In his most recent book, The Cricket Caldron, Shahryar Khan explains how on the same tour, Anwar told the players that angels would descend and help Pakistan win the Cup.
After Pakistan was knocked out in the very first round of the tournament, Khan jokingly asked Anwar whatever happened to the angels that he claimed would help the team to win. Anwar replied: ‘They didn’t come because we (the team) are bad Muslims.’
By 2003, Mushtaq Ahmed and Salqlain Mushtaq too had become TJ members, and so did Waqar Yunus but he soon bolted out.
But it was the dashing batsman, Inzimamul Haq, who became TJ’s biggest catch – especially when he was appointed as captain in 2003.
Much has been written about how under Inzimam, more than half of the Pakistan team became ardent followers of the TJ and how he allegedly began favoring players who adhered to his beliefs and rituals.
Much has also been said about how tensions developed between Inzimam and tear-away fast bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, whose demeanor and disposition as a player and personality echoed the flamboyant antics of the Pakistani players of yore.
What is only coming out now, however, is how the environment in the team was also experiencing the effects of the sectarian and sub-sectarian tensions that had become a disturbing norm in Pakistani society and polity in the 2000s.
Violence against Shia Muslim community and non-Muslim population had been (and still is) on the rise ever since the late 1990s. And so is violence between Pakistan’s Sunni Barelvi and the more puritanical Sunni Deobandi sub-sects.
It is the latter aspect of the sectarian conflict in Pakistan that seemed to have made its way into the team.
The TJ members adhere to a particularly strict and highly ritualistic strain of the Deobandi school of thought.
But more interestingly, one of the first conflicts in the team in this context seemed to have taken place between Inzimam and Younis Khan, both of whom followed the Deobandi strain.
In his book, Shahryar Khan, mentions how Inzimam was never comfortable with Younis. Though according to Shahryar, Inzimam was always weary of Younis replacing him as captain, there was something else as well between them that didn’t bode well with Inzi.
The irony is that Younis was perhaps the most religious member of the team, ever since he made his debut in 2000. He prayed regularly and fasted even during matches in the month of Ramazan.
But unlike the players who eventually followed Inzimam into the TJ, Younis was extroverted, very social but preferred to keep his faith to himself.
In a 2007 interview, he complained that he could not understand why this batch of players were so anti-social and refused to interact with people and players from other countries.
He was never comfortable with Inzimam’s insistence on holding public prayers on foreign grounds or rhetorically uttering certain religious tit-bits during post-match presentation ceremonies.
Apart from Shoaib Akhtar, Younis didn’t do that and neither does another player who (unlike Younis) completely fell-out with Inzimam: Misbahul Haq.
Till the mid-1980s, a majority of players in the team came from urban backgrounds (Karachi and Lahore).
But as mentioned earlier, after Pakistan began to win more Tests and ODIs than ever under Mushtaq Muhammad and Imran Khan, cricket’s popularity grew beyond the major cities and reached small towns and villages of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KP) and the Punjab.
Most players emerging from these areas were not as urbane or educated as the ones from Lahore or Karachi.
Shahryar Khan writes that from the late 1990s, the bulk of the Pakistan cricket team began being dominated by men from small towns.
They formed a clique and were highly suspicious of players who came from bigger cities and (especially) were more educated.
Khan suggests that Inzimam was an extremely insecure captain. Apart from always suspecting Younis Khan of trying to dethrone him as captain, he was also unwilling to make those players who were more educated, a part of his team. He thought that their ‘modern outlook’ and educated backgrounds would be detrimental to the team’s environment.
Salman Butt was the most educated player in Inzimam’s side and the most urbane. But Inzimam never felt threatened by him because (at the time) Butt was too young and, more so, had fallen completely in line with Inzimam’s Tableeghi dictates.
Misbahul Haq made his Test debut in 2001 at the age of 26. But he lost form and was dropped in 2002. But in spite of performing consistently in domestic tournaments and being on the radar of the selectors, he was never selected.
Khan writes that it was Inzimam who made sure Misbah remained out. Why?
Misbah comes from an urbane middle-class family in Mianwali (Punjab). He is an MBA and like Younis keeps his religious beliefs to himself.
But that’s not all why Inzi and his Tableeghi mentors preferred to keep Misbah out.
A news report in a national Urdu daily last year suggested that Misbah, who belongs to the Barelvi Sunni sub-sect, refused to have anything to do with the TJ and that’s why Inzimam and company made sure he never got back on to the side. It is also believed that Saeed Ajmal (also a Barelvi) was also kept out.
For over 200 years, the Barelvi and Deobandi Sunni Muslims have been at loggerheads in the region. But the Barelivis (who are in majority in Pakistan) are a lot less strict than the Deobandis.
But in addition of being a Barelvi, Misbah prefers to keep his faith a private matter and is not demonstrative at all about his beliefs, unlike the TJ members who consciously make it a point to flaunt and exhibit their beliefs.
However, in 2007, when Inzimam retired, Misbah was at once recalled to the side and ever since has not only graduated to become Pakistan’s captain, but perhaps also it’s most successful batsman in the last five years.