Those five days

Masood Anwar reminisces about his short international career and the experience of playing Test cricket under Imran Khan
Updated 15 Feb, 2016 12:54pm

Masood Anwar reminisces about his short international career and the experience of playing Test cricket against the West Indies under Imran Khan’s captaincy

Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop. The names alone would have struck fear in the hearts of opposition teams around the world. So when the West Indies toured Pakistan in 1990, there was anticipation in the air.

Wicked speed and devastating bouncers. Were the hosts ready?

Marshall was in the final spell of his masterful career but maintained all the attributes that made him a cricket great. What he lacked in pace, though, was more than made up for by the young Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop.

The three-match Test series was tied one-a-piece when Pakistan and West Indies reached Lahore for the final game. For the tourists a certain Brian Charles Lara was making his debut, while Pakistan handed a Test cap to 23-year-old Masood Anwar.

Ian Bishop was at his fastest and Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh were at the peak of their careers. — AP
Ian Bishop was at his fastest and Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh were at the peak of their careers. — AP

Masood, the young left-arm spinner from Khanewal, was thrown in at the deep end just like countless other boys in the country and he had the enviable task of teaming up with leg spin wizard Abdul Qadir for the series decider.

Just three days before the West Indies Test, Masood had produced some magic himself as he starred in United Bank Limited’s (UBL) three-run win over Agriculture Development Bank Pakistan (ADBP) in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy, the country’s premier first-class tournament.

He returned match figures of 8/154 from 68.3 overs, a performance chief selector Javed Burki witnessed from the stands. Burki, captain Imran Khan and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief were all in agreement over Masood’s immediate inclusion for the third West Indies Test.

“I was playing in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy match for UBL against ADBP [now ZTBL] at Karachi,” recalls the 48-year-old Masood.

“It was my luck that chief selector Javed Burki was in attendance as I dismissed Saeed Anwar. On the same day in the evening, the team manager called me to his office where he informed me of his conversation with Javed Burki, Arif Abbasi and Imran Khan. I was stunned as he told me that I had to be in Lahore early in the morning the next day and link up with the Pakistan team at 9am.”

After grinding it out for six years on the domestic circuit, Masood had finally earned his national call up.

The first conversation with Imran Khan

Masood reached his destination at six in the morning. At nine, he was out in the nets, practising with the Pakistan Test team. Then came the big moment: Imran Khan strode out to bat; big shoulders and the aura of a king.

Masood made sure there weren’t too many ‘looseners’ for the captain. Khan pulled the bowler to the side after the net session and had a short conversation.

“He asked me where I was from, and what teams I had played for on the domestic circuit. He was quite surprised when I told him there was competitive cricket being played in Multan [one of the regions Masood represented apart from Lahore and Faisalabad].”

“I played Courtney Walsh, Malcolm Marshall and it amazes me when I think about it now. I think Bishop was the fastest of them. — Photo by Shaharyar Rehman
“I played Courtney Walsh, Malcolm Marshall and it amazes me when I think about it now. I think Bishop was the fastest of them. — Photo by Shaharyar Rehman

A few more questions and Khan ordered Masood to be ready for his Test debut in a couple of day’s time. The moment he had been dreaming of as a schoolboy had finally arrived.

The left-arm spinner had taken his first serious steps in cricket when he was selected for the Multan under-19s and later given a chance to represent South Zone — a new team formed to play in the Wills Cup (now called the National One-day Cup).

He also made his first-class debut for Multan and played for them until joining Pakistan Automobile Corporation (PACO) where he played three seasons from 1985 to 1987. He then went on to play for PACO Shaheen and also lead the side later. Wasim Akram and Ijaz Ahmed became his fellow team mates during the PACO stint.

After ending his spell at PACO, Masood played for UBL where his consistent performances propelled him to the national side.

