Javed Miandad and Pakistan's quest for izzat
To begin with, here is an anecdote and an image of Javed Miandad.
In his first series away from home, in 1976-77 in Australia, the fashion amongst senior players was to carry smart leather briefcases with them. Inside, usually, were documents indicating their flourishing status; county contracts, travel papers, sponsorship deals. Impressed, young Miandad soon acquired himself a briefcase, strutting around with it everywhere. He had, however, nothing to carry in it.
An equally junior teammate, puzzled, asked him: 'Javed, what are you doing with a briefcase? You don't have any contract, or sponsorship!'
'See here, I have a copy of the Quran in it,' Miandad replied.
'And doesn't it look good?'
There are countless Miandad tales, but this one feels particularly revealing: that need, faintly obsessive, to be loved and respected, and to impress and be considered equal. But at the same time, there is a belief, as natural as childbirth, that he is good enough to belong in the very highest company. Asked whether he was at all overawed when first selected for Pakistan - back in 1975 for the World Cup - to walk into a dressing room of such stars, he was bemused. 'Why would I be overawed?'
Then, in early 1993, he leaves a scene on the mind, a scene that is difficult to forget. We are in Hamilton and Pakistan, under Miandad's leadership, are soon to pull off a memorable triumph, one that beautifully captures the spirit of a side capable of conceiving victory from thin air. New Zealand are just recovering from early jitters in chasing a measly 127 for victory in a one-off Test. They are 61 for 3 and Andrew Jones and Adam Parore have put on 29 difficult and necessary runs. Waqar Younis is building up some pace and finding some late, inward curve with the old ball. Jones manages to dig one such yorker from outside off, the ball squirting off an inside edge to square leg, where Miandad is stationed. No run is on, but Jones takes a couple of steps out as a matter of course; the non-striker Parore, out of reflex or courtesy perhaps, responds with a couple of his own. Miandad picks up the ball and shapes his body to throw at the non-striker's end, forcing Parore to scamper back, not unlike a common burglar on meeting a flashlight. Without changing direction though, without so much as a glance to locate his bearings, Miandad instead hurls the ball at the striker's end. Everyone is caught pants down, hands in cookie jars. Wicketkeeper Rashid Latif is not even close to collecting the throw, as post-delivery decorum requires. Even the cameraman square on the boundary on the off side is momentarily caught off-guard, panning instinctively to the non-striker's, before jerking back to Jones's end. The throw misses the stumps by centimetres. Jones doesn't catch on till very late, a man unaware that he is dodging a bullet first, but hurrying his bat down later.
An attempted no-look direct-hit run-out; it is an act of genius, dimmed none by the fact that he misses.
It is Miandad more than any innings or shot: ever alive to opportunity, always ahead of the game, prodigiously gifted and with an instinct sharpened by a permanent sense of desperation which produces just the right response to any situation.
Javed Miandad's Karachi home is little different to the others that surround it in Defence Housing Authority, the city's richest postal code if there was a tradition of postal codes.
Architecturally, the bungalows may differ, but in feel - the high gates, the space, that heavy sense of potentially ill-gotten wealth hidden within, the slow, enduring luxury of it - they're actually all the same. Miandad's driveway is ludicrously stuffed with cars.
He hasn't aged. There are no wrinkles, and he appears slimmer now than he ever was. His eyes are genuinely beautiful, a light, translucent brown, at odds with the rest of his visage. In them is mischief but mostly - and surprisingly perhaps - a kind of blunted innocence. More than anything, they betray his central, enduring youth.
Today**, he wears a cream shalwar-kameez and, with a brick in his hand pretending to be a mobile phone, and his arms hanging a little away from his sides like there might be a pair of invisible fire extinguishers lodged in his armpits, looks like a bit of a wadera, a feudal lord.
At the centre of Miandad is the quest for izzat, an amalgamation of honour, respect and repute. It is a central plank on which the subcontinent and Islamic world operate, more so than many parts of the world. In Pakistan, izzat crops up everywhere, like those casual bystanders who emerge at a road accident or street-side scrap, in almost any debate, in any public conversation.
