Pakistan started playing test match cricket in the 1950s. And since then they have found some greats of the most beautiful format of the game. Let’s have a look at them.
1. Saeed Anwar: Saeed Anwar, the great left handed opener from Pakistan is perhaps Pakistan’s greatest one day international batsman to date. His elegance and the left hander’s grace made him a watchable commodity. His flawless timing and ability to find gaps was second to none. The other quality he had was of scoring runs at a brisk rate. He would take the game away from the opposition in a matter of few overs. He had every shot in the book. From the cover drive to the square drive. From the wristy flick through mid wicket to the fine leg glance. From the pull shot to the vicious square cut. He had it all. He played pace bowling as well as he played spin bowling. He would look to dominate bowlers and not let them settle. Saeed was one of the best openers of his time and was a true match winner.
Saeed Anwar averaged 45 in test match cricket. He had a superb record against India, with most of his 20 ODI centuries coming against India. He will perhaps go down as the greatest opener ever produced by Pakistan.
2. Zaheer Abbas: The elegant right hander who played for Pakistan in the 1980s. He was also called the “Asian Bradman”. The current generation could not see him bat but highlights of his batting class are available. He drove the ball effortlessly and played with a soothing touch. He never tried to hit the ball hard. It was all about playing the ball late and finding the gaps. Besides, Zaheer Abbas played at a time when batting was not an easy job. Batsmen had to play without helmets and face express pace from teams like Australia and the West Indies. Zaheer Abbas played the modern ODI game 40 years back. He averaged 47 at a strike rate of 85 in one day international cricket and also averaged on excess of 40 in test cricket. And as a result is one of the greats of the game for Pakistan.
3. Younus Khan: Younus Khan is the only Pakistan batsman with 10,000 runs in test cricket. He was a match winner in test cricket. Younus was a master at playing spin. He would sweep and reverse sweep and put pressure on the opposition. The did brilliantly for Pakistan in the 2nd innings. Younus scored an unbeaten 177 not out chasing an improbable 377 to win against Sri Lanka at Pallakele in 2015. He also saved a test match against South Africa in Abu Dhabi in 2010. Pakistan had to survive one and a half day to save the test match. Younus and Misbah partnered to get Pakistan out of jail. Younus scored an unbeaten 138.
Younus Khan wasn’t as talented as Inzimam or Muhammad Yousuf but his sheer hard work and commitment gave him all the success in test cricket. His last great innings was the double hundred he got against England at the Oval to level the series. He will go down as the greatest test batsman of Pakistan for a long long time.
4. Javed Miandad: Javed Miandad was a street fighter. He was a man for crisis. He got Pakistan out of trouble on countless occasions. Miandad played a number of match winning innings for Pakistan in one day international cricket. His famous last ball six against Chetan Sharma to win the Sharjah Cup of 1986 is still fresh in the minds of Pakistan’s cricket fans. He was the first ever batsman to 1000 World Cup runs. And he played a major role in Pakistan’s World Cup triumph in 1992. He wasn’t attractive like Zaheer Abbas but he was very dogged and resilient. His game awareness and tactical abilities were perhaps second to none in Pakistan’s cricket history. He averaged 41 for Pakistan in one day international cricket and is Pakistan’s most successful batsman in World Cup cricket. Miandad is the 2nd highest run getter for Pakistan in test cricket behind Younus Khan. He averaged more than 52 in test cricket for Pakistan.
5. Muhammad Yousuf: Muhammad Yousuf was aesthetically, Pakistan’s best middle order batsman. His ability to play the ball late and right under his eyes made him a potent force. He had the ability to play all around the park. He was good against pace and spin equally. His cover drive and square drive were two very special strokes in his armoury. Muhammad Yousuf averaged 52 in test cricket with 24 centuries to his name. His best test innings is undoubtedly the great double hundred he got against at Lord’s. Yousuf also holds the world record for the most number of runs in a calendar year in test cricket. He scored 1788 runs in tests in 2006 at an average of 99 breaking the great Sir Vivian Richard’s record.
Muhammad Yousuf could have played a lot more for Pakistan had the then coach Waqar Younus not ousted him from the team.
