Ajay Jadeja

Jadeja: limited ability, boundless chutzpah

Michael Steele / © PA Photos

High Fives

Like a Pakistani

Rascally, irritating, masters of bluster, geniuses: five Indian cricketers who could have been from across the border

Sidharth Monga |

It is said in Pakistan that Pathans are not an ethnicity but a state of mind. To us, growing up in the nineties, watching Pakistan win unwinnable matches against India in Sharjah, the Pakistani cricketer was an enviable state of mind, a state beyond our comprehension. The highest praise we could afford an Indian cricketer for his gumption, his cricketing smarts, and occasionally his flawed character, was to say: he is almost a Pakistani.

Manoj Prabhakar
A Prabhakar autobiography would start thus: "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Pakistani cricketer." He didn't have the pace, but he swung the ball big. He reversed it. He leapt away from the stumps in his delivery stride. Like Imran Khan. He had a mullet. Like Imran Khan.

Colleagues swore by his courage. If an opener was injured, Prabhakar would face the new ball. If an opener chickened out, Prabhakar would step up.

In South Africa in 1991-92, when India were brutalised by Donald, Schultz, McMillan and Matthews, up stepped Prabhakar with 62 in over five hours to facilitate a draw. During it he kept asking McMillan if he was half-blind until the bemused bowler asked what the hell he was talking about. "Pitch it in my half too. Can't you see that half of the pitch?" As an opener, he averaged 35.48 in Tests and 34.02 in ODIs. Not bad for someone who was primarily a bowler.

The flaws of Pakistani cricketers are their charms. In keeping, Prabhakar once gave up an ODI chase of 63 in nine overs with five wickets in hand, instead blocking his way to a hundred. He was banned for one match. Somewhat appealingly, somewhat mysteriously, he crusaded against match-fixing, carrying out a sting against team-mates. Politics and embezzlement followed post-retirement.

Prabhakar: swing, cojones, a mullet

Prabhakar: swing, cojones, a mullet © Getty Images

Ravi Shastri
Shastri was drinking one evening in Karachi, in 1983. (A friend of his had come from London with duty-free alcohol.) They were in Shastri's hotel room. He heard a knock. It was Sunil Gavaskar, the captain. "Will you open with me in this Test?" It was the sixth Test of the series. Arun Lal had scored a total of 100 in three Tests, Kris Srikkanth 28 in two. Shastri was 20 years old. He lost the booze immediately, replacing it with the high of an opportunity of a lifetime. Days later he scored a hundred against Imran, Sarfraz Nawaz and Abdul Qadir.

A left-arm spinner who began his career at No. 10, Shastri loves to say he scored Test hundreds against two fearsome pace quartets. One is the West Indian, what is the other? "Imran, Sarfraz, Javed Akhtar and Khizer Hayat."

Shastri was English in his technique, his professionalism and his fierce ambition, but he was Pakistani in his homegrown methods, boastfulness, his way of getting things done, his sledging, his punching above his weight. He was positively dour when he batted, like Mudassar Nazar, but he also hit six sixes in a first-class over. Had Shastri been any more Pakistani, he would have come out of retirement at least once. As it was, his retirement - coming as it did at the age of 30 - surprised everyone.

Ajay Jadeja
You will be hard-pressed to find an Indian cricketer with a higher smugness-to-skill ratio than Jadeja. You could imagine how annoying playing him would be. A limited batsman, especially against pace and swing, Jadeja played with his collar up, lips parted in an infuriating smirk; and he was a match-winner when he had no business being one. A bit like Javed Miandad, he might not always have been the man you wanted on your side, but he was the one you didn't want in the opposition.

Meet the new Mr Miandad

Meet the new Mr Miandad © AFP

Behind the exterior was a shrewd brain. He loved fielding, even as a substitute. He didn't mind stepping out of his comfort zone. He always wanted to open but made his name hitting in the middle order. After the most Pakistani thing he did in his career - the 1996 World Cup quarter-final carnage against the arch-rivals - he said: "Look what they have turned me into. A pinch-hitter. A slogger."