The entire afternoon with Miandad is heavy with this theme; he uses the word itself over twenty times, mostly when you least expect it. For example, Pakistan's win in Bangalore in 1987, a fabled Test which sealed Pakistan's first series win in India. Miandad scored no great runs through the series, but one contribution was vital. He is widely considered the tactical spur of Imran Khan's sides, the man who gave detail to Imran's broad principles. From him would come a tweak in the field here, a bowling change there, a selection gambit. In Bangalore, as deputy to Imran, he convinced him to pick left-arm spinner Iqbal Qasim ahead of the leggie Abdul Qadir. The latter had been easily repelled over four Tests but he was Imran's blue-eyed boy. Eventually Imran relented; those who know Miandad know well that the trick is not to get him to talk, but to get him to stop talking. Qasim played, took nine wickets and won the game. Having told the story, Miandad takes a sudden detour. 'I never paid any attention to all this because I used to believe you do stuff on the ground and that is it. Once you stop doing it nobody will ask about you. This is my imaan (faith), that when Allah gives you izzat, it means you have done good things. And if any guy has respect, then it is your farz (duty) to give him respect also, because that is like giving Allah izzat. Who has given me izzat? Allah. So if you doubt me, you doubt Allah.'
For a certain kind of believer, the circular logic is difficult to break. It is the way with Miandad, especially when he uses his favourite bit of logic in any cricket argument: who else, he often asks, could know more than him about cricket here, for who else has played as many Tests as he has for Pakistan? It is precisely the kind of logic that sounds better coming from someone else, even if it may be true, and it is precisely this kind of logic, unfortunately for him, that has led to his various fallouts, as player, captain, coach and administrator, with other players, captains, coaches and administrators.
Still, he wants to make sure that izzat is understood, and excited with his own reasoning, he continues, insisting the following is quoted. 'When you make someone a Lord or Sir in Western countries, everyone respects them. Here, every Muslim name has been given respect. If you say Lord or Sir, why do you say it, why do you respect? Whoever has been put on that level has been done so here by Allah, even if he is poor. Allah has given him respect and so it is our duty to respect. How can we be successful if we cannot give respect to others?'
'This,' he concludes, 'is my belief.'
Captaincy talk starts, which in Pakistan is heavily about izzat in any case. He had a troubled grasp of it, even if nobody has led Pakistan to more Test victories* with fourteen, he is equal to Imran in lesser Tests and usually without Imran in his side, who played in only thirteen of the thirty-four Tests Miandad captained). Only Imran, in fact, has led in more Tests. For a long time he was the youngest captain Pakistan had, appointed when only twenty-two, in 1980.
He was soon gone in 1982, a clutch of senior players unhappy with him. Four more stints came over the next decade, whenever Imran was absent and he stepped aside each time Imran came back. 'This is bigness, humanitarianism, that I have played under you and I don't want you to play under me,' he says.
Finally, on Imran's retirement in 1992 he became the rightful full-time appointee. And despite winning series in England and New Zealand, less than a year later, he was out again, this time for good. The first rebellion didn't bother him; he was, he says, keener to just play at the time. This second time remains without closure. Senior players at the time agitated against him, putting their guns on the shoulder of the board head, a chief justice of the Supreme Court, Nasim Hasan Shah.
Still, he is one of the templates when it comes to the kind of men who have had success in handling Pakistan. Miandad - and his spiritual predecessor Mushtaq Mohammad - were polar opposites of Kardar and Imran, the other kinds who have had success.
Though he was cheerful and smiled a lot, Mushtaq changed Pakistan, making them more ballsy and bastardly, giving them more or less their modern popular avatar. Not only did they win more Tests, or play more attractive cricket, they stood up and confidently strutted across the fields of cricket, undimmed by their country's past or their skin colour.
Miandad took the spirit of Mushtaq's basic philosophy and expanded upon it. Tactically, he was sharp, but his sides didn't just refuse to turn the other cheek; they slapped you first and pretended to be the victim. And this is the key for Miandad, motivated, as Gideon Haigh so astutely noted, through the power of grievance. The sense of victimhood - a strong strain right through the narrative of Pakistan - is particularly virulent in Miandad. Despite his status, his achievements, despite all that has come to him, Miandad remains, in his head, a victim of injustice, regional bias, jealousy, pettiness, perhaps any and all of the above.