Masood proved his mettle against visiting international sides, too, when he played against Australia in a tour match in Peshawar in 1987, dismissing Steve Waugh, Mike Veletta and Jamie Siddons.

The big day

December 6, 1990. The atmosphere was heavy and the Lahore winter had a bit more nip than usual for Masood. He was jittery but self-belief had not abandoned him. After all, he needed all of it for when the West Indian tearaways came charging at him. But he was in the team for his bowling, Masood reminded himself.

And thankfully for the rookie, West Indies won the toss and chose to bat in the most treacherous conditions one could imagine.

Curtly Ambrose was a sight to behold in the 1990 series. — AFP
Curtly Ambrose was a sight to behold in the 1990 series. — AFP

Imran Khan and Wasim Akram immediately put the tourists on the back foot; they lost Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge and Richie Richardson with just 37 runs on the board. Carl Hooper, who went on to score a defining 134, and Brian Lara (44) revived the innings with some gutsy batting against bowlers of the class of Khan and Akram, the ‘banana swing’ of Waqar Younis and the magic of Qadir.

Qadir broke the resistance and soon Masood was in the act, getting rid of Jeff Dujon before finally dismissing Hooper as the West Indies finished with 294 on the second morning of the Test.

The left-arm spinner who was bowling to the ADBP batsmen two days ago had now earned his reward for performing at the top level in a disciplined spell of 13.5-59-2.

“As far as I remember I took Dujon’s wicket in my very first over and I was very excited about dismissing one of the best wicketkeeper-batsmen of that time,” Masood says. “I was even more delighted when I took the wicket of danger man Hooper.”

The steady start would not have been possible without the ‘legendary leadership’ of Imran Khan, Masood feels. “In the Test match, he gave me a lot of confidence when I bowled and batted. He made me feel like I was one of the best in the game and I could do wonders.”

Masood would need all of that inner-strength a little later in the match.

Ambrose and Bishop run through Pakistan

Shoaib Mohammad, Aamer Malik, Zahid Fazal, Ramiz Raja and Salim Malik were all back in the hut even without the tourists breaking a sweat. Ambrose and the extremely pacy Bishop had accounted for all of them as Pakistan stumbled to 5-48. Akram (38) and Khan (17) ensured Pakistan crossed three figures as West Indies wrapped up the innings for 122.

The hosts responded with a bit of fire and pace themselves as Akram picked up 5-28 to dismiss West Indies for 173. Imran Khan picked up two wickets while Younis and Masood chipped in with a wicket each.

Hooper once again played a vital knock, falling just one short of a half-century as the hosts were set an improbable target of 346.

“Imran Khan expected me to finish the match with 10 wickets and win the match for Pakistan.”
“Imran Khan expected me to finish the match with 10 wickets and win the match for Pakistan.”

But if Pakistan thought they were out of jail, opener Aamer Malik fell off the very first ball of their second innings as they came out to bat on the venomous Gaddafi Stadium pitch. The Wisden Almanack report described the ensuing scenes aptly:

Even on a better pitch Pakistan’s target would have been a difficult one. They lost Aamer Malik in the first over, but Ramiz Raja and Shoaib Mohammad countered bravely with a stand that was worth 90 when Walsh bowled Ramiz just as the fading light heralded another early finish.

Bishop’s dismissing Shoaib and Salim Malik on the final morning seemingly opened the way for West Indies to win the series.

In walked night watchman Anwar, nervous at the prospect of facing the West Indian battery on a nasty wicket with Pakistan placed at 110/4.

“Even looking at it [the pitch] made the batsmen fearful,” Masood recalls.

Facing the likes of Walsh, Marshall, Bishop and Ambrose on this surface required some steel and Masood took up the task in an indomitable manner.

“I played Courtney Walsh, Malcolm Marshall and it amazes me when I think about it now. I think Bishop was the fastest of them. On many occasions, his deliveries went past me before I got into position to play a shot. I think the reason I survived was because the West Indian bowlers were bowling short and they hardly made me play the ball. They were very, very fast.”