When banned for match-fixing, he didn't lose the smugness, appearing in movies, dance shows, providing incisive cricket analysis. Surely a captain India lost.

MS Dhoni
Burewala. Gujar Khan. Sheikhupura. Many Pakistani small towns are known only for producing world-class cricketers who learnt their early cricket there, through some inexplicable junoon, and then enchanted the world. India was always more sterile, with players coming through coaching academies in big cities, where flair is smothered like the turn on a flighted offbreak. Only a handful beat that system.

Ranchi was known in India only for its mental asylum until Dhoni made it famous the world over. He is the biggest Pakistani cricketer India has ever produced. Almost entirely uncoached, flipping the bird to convention at every step, he has become an ODI batsman as accomplished, chillingly calculating and psychologically damaging as Javed Miandad was. He loves taking a match into the last over, then turning it into a one on one. Then he hits a six early, one that rings around the stadium, a huge one. Then the world watches the poor bowler wilt.

And Dhoni captains and keeps wicket. As with Pakistani cricketers, you cannot tell what he is thinking, what his next move is. You can't put anything beyond him. There hasn't been a more authentic "Made in Pakistan" hologram.

Manjrekar: original gangsta

Manjrekar: original gangsta © PA Photos

Vijay Manjrekar
Towards the end of his career he had put on weight, but he kept playing at Shivaji Park. Those were the days when crowds turned up for local cricket. A barracker called him Ganpati (for Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god with the generous waistline). He made his way to the boundary, identified the heckler and asked, "Do you want to see the trunk now?"

Once, an established opener went to him for advice. "What is wrong with my batting?" He said: "Nothing. There is something wrong with the selectors who keep picking you."

One day, after he had retired from the game, he was watching cricket and saw Nana Patekar, the Bollywood actor, heckling a spectator. He grabbed Patekar by the collar, and the two almost came to blows.

Manjrekar was the original badass, a free spirit who couldn't stand fools; never short of a witty retort; giving his son Sanjay tough love.

He learnt his cricket the regimental way but felt suffocated and shackled. He and Subhash Gupte were the mawalis - the ruffians and hooligans.

Oh, by the way he was one of India's best batsmen against pace despite not being the fittest. Inzi anyone?

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo



  • POSTED BY Abdul Hameed on | December 16, 2014, 17:36 GMT

    This article made me watch vidoes of Javed Miandad and what a wonderful comparison. He and MSD share the same attitude :)

  • POSTED BY Ahmed Hassan on | December 16, 2014, 6:23 GMT

    Different subject and nicely written, please mention Pakistani players who are similar to Indian players in next edition

  • POSTED BY Haroon on | December 16, 2014, 6:04 GMT

    Lately I have started hating Indians a lot because of the narrow minded crap they have to say about Pakistan. But still Dhoni and Tendulkar have my huge respect. Great Gentlemen of Cricket.

  • POSTED BY Mo on | December 15, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    Nice article, made for great reading. Can you imagine what a team a combination of both countries could have been. Imagine Kapil, Imran, Akram, Sarfaraz, Qadir, chandrasekar, Gavaskar, miandad, kirmani, Viswanath, Vengsarkar, Amaranth, Azharuddin, Zander Abbas, Shastri, srikanth, etc on he same team. Wow. The mighty West Indian team of the late 70s and earlier 80s would have struggled.

  • POSTED BY Qazi Hassan on | December 13, 2014, 14:52 GMT

    I remember when Tendulker and Manjreker came to Pakistan. Tendulker was called "Mini Gavasker" but Gavasker commented "No. He has more talent than me". It was Manjreker, rather than Tendulker who had shined, making me wonder why Gavasker was biased towards Tendulker. Only time told why! :)

  • POSTED BY Imtiaz Ahmed on | December 13, 2014, 9:51 GMT

    Pakistan would have been extremely lucky to have MS Dhoni in the team. He is a complete package and deserves all the respect he gets and even more.