As captain, he harnessed this adroitly, probably never better than when leading his side against England, the old, white colonial master against whom it was just too easy to play the aggrieved. Most notably he did it in 1992, when all of England seemed geared against him and his men. The press hounded them, calling his side cheats; English umpires were perennially suspicious and easily riled; most of the opposing sides hated them. And yet, without Imran, Miandad pulled off what remains one of Pakistan's most notable Test triumphs.
He had the common touch that Kardar and Imran lacked. He was one of the boys. He was, and still is, bhai, not 'skipper' as the other two were. Mushtaq stood up to the board, for himself but by fortunate extension for the players, in the seminal pay dispute of the mid-1970s. He was, his players remember, an energetic communicator in stark contrast to his predecessors Intikhab Alam and Majid Khan.
But if Mushtaq and Miandad were easier to relate to, they were also - particularly in Miandad's case - easy to rub up the wrong way. Miandad was not as well-grooved with difficult personalities as Mushtaq; so the moody Abdul Qadir, under Miandad, was always a problem. Statistically at least, he got more out of Qadir than did the leg-spinner's patron extraordinaire Imran. But Miandad never understood and didn't have time for Qadir's temperament. And it cannot be doubted that Miandad's teams were forever wrapped in an unhidden coat of tension. There was a sense that but for a win here or there, it would all uncoil itself into wild disparate threads of a mass revolt, or some on-field scrap, of which there were more than a few. It was perhaps a reflection of some of the frictions within him; the extraordinary ability, the petty-minded envy of Imran and his Oxbridge upbringing, a considerable ego, an overwhelming competitive fierceness, an overworked brain, the sense of victimization and martyrdom.
But wins were the key. Mushtaq was Pakistan's first winning captain and Miandad delivered as many as Imran, the most by any Pakistan captain.
Miandad is a true cricket tragic. The game is what his life has revolved around since he was a child. It is why he cannot ever walk away; after retiring in 1996, he has coached the national side three times. Until very recently he was an administrator with the board, though not, sadly, a particularly relevant one.
Like many Karachi-ites, Miandad is also a muhajir, those Muslims who moved from India to Pakistan after Partition.
Miandad's family is from Gujarat in India, where his father Miandad Noor Mohammad worked in the police department, posted near Ahmedabad and Baroda. Miandad senior also had a love for sport and cricket in particular, overseeing sports clubs in Palanpur for the nawab. When the family moved to Karachi, he got a job at the city's Cotton Exchange but more importantly, began working for the city's cricket association. Both parents naturally were keen for their seven children to study, but sport, Miandad senior explained to his wife, was also a good way of keeping them out of the troubles a big city keeps within it.
Miandad junior plunged in, trailing father around his cricket duties, growing up around Karachi's Test stars. Naturally, when Tests were staged at the National Stadium - Karachi Cricket Association organized them in those days of provincial autonomy in cricket - Miandad junior would volunteer and help out. He played school cricket during the week and on weekends would go to Muslim Gymkhana, where his father was also involved, and offer to field all day in a game of old fogies just to be on the field. He'd get Rs 50 for it. He inhaled with all his might the city's cricket culture, as you might the world on a bright, clear day. He never exhaled.
The Miandad currency was to become runs, simply runs and nothing else. Aesthetics never came into it. He possessed a fine late cut, almost always well placed. He was a master against most kinds of spin and of both the conventional and reverse sweep. He regularly went inside out, through extra cover, a risky, difficult and well-rewarded stroke. He had a particularly annoying leg glance as well, annoying because the bowler didn't need to err too straight to be deflected very fine.
But nothing made him as much as the singles he nudged or doubles he created, to square leg, to the covers, to third man, to mid-on. To Miandad, getting runs was the only point. Whether it came on tough pitches or flat ones, against weak attacks or strong, at 35 for 2 or 270 for 2, didn't really matter so much; runs scored were runs scored and points proven. In every shot he played, the drive to score was evident.