Masood defied the West Indies for three hours, 10 minutes for his 128-ball 37 as the 67-run stand between him and Imran Khan proved to be a match-saving partnership.

“It was for that partnership that we managed to save the match, or else Pakistan would have lost the series at home.”

Khan and Akram then added 55 runs in 86 minutes as West Indies’ skipper Desmond Haynes recognised the inevitability of the draw. Masood credits Khan for helping him calm the West Indies storm.

“When I was batting with him, he was constantly telling me that I would need to lead the batsmen in case he was dismissed. ‘If I get out then you will have to steer the batsmen who will be coming in next and take responsibility,’ he was shouting in my ear after every over.

“I realise now that it was all about the confidence which Imran Khan instilled in me during our conversations,” Masood recalls, making the ‘Khan effect’ on him very obvious.

“Imran made me feel like I was better than him and I actually started believing that I was a great batsman. Imran Khan is the person who transformed Pakistan cricket.

“He was the first man to inject a winning mentality into our cricketers. He gave everyone confidence. He developed players like Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mushtaq Ahmed and many others through his extraordinary leadership qualities.”

Riding on the West Indies experience

Before the euphoria of saving a great Test match had settled, Masood was back on the domestic circuit and for the young spinner the ‘golden’ experience of his international outing was bearing fruit. “In a first class match at Faisalabad I went out to bat without a helmet on what was a green-top, pacy wicket.”

“The bowlers kept bowling short and fast at me. I played and left with the ball with ease.”

The frustrated opponent captain quickly jumped in to have his feelings known: “This guy has faced bouncers from Marshall, Walsh and Ambrose; your bouncers will look like long hops to him,” the captain shouted at his bowlers.

Imran Khan is the person who transformed Pakistan cricket, Masood says. — Dawn Archive
Imran Khan is the person who transformed Pakistan cricket, Masood says. — Dawn Archive

“It felt as if those bowlers were really average-paced. The Test match I played gave me a lot of confidence for my remaining career,” adds Masood about the worth of a Test cap.

This boy from Khanewal could not make it to the list of ‘wonder-kids’ Pakistan is famous for producing every now and then. But 587 victims with his slow-left-arm spin speak of his pedigree.

Masood also played in the 1996 Quaid-i-Azam trophy final and picked up the wicket of then emerging cricketer Shahid Afridi.

After his Test match, he continued representing UBL until 1994 before joining Faisalabad region as a guest player and ending his first-class career against Karachi for Lahore at the UBL Sports Complex in 1999.

In 2005 Masood joined UBL as a coach and his expertise led to the success of his department in the 2011 Grade II championship and the 2012 National One Day cup.

But how did he go from saving a Test match on a landmine of a pitch to never being picked again for the national side?

“Imran Khan expected me to finish the match with 10 wickets and win the match for Pakistan,” says Masood.

“By doing this, on the one hand, he was praising my abilities but also telling me that I wasn’t good enough,” Masood says, adding that he had no regrets about how his career shaped out.

“Imran liked right-arm leg spinners and hardly any finger bowlers have played during his captaincy tenure. Mushtaq Ahmed was a hot prospect then and he went on to play many games for Pakistan. Imran was a great leader. He motivated everyone who played under him. He scolded, too, but it just made the players realise that they can do better. The boys respected him a lot, too.”

Masood was hopeful of being selected for the national team again but all prospects died after the 1992 World Cup as leg spinners were preferred.

“I bowled quite well in the domestic circuit taking about 70 wickets on an average for two to three years. But performance in the domestic circuit does not matter if you are not required in the team,” Masood, who coaches young talent at the UBL academy, says.

“Those five days were my dream days, the golden days of my cricketing career. Many people don’t get this chance. I am very privileged to have played Test cricket.”

Twitter: @MirAliRed

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, February 14th, 2016