The run-making machines

January 10, 2021

An illustrious list of Pakistani batsmen with over 25,000 first-class runs

Pakistan has produced some great batsmen in its 73 years. Five of them have gone on to score more than 25,000 first-class runs, including two who have gone past the 30,000 mark as well. All five had extensive stretches in the English county cricket circuit.

Zaheer Abbas heads this exclusive list with 34,843 runs scored at an average of 51.54. With 108 centuries, he is the only Asian batsman to reach the landmark of 100 centuries. Of his run tally, 16,073 runs and 49 centuries were scored for Gloucestershire during his long stint with them from 1972-1985.

Such was Zaheer’s consistency that 34.6% of his 768 innings resulted in a fifty or a century.

Known as the Asian Bradman, Zaheer had an insatiable appetite for runs. He is the only player to have scored a double century and a century in the same first class match on four occasions. Interestingly, he was unbeaten in all these eight innings.

Along with Everton Weekes, he shares the record for 5 consecutive international centuries. This was part of a sequence that saw him scoring 6 centuries in 7 international innings.

Playing with a high back lift and a pronounced flourish, Zaheer was a most attractive stroke maker to watch. He wore glasses, but this did not impair his craftsmanship with the willow. As a writer once described, “Zed killed you with subtle hands, elegant wrists and a relentless bespectacled brutality.”

Zaheer had a special liking for the Indian bowlers and was instrumental in ending the careers of their famous spinning quartet of Chandrasekhar, Prasanna, Bedi and Venkataraghavan through his savage assault on their bowling.

Zaheer’s immortal cover drive and his exquisite shot making on the back foot are memories that will never be tarnished.

Mushtaq Mohammad

Mushtaq is second on this elite list with 31,081 runs at an average of 42.07, including 72 centuries. Of his runs, 15,961 were scored for Northamptonshire, for whom he played from 1964-1977. This included 32 centuries.

Of his 843 innings 27.4% led to a fifty or century.

A doughty and pugnacious stroke-player, Mushtaq was especially strong square off the wicket. His nimble footwork allowed him to move inside the line of the ball to play the hook shot, which he relished. His cuts and square drives added to his array of strokes and he was also the inventor of the reverse sweep.

The birth of the reverse sweep came in a club match where he was facing the great England spinner Freddie Titmus. Mushtaq recalls that he was having difficulty scoring against Titmus and on looking round the field for an opening saw a gap at third man. He decided to use an unorthodox technique to play the ball to that area. Thus the reverse sweep was born. Titmus objected to the stroke but the umpire told him, “You’ve got a ball in your hand and he’s got a bat. He can do what he wants with it.”

Mushtaq was the first Pakistani batsman to cross 25,000 runs in first-class cricket. This wonderful allrounder was a child prodigy making his first class debut at the tender age of 13 years and 41 days. With his characteristic twirl of the bat between deliveries and his busy stroke play, Mushtaq was a popular batsman wherever he played.

Javed Miandad

Miandad ranks third highest on this special list. He scored 28,663 at an average of 53.37 which is the best in this group. His 80 centuries are second only to Zaheer’s tally. Miandad played county cricket for Sussex and Glamorgan in a foray that lasted from 1976-1985. Together, he scored 9042 runs for them with 24 centuries.

Miandad played 632 innings of which 34.7% translated into a fifty or a century.

When first selected for the national side against the visiting Kiwis in 1976, Kardar called him the find of the decade. It was a tag he more than lived up to. With his fierce competitiveness and consummate talent, he was the player that every opponent dreaded to face.

Miandad had all the classic shots in the book, but it was for his creative, improvisation skills with the bat that he was best known. A thinking batsman with quick footwork, Miandad had the uncanny ability to thread the ball through the narrowest of gaps in the field. He read the state of the game and field placings exceedingly well and adapted his play and technique to deal with them. He was a true man of crisis who always gave hundred percent on the field. With a strong defence to back up his stroke making and a mastery of gamesmanship, he would bait the bowlers into making errors of line and length. His spats on the ground were reflective of his desire for perfection and success, his temperament alternating between the emotional intensity of John McEnroe and the steely resolve of Bjorn Borg.

A true genius with the bat and blessed with an unyielding, never say die spirit, Miandad was the man Viv Richards chose when asked whom he would pick to bat for his life.

Majid Khan

Fourth on this select list is Majid Khan, a man who was least concerned about statistics and records. He scored 27,444 runs at an average of 43.01 with 73 centuries.

He spent many seasons in England playing for Glamorgan from 1968-1976 and representing Cambridge University from 1970-1972. Majid also played for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield in 1973-74. He accumulated 12791 runs for these teams with 32 centuries. In 28.9% of his 700 innings Majid scored a fifty or a century.

Majid’s batting was grace personified. The effortless ease and nonchalance with which he played won him the title of ‘Majestic Majid. He believed that footwork was given undue importance and what really mattered was a good eye and strong wrists. To prove his point he once faced Glamorgan’s best bowlers, including the legendary Don Shepherd, on a practice pitch for an hour, without moving his legs and kept hitting the ball all over the park without giving a single chance.

Majid’s batting feats are all the more commendable when we consider the fact that he began his career as a fast bowling all rounder, and really focused more on batting when back problems and questions about his action limited his bowling input. At his best Majid was simply sublime. He played with a rare languid grace and unruffled composure. He saw the ball early and always had time to caress it to unguarded areas of the field. He is one of only six batsmen to score a century before lunch on the opening day of a test match.

Zaheer Abbas

He was renowned for fair play and would walk, without waiting for the umpire’s decision, when he knew he was out. For a man possessed with such rare talent he was capable of climbing much greater heights than he reached. His journey from fast bowler to middle order batsman to imperious test opener is the stuff of folklore. Majid gladdened many hearts with his flair and flamboyance and the magic that his batting generated.

Younis Ahmed

The fifth and final name on this list is that of Younis Ahmed. Younis made 26,073 first class runs at an average of 40.48, inclusive of 46 hundreds. He played most of his cricket in England, representing in succession, Surrey, Worcestershire and Glamorgan from 1965-1986. He also played for South Australia in 1972-73. Collectively, he scored 23,926 runs for these sides including 41 centuries. Younis notched up a fifty or a century in 24.9% of his 762 innings.

A stylish left handed middle order batsman, Younis had a wristy attacking style and was always on the lookout for runs. He is best remembered for the long gap of 17 years and 111 days between his two brief stints in test cricket for Pakistan. Having played against New Zealand in October 1969 he was not selected again till February 1987 for a match against India. In terms of matches the gap was 104 test matches long.

Younis often ran into disputes with authority which prevented him from displaying his full potential on the international scene. He certainly had all the talent that it takes to make a star.

With the trimming down of the county circuit and the shorter version of the game occupying increasingly more space, the number of batsman with a high yield of runs in first class cricket will decline. This list of five may stay unaltered for many years to come.

Dr Salman Faridi is a senior surgeon, poet, sports aficionado and an avid reader with a private collection of over 7000 books.

[email protected]

The run-making machines