the eye. Javed Mindad's cricket was all about passion and commitment. For Miandad every cricket match was a `war' and he says so in his book. No wonder the `wars' against India occupy a special place in Miandad's heart.

Now with India scheduled to tour Pakistan in 2004 for a Test and ODI series, the chapter in Miandad's book Wars with India is worth dwelling on. The former Pakistani captain and middle-order giant says the India — Pakistan face-offs are the fiercest of them all.

"They say the Ashes contests between England and Australia is the great cricket rivalry. That's all very well, but what do you say about a cricket rivalry that's based on a history of real war between the two nations and where the blood split is still fresh." Miandad is pained that politics has often come in the way of normal cricketing relations between the two nations. "It is regrettable that politics has spilled over into sports. This puts the Pakistan-India cricket rivalry on a completely different plane from the Ashes. Each time there has been a war or a threat of war, cricketing ties have been suspended. In the public mind on both sides of the border, national self-esteem is at stake each time the two countries meet on a cricket field."

However, Miandad is happy that despite the intensity of the contests, the high stakes involved, and the political uneasiness, "the relations between the players both on and off the field have been excellent. More than anyone else, it is the players who have come to loath the mixing of politics and sports."

On the 1983 tour of India, Miandad says "Quite apart from the umpiring errors, and the uninspiring cricket, our team's reception by the Indian public during that tour remains a great memory. Crowds remained impressive throughout and showed a willingness to appreciate good cricket from both sides. Off the field, the level of hospitality and courtesy was unbelievable and we were made to feel at home wherever we went." Miandad recalls his trip to Kolkata in '84 for a double wicket competition where the Indian hospitality and kindness touched him. "I experienced first hand the affection and warmth that the Indian and Pakistani people have for each other," he writes.

During the tournament he received a grievous head injury from a Dennis Lillee bouncer — there was no love lost between the two — and had to be rushed to a Kolkata hospital. The manner in which he was looked after in the hospital left a great imprint in Miandad. "(Jagmohan) Dalmiya (present BCCI chief) looked after me and was a great comfort during that time, and he became my family in Calcutta. His warmth and companionship in those difficult days is something I will never forget."

He revisits his finest moment with the willow on the cricket field, — the last ball six off Chetan Sharma in Sharjah `86 — "I have played that final over in my mind time and again. It was one of the best memories of my life."

Miandad has a lot more to say in the book and does not bite the bullet. He regards Imran Khan high as a cricketer but adds the formidable all-rounder worked behind the scenes to have him dropped as captain.

There is a chapter on controversies and Miandad was involved in plenty of them. "The notorious incidents of my career have happened on a backdrop of a East-West culture clash. Underlying cultural differences are always a fertile ground for misunderstanding. The situation can get worse by the minute and before you know it, the whole thing had acquired a life of its own," he says by way of an explanation. He was a cricketer with a tigerish resolve. The competitive juices in him would be flowing when things got hot. No wonder, in a career beginning in 1976-77 and spanning 17 eventful years, Miandad finished with 8832 runs in 124 Tests at a highly creditable 52.57. His is a book that makes interesting reading. As always, he does not hold back his punches. The Cutting Edge does cut deep.