Cricket would ease tensions

Cricket would ease tensions
From a country that has produced many cricketing gems, Mushtaq Mohammad glitters in his own resplendent way. The younger brother of the great Hanif Mohammad, the Pakistani wasn't blessed with the same natural talent but through sheer perseverance, ended up stacking numbers that is indeed legendary.

Born in Junagadh, Gujarat, in the winter of 1943, Mushtaq was five when his family migrated to Pakistan. The all-rounder went on to represent Pakistan in 57 Tests and was involved in some memorable matches. Among the first to deploy the reverse sweep, a skill he learnt from Hanif before improvising on it, Mushtaq’s exploits in first-class cricket, largely for his county Northamptonshire, are quite staggering as well.

Now the president of Attock Cricket Club, a club set-up in Birmingham during the 1970s by a group of friends hailing from Attock in Pakistan, Mushtaq spends time imparting knowledge to aspiring young kids. In a chat, the 73-year-old opens up about the India-Pakistan rivalry, what it meant then, the lack of international cricket in his home nation and current batting star Virat Kohli.


Excerpts:

What are your thoughts on today’s India-Pakistan game?

It’s a great occasion and perhaps the best match of the tournament. Everybody is looking forward to see India and Pakistan play, because they play each other only in ICC events. India versus Pakistan has got a special ingredient. Both the teams are keen to play each other. The supporters of both the teams are also going to be there in great numbers. We only hope the weather doesn't play spoilsport.


There are no bilateral series between India and Pakistan. Is that why you think this match has been hyped up so much?

They always make a very big scene of it, a big issue of it but it's only a game of cricket. Because we don't play against each other so much, because we have political differences and because there's always tension between the two countries, they make a big deal of it. And the present circumstances are not good, it's very fragile and very tense.

Now all of a sudden Pakistan is playing India, everybody is excited that something is happening. If cricket, which is a small commodity, can bring two nations together on a playing field, why can’t do they it politically?


How was the rivalry between the two nations during your playing days?

Cricketing relationship between the two nations has changed. The rivalry is still huge between. In our days, it was a good friendly rivalry because there wasn’t much money involved. Both the teams were playing for pride. We were able to bring harmony. Cricket built great bridges between the two countries. At times cricket was used to defuse the tension between the two countries. I think cricket is a very important commodity for both the countries.


Did you have any friends in the Indian team?

Yes, I know Bishan Singh Bedi very well. He's like a brother to me. Both of us played for the same county — Northamptonshire. We lived together for six years in England. Whenever I go to Delhi, I stay with him. Whenever he comes to Birmingham, he uses this ground. He's been here on a number of occasions. I get on well with Sunil Gavaskar too.


Any pleasant memories of the five Test matches you played in India?

Playing India in India is a memory itself. Playing India in Pakistan is also an extremely pleasant memory, when Bishan brought the team over (in 1978). Getting a hundred at Feroz Shah Kotla (in February 1961) — that was my first Test hundred and it came against India — was one landmark which I would like to remember.


While the lack of international cricket in Pakistan has definitely hampered their growth, what else do you think has affected them?

There are quite a few things plaguing Pakistan now. Firstly, Pakistan is forced to play all their international cricket away. That doesn’t help their cause one bit. The youngsters want to see their team playing in front of them. But no side is coming over because of security reasons.

We are unfortunate. We are forced to play our home season away from home in UAE. Secondly, Pakistan has not been able to produce players like (Javed) Miandad, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam (ul Haq), Wasim (Akram), Waqar Younis or Shoaib Akhtar. At that time Pakistan was playing regular cricket in Pakistan. These were the products when the team was on a high.

Today's youngsters who play domestic cricket haven't see their heroes play at home. So that has affected Pakistan cricket in a great way. That's why Pakistan cricket has gone down. Once we start playing at home, Pakistan will grow.


Virat Kohli is considered to amongst the best batsman of this generation. Your thoughts on him?

He's one of the finest batsmen I've seen in the present era. His temperament, his cricketing brain is absolutely great. India is very lucky to have found a batsman like him after Sachin Tendulkar retired. However, in my book, Tendulkar is the best I've ever seen.


Lastly, your thoughts on your great brother Hanif?

He was obviously a pearl of Pakistan cricket. He's an icon. Everybody looked up to him. In his playing days, the records which he created in poor playing conditions with a limited amount of protective gear is great. His name will be remembered for all the time to come.
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