  • POSTED BY Ajit Tamhane on | December 12, 2014, 20:07 GMT

    Nice article, but two minor corrections (from a Mumbai fan). It is not called "Shivaji Stadium" but "Shivaji Park." It is an open park --- there are no seats there as in a stadium. Second, both Manjrekar and Gupte played for Shivaji Park Gymkhana --- they did not play for Dadar Union which is on the other side of the train tracks.

  • POSTED BY Faisal on | December 12, 2014, 18:51 GMT

    If anything, Dhoni is more like Imran Khan than Miandad. Virat is more like Miandad - keeping emotions on display...In fact, Indian team of the 21st century is more like the Pak team of the 80's and 90's. It is not like Pakistan do not have those type of personalities anymore, its just that they are not making in the team! Currently or in recent past a typical Pak team would have been: U. Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad, Yunus Khan,, Fawad Alam, Misbah, Harris Sohail, Sarfaraz, Afridi, Wahab Riaz. Gul, Junaid Khan...

  • POSTED BY Bilal Akbar on | December 12, 2014, 18:29 GMT

    I ve read the whole .. i do it quite rarely

  • POSTED BY Muddassir Malick on | December 12, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    Well written defining the capabilites of two sides ...

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | December 12, 2014, 13:51 GMT

    Mr. Monga this is awesome and great especially for this generation to know what the great looks alike across the borders. Welldone

  • POSTED BY Manoj on | December 12, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    Nice article. Just curious, why not SEHWAG too ?

  • POSTED BY harris on | December 12, 2014, 8:46 GMT

    awesome piece of writting,well .....the quality which Pakistani players had is now shift to indian batting i guess,,,,anyway @SIDHARTH MONGA ( do you write any novel or books) because the way of your expression is amazing....

  • POSTED BY Wahaj Aslam on | December 12, 2014, 5:59 GMT

    love your article man. good one !

  • POSTED BY moon on | December 12, 2014, 1:09 GMT

    I read the whole article as it is amazingly written, there is no doubt Pakistani Cricketers of past were pure talent and even one of the best Indian cricketers admired them. I miss those days of Imran, Javed, Saeed Anwer and Tendulker, Dravid, Sehwag, Shastri and off course Gavasker. Very good article.

  • POSTED BY kb on | December 12, 2014, 0:11 GMT

    Spot on, Mr. Monga. Loved the article, good piece of writing.

  • POSTED BY Arijit on | December 11, 2014, 21:30 GMT

    Liked this article. I thought Sourav Ganguly would have made the list as he brought aggression and self-belief into the team --something that the great Pakistani teams of the 80s and 90s had.

  • POSTED BY Sri on | December 11, 2014, 20:39 GMT

    Rubbish - Apart from cricketing skills, Miandad's best qualification is to annoy his opponents. Not sure if Dhoni belongs there. Dhoni is more of a thinking cricketer, Miandad plays it up with his gut.

  • POSTED BY Muhammed Hanif Shah on | December 11, 2014, 17:48 GMT

    Great article, did have an idea that Indian envied Pakistani cricketers but to this extent is making me proud.

  • POSTED BY varun on | December 11, 2014, 5:28 GMT

    Great article, these two nations have produced some of the best the world have ever seen and many more to come. Hurts to see so much difference on the surface when everything is inseparable among the two!!!

  • POSTED BY Syed Asaad on | December 10, 2014, 16:47 GMT

    One of the best and most neutral content i've ever read, something beyond boundaries for sure.

  • POSTED BY Srinivas on | December 10, 2014, 16:23 GMT

    How about Vinod Kambli? Limited ability, lot of tongue, then lot of complaining...ala.. Afridi.

  • POSTED BY Awais Khan Sherwani on | December 10, 2014, 13:29 GMT

    simply matchless .... well if we were united then check the squad of 90s sachin,anwer,dravid,inzi,sourav,moin,akram,waqar,kumble,akhter,saqlain .......