He was gifted, of course, and Abdul Hafeez Kardar probably undersold him when he called the child prodigy the 'find of the decade' in 1975. But without the drive, Miandad would not be the greatest batsman Pakistan has produced, arguably its smartest and one of its most influential cricketers.
The drive was most evident when questions were asked of him. In the middle of a rare lean patch between 1985 and 1987, when he had gone sixteen Tests without a hundred and his record away from home was under scrutiny, he arrived at the Oval and made 260. It was his first hundred in England and the most appropriate response, for to do it in England earned you the maximum respect. It gave, he wrote later in his autobiography, his 'international standing' a great boost. That Gary Sobers touched upon the innings in his autobiography only made it sweeter for Miandad. It was respect from one of the game's true legends.
It remained a recurrent theme throughout his career. When he was first removed from captaincy in 1982, his response was to average 60 for the next three years and twenty-five Tests, until he was made captain again in early 1985. By 1988, Imran suspected, with some justification, Miandad couldn't stand the heat of the West Indies: he averaged just 27 in eight Tests against them until then, with no hundreds. Allegedly, he told him so in private. Miandad replied with not one, but two consecutive hundreds in one of the era's great Test series, in the West Indies, just to prove that he could.
Imran was a regular, unwitting motivator. When he declared with Miandad on 280 in Hyderabad against India, depriving him of a legitimate shot at Sobers's 365, Miandad took it as an insult, to be subsequently redressed. He made four of his six double centuries after that one, mostly big ones, each time using the injustice of that declaration to pursue the record with greater zeal. Miandad suggests that Imran was behind his initial axing from the 1992 World Cup squad, for a combination of injury, poor form and a refusal to move down or above from number four in the batting order. Newspapers were sniping at him, suggesting he was finished. By now, having known him for sixteen years, they should've known better. He was called up once Pakistan struggled in their warm-up games in Australia. Eventually, he was to return with trophy in hand and comfortably the side's top-scorer - the tournament's second-highest - with five fifties. The last two came in the semi-final and final and the unbeaten 57 in the former was a work of grand, unfolding calculus. It remains overshadowed by Inzamam-ul-Haq's 60, a wonderful, slow-motion explosion announcing his talent. But Miandad was the glue through that chase, making sure he hung around unnoticed for over two hours, dealing in his currency of picking runs, holding together Pakistan as they crawled, panicked, soared and trembled, right until they got home.
It was among his finest innings, where no single shot mattered as much as the wholeness of what his brain was doing throughout, working out precisely what he needed to do, what other batsmen needed to do, and executing it. 'I was like a computer, maashallah,' he says. 'People talk about using computers to improve play. I used to analyze, I didn't leave any shot, I used to improvise. If any cricketer wants to become better, your computer should be your brain.'
Who can blame him for the immodesty, especially when you can recall the 107 he made late in his career in 1993, in South Africa. One shot against Allan Donald captures the whirring of the machine in his head. Donald is running in, fearsome, in-form Donald, cold cream over the ridge of his nose and cheeks, perhaps the fastest bowler in the world that day and Miandad sneaks a peek towards a gap at point, actively turning his head round to spot it. Donald is two-thirds of the way through. The ball is full, on off and quick; Miandad melts away to leg, both knees bent, and squeezes the ball through precisely where he had been looking, for four.
Miandad carries a sense of injustice beautifully. He lets it melt into his eternal quest for izzat, persecution driving the pursuit. There is truth in his being treated unfairly, as player, captain and coach, but how well he has played it up. It is so deeply ingrained that he saw no problem in once admitting that he was getting paid Rs 8,00,000 a month as a PCB director general for doing no work and was still, somehow, to be considered a victim. It hurt his izzat.
Probably his greatest trick has been to transport upon an entire cricket culture this very trait, to harness victimhood to prosper. It is the way Pakistan plays now so that you almost know that when they are pushed furthest into a corner, they come out with the greatest force. It pushed Miandad as the batsman of the side, without whose scalp the opposition could never claim to have won a game. It pushed him as captain, as deputy, to fame as well as infamy.