6. Imran Khan(c): Imran Khan is the captain of my all time Pakistan test XI. And this shouldn’t be a surprise. He is Pakistan’s most successful ever captain. In fact, he was a leader. He gave Pakistan the killer instinct and developed so many players for Pakistan that went on to become greats.Wasim Akram, Inzimam, Waqar Younus, Abdul Qadir, Saeed Anwar, all blossomed under his leadership. Besides, Imran was a great player as well. One of the all time great all rounders in the game and the greatest Pakistan all rounder to date. He was an excellent pace bowler with wicket taking instinct and abilities. He was also a very useful batsman down the order. He was strong in defense and could smash the ball a long way when needed.
Imran’s batting talent came to the fore in the crunch matches of the 1992 World Cup. He batted at number 3 in the semi final and final. In both games he scored crucial runs. He was the highest run scorer in the final for Pakistan and weathered the early storm along with Javed Miandad to lift Pakistan out of early trouble. He will surely be the greatest captain and all rounder in Pakistan’s cricket history. Imran Khan was Pakistan’s captain when Pakistan beat India in India in a test series. He picked up 40 wickets in that series. Imran picked up more than 360 wickets in histhe test career.
7. Sarfaraz Ahmed: Sarfaraz Ahmed is perhaps Pakistan’s greatest wicket keeper batsman in test cricket to date. His unique ability of finding gaps at will and maintaining a good healthy strike rate makes him special. His career strike rate in test cricket at the moment is 70. He is brilliant against spin and works them all around the ground. He has played a number of match winning knocks for Pakistan in the longest format. Off late, his form has gone down in test cricket, and that has affected the team badly. Sarfaraz is a match winner on a given day and Pakistan need him to be in good form in test cricket to win more games.
8. Muhammad Asif: Muhammad Asif was a genius. He was a magician at work. He had the ability to move the ball both ways at decent pace. Asif troubled almost all the top batsmen in the world.Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Kevin Pietersen, Hashim Amla, Ab Devilliers all struggled against him. Kevin Pietersen, Hashim Amla and Ab Devilliers named him the toughest bowler they had faced. Asif’s career was cut short due to the spot fixing saga in the summer of 2010.
9. Wasim Akram: This man needs no introduction. The greatest bowler Pakistan has ever produced and will remain the best for a long long time. He is undoubtedly the greatest left arm fast bowler in the history of the game. The two deliveries that he bowled to Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis in the final of the 1992 World Cup have not been replicated yet. He was one of the main reasons Pakistan won the 92 World Cup. His ability to seam and swing the new ball and then reverse the old ball with immaculate control was something unparalleled. Wasim was also a very useful lower order bat. He could hit the ball hard. And his quick fire 30 odd in the final of the 92 World Cup helped Pakistan reach a competitive total of 249.He was also a great captain. He had a very good cricketing brain. Wasim picked up 402-wickets in test cricket. He also has a test double hundred to his name, the 256 not out which he scored against Zimbabwe at Sheikhupura.
Pakistan got to the final of the 1999 World Cup in his captaincy. It was a shame that they couldn’t win that World Cup.
10. Saqlain Mushtaq: Saqlain Mushtaq is the greatest off spinner Pakistan cricket has produced. He was the inventor of the doosra. Many bowlers including Mutthia Muralidharan learned the doosra from him. But there was one striking difference. Saqlain did not have to bend his bowling arm beyond 15 degrees to bowl the doosra. Whereas all other bowlers who bowled the doosra bent their arms beyond the permitted 15 degrees. That is why off spinners with doosras started getting banned from bowling in 2014. Saqlain was a true match winner and a game changer. His spell in the famous Chennai test in 1999 cannot be forgotten. India were cruising to victory with Sachin Tendulkar playing a great innings. But then Saqlain bamboozled him with his doosra and cleaned the tail up to hand Pakistan a famous victory. He also got a hat trick in 1999 World Cup against Zimbabwe. Saqlain is very underrated and could have played for Pakistan for a long time had he not confronted a knee injury.
11. Waqar Younus: The king of reverse swing and the fastest bowler of his time. Waqar Younus would thrive with the old ball and change complexions of ODI games with his big reverse swinging yorkers. With Wasim Akram, Waqar Younus formed a deadly pair that would hunt opposition batsmen and leave the opposite side in tatters. He lead Pakistan in the disastrous World Cup of 2003 and that ended a career that could’ve lasted longer.