  • POSTED BY Zeeshan Khan on | December 10, 2014, 11:09 GMT

    "Dhoni is the biggest Pakistani cricketer India has ever produced". Excellent article, thoroughly enjoyed it!

  • POSTED BY chandra on | December 9, 2014, 18:37 GMT

    Manoj Prabhakar and Dhoni, yes. Can not really agree with rest of them. In my opinion, Harbhajan singh, Gambhir, Saurav Ganguly are those kind of Cricketers and personalities. Ready for a fight literally and figuratively regardless of the capability. Ravi shastri is very limited ability, and was dour in approach and made the winnable test a tie, as he took a single and exposed Maninder singh. Not a do or die person at any rate. Jadeja, happy go lucky cricketer, never really realized his potential anyway. Dont know much about Vijay Manjrekar , so would not comment.

  • POSTED BY Owais on | December 9, 2014, 18:04 GMT

    As a Pakistani, the biggest compliment for crickiters from our side of border is to call Dhoni the most Pakistani of them all. I think he is better than most of the cricketers we have produced.

  • POSTED BY Ninad on | December 9, 2014, 16:45 GMT

    I am not being a whining critique, but this is a terrible article, to be honest. First, "Pakistani" can not be (and should not be) used as an adjective to any cricketer. What is being implied here? Winning in Sharjah is "Pakistani"? Beating India consistently in 1990's is Pakistani? The entry of Vijay Manjrekar did not even make sense here. Is being badass "Pakistani"? As much as sense the player's connections to games against Pakistan made, the core of the article was pointless. And after labeling Vijay Manjrekar along with Subhash Gupte "a mawali", the article (for some reason) abruptly compares him with Inzy. Lame article for such high standards of CricInfo.

  • POSTED BY Siddharth on | December 9, 2014, 11:26 GMT

    Saqlain Mushtaq's ability to deceive off the air or off the pitch make him Pakistan's Erapalli Prasanna.

  • POSTED BY Ali on | December 9, 2014, 11:19 GMT

    Absolutely marvelous Sidharth! As a team now India has become totally confident and no team in the world can sledge them (including Australia) without getting it back a double dose! One cannot imagine a thing like this with the teams of the 80's or 90's with the exception of the five you have mentioned. In fact in one of my letters to a local newspaper in the UAE, back in the 90's I moaned after another close and heart breaking loss, the fact that India was equal to Pakistan, player to player but came up short in the mind. Pakistan were much stronger there and found players who would win matches for them single handed. You forgot two players, who were ready for a scrap anytime. Gavaskar himself and Gambhir!!

  • POSTED BY Aamir on | December 9, 2014, 9:54 GMT

    Tables have turned around.. the way Indian team used to be under pressure against Pak in 80s and 90s, Pakistan team now have the similar pressure. Apparently this article sums up what Indians have learnt from Pakistani cricketers and how Pakistanis have not been able to live the legacy

  • POSTED BY Hammad Khalid on | December 9, 2014, 9:31 GMT

    great article, personally i really like when you did not compare dhoni with afridi..with all respect to afridi and his fans. dhoni is far better than him. the comparison with javed miandad suits him the best. Brilliant

  • POSTED BY John on | December 9, 2014, 8:48 GMT

    Superb article. Fresh and really really interesting. Thanks Mongia.

  • POSTED BY Sharjeel on | December 8, 2014, 5:00 GMT

    I guess a very bold article keeping in view the volatile history. Everything is good except the reference to Khizer Hayat and Javed Akhter, guys Imran introduced the concept of neutral umpires. Can any one recall the Bangalore test of 87 and the terrific knock of Gavaskar on a square turner ( and the catch in the slip not given out). I must appreciate Mr Monga for a thoughtful article. At the same time i guess the tide has turned, Kohli n Co has brought flair and arrogance of brilliance that was always missing from the Indian cricketers.. And they want to stop India Pak test matches ( you cant be a game lover)

  • POSTED BY yasir on | December 7, 2014, 19:24 GMT

    would love to read "Like an Indian.." please do that..

  • POSTED BY abid on | December 7, 2014, 17:29 GMT

    very well written and believe me that mentioned above players are the most loved five Indian cricketers here in Pakistan .

  • POSTED BY Rohit Krishnan on | December 7, 2014, 16:32 GMT

    Brilliant piece, Siddharth. I always wonder, how do you piece out such gems. Keep them coming!

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | December 7, 2014, 7:35 GMT

    Nailed it! What a comparison, "Being a pathan is a state of mind" indeed! Great commentary is but a by product of unique thought. Proved it with this article Sidharth! Nice writing!

  • POSTED BY Mojiz on | December 6, 2014, 5:46 GMT

    Great Article .. Love to read it :)

  • POSTED BY Adil on | December 5, 2014, 18:54 GMT

    loved it, an original article after a long time. great insights about Manjrekar. and comparison of Dhoni with great Miandad is spot on. great article.

  • POSTED BY GHANSHYAM on | December 5, 2014, 9:01 GMT

    Saeed Anwar has to be the most indian batsman that Pakistan ever had. Compact and attractive to watch.

  • POSTED BY Emmad Hameed on | December 5, 2014, 7:26 GMT

    Nayan Mongia and Moin Khan? Both extremely vocal behind stumps, decent bats possessing the ability of getting under the skin of the opposition time and time again...Also any Pakistani pacer who can compete with Venkatesh Prasad? such an ordinary bowler who just continued to blow away Pakistan time and time again!

  • POSTED BY Debashish on | December 5, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    Excellent. Keep them coming!

  • POSTED BY Manish on | December 5, 2014, 5:46 GMT

    Inzi anyone? Rohit Sharma - in more ways than one.

  • POSTED BY amol on | December 5, 2014, 5:42 GMT

    absolutely loved it,brilliant and original creative to the core...loved the bit about jadeja higly smug and lowly talented but still capable of winning a match on his own..and dhoni and miandad the comparison is spot on...i remember the psychological tactics of miandad and we would say whatever this guy decides he does it...dhoni is in the same mould...

  • POSTED BY Bilal A. Choudry on | December 5, 2014, 5:17 GMT

    misbah is an indian captain .. strong at home ... defensive in nature .. would defend with quick bowlers and attack with slow

  • POSTED BY arun bajracharya on | December 4, 2014, 19:25 GMT

    Like an Indian - 1. Mudassar Nazar - Slow opening batsman/medium pacer 2. Zaheer Abbas - Stylish batsman (Laxman) 3. Wasim Bari (Kirmani) 4. Iqbal Qasim 5. Tauseef Ahmed (Any typical Indian Spinners)

  • POSTED BY John on | December 4, 2014, 7:14 GMT

    Very well written article. Thumbs up.

  • POSTED BY Ramnarayan on | December 4, 2014, 4:07 GMT

    Brilliantly original and creative, even if I don't agree with every choice. Thank you, Siddharth, for revealing dimensions of Vijay Manjrekar even an old codger and Manjrekar fan like me would be proud to know.

  • POSTED BY S on | December 3, 2014, 23:00 GMT

    With the exception of Manoj Prabhakar (who I always thought was a Pakistani from across the border in disguise) none of the others quite fits the bill.

  • POSTED BY Javeed Imran on | December 3, 2014, 18:16 GMT

    Ah! Cheeky article. Ajay Jadeja was the reason for me to click on this article :)

  • POSTED BY Talha Khan on | December 3, 2014, 13:40 GMT

    Dhoni is an interesting choice as he has bit cool head and has more of reserved approach in test captaincy, but as far as Jadeja and especially Ravi Shastri are concerned, it couldn't have been more precise than that. Ravi Shastri used to be intimidated a lot by Miandad's tactics but seems he was the one who was impressed by this style of cricket a lot as well.