Pakistan has produced some of the most exciting cricketers the world has ever seen.
Many of these players bowed out of the game before the inception of Twenty20 cricket, a format ideally suited to the country's style of play.
As Pakistan gears up for the main round of the National T20 Cup, here is a fantasy eleven of former players, who had all the ingredients to rule the shortest format of the game.
1. Saeed Anwar
Perhaps one of the classiest openers Pakistan has ever produced, this wristy left-hander from Karachi could score at the rate of knots, and was playing T20 style cricket long before the format became a reality. A wonderful timer of the ball, Anwar was particularly aggressive against spinners and medium pacers, and would have been one of the most successful T20 openers of all time.
2. Aamir Sohail
Who better to partner with Anwar than Aamir Sohail? Although Sohail wasn’t as elegant a batsman as his teammate, in his prime he could score just as quickly, and was particularly strong square of the wicket. Sohail’s aggression, which sometimes led to his downfall, would have been perfect for the T20 format. What’s more, his left-arm finger spin would have been more than useful for the team. Sohail was a classic example of a cricketer who was more than the sum of his parts.
3. Ijaz Ahmed
Carrying the most awkward batting technique I have ever seen, Ijaz was dubbed the 'axe man' for his stance. It is no wonder they called him the butcher from Sialkot. Also a brilliant fielder, Ijaz was pure dynamite when on fire, and could hit any bowling attack to all parts, even the fastest of them. I recall with fondness his low skimming sixers smashed against the Aussies in the World Series Cup Down Under. Ijaz also was useful with his gentle left arm seamers, with a slinging action more awkward than his batting technique. Ijaz scored 10 limited over centuries at a strike rate of over 80, and would have surely been a hit in T20s.
4. Zaheer Abbas
This man was pure elegance, and would have been the perfect batsman to follow the dynamic trio. Although the 'Asian Bradman' was a classical batsman in every regard, he could annihilate slow bowlers, which is a fantastic trait for a T20 no.4 batsman. Abbas boasted a limited overs batting average of 47.62. His strike rate, considering how in the 70s most batsmen scored at a snail’s pace, was an astonishing 84.80.
5. Javed Miandad
The greatest limited overs batsman Pakistan has ever produced, Miandad would have been the man to oversee the late overs assault, holding the batting order together for the hitters. His strength was his cut shots, innovative reverse sweeps, aggressive running, and a steely determination. T20 games often go down to the last ball, and there was no man better than Miandad to finish a game.
6. Mushtaq Mohammad
Until Imran Khan came along, Mushtaq Mohammad was considered Pakistan’s greatest all-rounder, and best captain since Abdul Hafeez Kardar. His brain would have proven useful in the think tank. Mohammad was a fine batsman capable of playing an unorthodox stroke or two, and could easily float up or down this T20 lineup. His legspinners were often quite dangerous, as the great West Indies side of the late 70s learned when they were unexpectedly defeated at home thanks to his incredible flippers. Mohammad would have been the X-factor in this T20 side.
7. Imran Khan
The captain of this T20 team, Imran would have been the perfect batsman at no. 7. He was capable of handling a crisis, thanks to a strong technique and an even stronger mind, and equally capable of destroying a bowling attack with his big hitting. As a bowler Imran was not only quick but could swing the ball as well, with lethal yorkers in his armory which are crucial in the T20 format.
8. Moin Khan
We were blessed to have two world class wicketkeeper-batsmen during the same era: Moin Khan and Rashid Latif (perhaps this is why we were cursed with the Akmals later to balance the scales). Although both Khan and Latif would have made great T20 players, Khan, the lesser keeper, has the edge with his explosive batting. A man for a crisis, Khan has clubbed many sixes for Pakistan over the years, but the one his fans will remember with the most fondness is the hit he smashed against New Zealand in the 1992 World Cup semifinal.
He swept sixes off Allan Donald and Glenn McGrath in the 1999 World Cup, a shot Sarfraz Ahmed so effectively plays now.
9. Wasim Akram
This man was a genius, and would have been the king of T20 cricket; easily the most sought after signing for any T20 league. Akram began his career during a time when speed guns were not the norm, but was said to be as fast as anyone. Later, he would cut down his pace, possibly to endure the level of non-stop limited overs cricket Pakistan was playing, and made up for it with deadly accuracy and guile. As a fast bowler who could swing it both ways and bowl lethal bouncers and yorkers at will, that too off a short run up, Akram would have been a diamond in T20 cricket. Few batsmen ever had the better of Akram, and his miserly economy rate would have been priceless in this format. What’s more, Akram could hit the ball as hard as anyone, which is an important characteristic for a late order T20 batsman.
10. Saqlain Mushtaq
Few slow bowlers would dare bowl in the later stages of the of a limited overs game until 'Saqi' came along. Saqlain could play both the role of a container and a wicket taker. His doosra would have made him unique in the T20 format, especially since he would be the only one bowling with a clean action after an ICC crackdown.
11. Waqar Younis
Growing up, Waqar Younis was my favorite cricketer. In his prime, no bowler was greater, not Marshal, not Lillee, not Akhtar, not even Akram.
Not only was Waqar bowling faster than 150km/h, he was swinging the ball like a banana, and was impossible to play. At his peak, his strike rate was streets ahead of other bowlers. While Akram was dangerous enough to remove a number of top order batsmen, Waqar would run through the middle and later order, achieving victories which felt magical.
His inswinging toe crushing yorker was delivered at pinpoint accuracy, and it would have made him a star in T20 cricket.
After losing his pace due to injury, Waqar compensated with swing and accuracy. In a nutshell, Waqar was Lasith Malinga times 20.