It pushed him, no doubt, to that comically malevolent run-in with Dennis Lillee in Perth in November 1981, captured memorably in a photograph of Miandad, bat raised as if readying to strike Lillee, and the Australian with one fist primed by his sternum, like a boxer, ready with a reply. Umpire Tony Crafter stands between the pair, preventing what would have been cricket's first on-field high profile punch-up.
Lillee had first blocked Miandad as he was completing a routine single to square leg. Something happened, or had been happening, which then prompted Lillee to kick Miandad as he eventually reached the non-striker's end. Miandad turned around, which is when the photograph was clicked, prompting the Wisden Almanack to call it, prudishly perhaps, 'one of the most undignified incidents in Test history'. Most of the Australian press slapped Lillee, but teammates insisted he was in fact responding to persistent Miandad sledging; it is not an outlandish thing to imagine, especially as Miandad was keen for his side to break free from the inferiority complex they carried whenever they went to Australia or England.
From TV footage it appears mostly to be about Lillee just having a strop. Miandad admitted the pair had been at each other verbally right through the tour. But Miandad's response was primarily not to cede any respect; suffice it to say that if you are first obstructed, then kicked, you will respond most likely in kind, whether you are Miandad or Mother Teresa.
'What was I supposed to do, bend over and ask for more?' he asked later.
He certainly wasn't as much to blame as he might have been years later, when a grand and twisted pursuit of izzat led to sleepy, dusty Faisalabad becoming home to the Shakoor Rana - Mike Gatting controversy. Miandad had just commenced another captaincy stint, soon after Imran's retirement following the 1987 World Cup semi- final loss and became a key instigator. With some glee he recalled in his autobiography that he had pushed Rana to not step back and to demand a written apology from Gatting. He wanted it not as a captain or opponent, but as a Pakistani because he felt Gatting's behaviour was an insult to the country. No wonder he likens cricket to war. War happens not just for money, land, politics and women, but also for respect.
Any battle Miandad fought and continues to fight is to correct an imbalance in his search for izzat, in how much he feels he gets and how much he feels he should get; maybe one day a psychiatrist will surprise the hell out of us all and conclude that Miandad never fully believed in his own greatness. Within Pakistan, he says he doesn't get enough, because of a background that wasn't as comfortable or privileged as those who preceded him and surround him (he has married into one of the oldest and most successful business families in Pakistan). Outside, the very fact of his rise despite this may earn him greater respect.
He wants desperately to be - and possibly believes he is - humble about it all, modest even, for humility and modesty are essential in acquiring izzat. But he can't help himself for such is the force of his belief in his own capabilities, those very same that drove him as a batsman.
But, as with Imran, there is a clear sense of Miandad in Pakistan cricket after him, perhaps even a more embedded one than Imran. Few people leave such an imprint on the culture around them so as to shape it. If like Imran, Pakistan learnt not to fear defeat and play an attacking game designed to win matches, then like Miandad, they talked back, taking an emboldened forward step when a meek backward shuffle would've been the norm.
Imran, because of the world he came from, still represents the Pakistani cricketer of the 1950s and 1960s, the last of them in a sense. Most cricketers in Pakistan today are some of the many shades of Miandad. It isn't difficult to imagine him, in another life, as a particularly successful trade union leader. Even if he was fully an urban construct, he was from the non-elite. He made it on his own, connection-less and through the local system. He complains now that modern cricketers are too pampered and entitled, not like he was: 'The cricketer who is thirsty, he should go find the well and then he will become a player. When you get so many facilities, you take undue advantage and don't improve.' But it is a misplaced gripe, because more than ever, cricketers who make it big these days do so almost entirely on their own.
And once they are there, they don't feel as out of place.
Miandad believed you didn't have to be like them - foreigners, the privileged - to be their equal and you could be yourself and be better; cricketers today arrive believing the same, and do not feel that they don't belong. It is a fundamental and vital shift.
*This is an edited excerpt from The Unquiet Ones - A history of Pakistan Cricket, published by HarperCollins India in 2014
**Miandad was interviewed in 2010
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo