Javed Miandad sweeps
© PA Photos

Hate to Love

Enemy No. 1

Yet it was hard not to love Javed Miandad

Rajdeep Sardesai

One ball to go, four to get. Millions on either side of the Line of Control glued to their television sets, Ram and Allah being invoked in parallel worlds, cricket fans waiting to erupt in lavas of emotion. On strike, Javed Miandad, a warrior of many an India-Pakistan battle. Bowling to him, Chetan Sharma, a young fast bowler, probably a shade quicker than expected for a relatively short man. This was 1986: you didn't expect sixes to be hit for fun, not even in the desert of Sharjah.

The next few seconds were a blur. A low full toss was smoked over square leg: a cathartic moment that would win Miandad many cash prizes and define the India-Pakistan rivalry for several years. In the gloom around me, I clenched my fists and let out a shriek: "He has done it, the guy has bloody well done it!" While my friends were moaning, I wore an almost self-congratulatory grin, as if I had half-expected the seemingly impossible from a cricketer we loved to hate.

A little over a year later, I found myself in England playing for Combined Universities against the Pakistanis, my presence more a reflection of the declining standards of varsity cricket than any recognition of my talent. The thought of playing against Miandad was exciting. But when the Pakistan team bus arrived in Oxford, he was missing. He had chosen to stay back in London to rest rather than make the trip and compete with struggling undergraduates. I made my disappointment known to a Pakistani official. He retorted, "Haven't you Indians grown sick and tired of watching him bat!"

Historian Ramachandra Guha has a delightful Miandad story to share. India were playing Pakistan in a tense World Cup quarter-final in Bangalore in 1996. As the run rate climbed, Miandad tried to take a non-existent single and was run out. It was his last international match and as he left the ground, Guha got up to cheer him. "What are you applauding him for?" asked the man in the next seat. "Because he is a great player and we may never see him play again!" was Guha's response. Pat came the sharp reply: "Thank God I will never have to see that bastard play again!"

For almost two decades Miandad was the Indian cricket fan's enemy No. 1. He was someone you couldn't ignore. In the 1980s there was a B-grade Hindi film with a villain named Javed Miandad.

He may have lacked the elegance of Zaheer, the power of Inzamam-ul-Haq or the dazzle of Majid Khan, but his competitive zeal made him arguably greater

In 2005 the Pakistan team visited India and I suggested we rope Miandad in as an expert voice for the channel I worked for then. When our marketing team rang him, he quoted an astronomical fee. "I am retired now, I need the money," he said. He eventually went to a rival channel for a higher price. The editor there would later tell me, "Javed is like Mogambo [a Hindi film villain] - bigger than the hero!"

I think Miandad liked the bad-boy image: he relished getting under the skin of the opposition, especially the Indian team. Remember him mimicking Kiran More's appealing during a World Cup game in 1992 with a series of frog jumps? Or breaking the stumps after being declared lbw in the ill-tempered 1979-80 series? Or fielding at silly point, literally in the batsman's pocket, with a constant burst of chatter?

India saw the best and worst of Miandad, a Jekyll and Hyde who could be perfectly affable one moment, a devilish imp the next. Maybe his attitude reflected the dualism of the Pakistani Mohajirs - those who left India during Partition but never quite broke the umbilical cord. He was born in Karachi but his father had lived in Gujarat before 1947. Perhaps like many others from similar backgrounds, Miandad couldn't quite settle the identity question: he was a proud Pakistani but conscious of his roots. In 1977, when my father (the late Dilip Sardesai) invited him to play in his benefit match, Miandad rang him excitedly: "Sir, zaroor aaoonga [I will definitely come], playing in India is a dream!" As it turned out, he didn't get a visa and so couldn't make the trip.

In the ensuing years he more than made up. From the time he first played a Test against India in 1978, he showed a healthy contempt for Indian bowling. Blessed with a sharp eye, powerful wrists and quick feet, he decimated the famous spin quartet in the autumn of their careers. The 1978-79 series will be remembered for Zaheer Abbas, and yet it was the young Miandad with his in-your-face bravado and electric running who caught my eye. I even had a Miandad poster on my wall, perhaps my first act of teenage rebellion.

Zaheer was superhuman in that series, Miandad carried the frailties of a batsman with an apparently imperfect technique, but one blessed with an inventiveness and fortitude that made him difficult to get out. He was a bit like the galli cricketers of Mumbai (or Karachi, its twin city): they often had awkward stances and unorthodox strokes but always scored runs, never missing the cheeky single. Today, cricketers practise the reverse sweep; for Miandad it was an extension of his persona.

You'll never see the back of me: when he was done as a player, Miandad came back as coach - more than once

You'll never see the back of me: when he was done as a player, Miandad came back as coach - more than once Saeed Khan / © AFP

If you wanted someone to play for your life in that period, you would either bet on Sunil Gavaskar, with the straightest of bats, or Miandad with his sheer defiance. Gavaskar and Miandad would have made quite a pair: one a silent and ruthless run-accumulator, the other a jack-in-the-box who relished a good scrap. Maybe their contrasting styles reflected their backgrounds: Gavaskar symbolising the steadfastness of Mumbai's Dadar-Shivaji Park middle class, Miandad the chutzpah of Karachi's unforgiving backstreets.

Miandad averaged an astonishing 67.51 against India in Tests. During a match in Bangalore he repeatedly taunted left-arm spinner Dilip Doshi by asking him for his room number. Doshi finally tired. "Why do you want my room number?" he asked with irritation. "Because I want to hit the next ball for six into your room!"

Miandad's five centuries against India were all made on Pakistani soil, where, as former England cricketer and umpire Peter Willey once reminded us at an after-dinner speech, "it was impossible to get an lbw against Miandad". Maybe with his exaggerated shuffle and bottom-hand grip, he was more vulnerable away from home. Yet the very fact that he averaged more than 50 throughout his career makes him a very special player. He may have lacked the elegance of Zaheer, the power of Inzamam-ul-Haq or the dazzle of Majid Khan, but his competitive zeal made him arguably greater.

For me, Miandad was the brat in the neighborhood who never took a step back: you might have disliked his antics, but life would have been boring without him. And just when his penchant for mischief would infuriate, he would wield a cricket bat like the roadside magician who came up with a trick a day. Which is probably why we loved and hated him in equal measure.

Post-script (with Miandad there has to be one): In 2005, Miandad's son married the daughter of Dawood Ibrahim, the underworld don and prime accused in the 1993 Mumbai bombings. Eight years later Miandad had to cancel a trip to India after controversy broke out over him being granted a visa despite his Dawood connection. "Please see me as a cricketer first, then a relative of Dawood," he told me in a phone interview. Maybe the wheel had come full circle: the man who was once Indian cricket's most wanted and the criminal who was India's most wanted were now united by kinship. How typical of him to cock a snook at us even in retirement!

Rajdeep Sardesai is consulting editor and lead news anchor with India Today TV and the author of 2014: The Election That Changed India. He played first-class cricket for Oxford University





  • POSTED BY Edwin on | June 12, 2017, 13:28 GMT

    Considering the quality of the bowlers during his era, he has to be the best Pakistani batsman of all time - and also had incredible longevity

  • POSTED BY Frost on | September 26, 2015, 15:19 GMT

    @R.A.B: As an Indian let me tell you this. Your comparison makes no sense. Miandad defined Pakistan cricket, he created a landmark from which Pakistan cricket only got stronger. MSD was a successful captain of a team comprising of 11 of the most talented cricketers that had been chosen by his seniors and had been playing cricket for a long time. Miandad was a one man show, while MSD is a person who oversees 11 men for results. Just out of courtesy, do not make such comparisons when it comes to such greatness. In a way you've insulted both Miandad and MSD. They are two totally different kinds of cricketers.

  • POSTED BY Khurram on | September 23, 2015, 6:13 GMT

    in 2005 when i was associated with GEO TV, i directed the show during Pak India Series with Javed as expert. I can never forget those 40 odd days with him. He is such a humble personality and witty character. love him so much

  • POSTED BY crazy on | September 20, 2015, 17:27 GMT

    Miandad is a hero. No doubt great hero for 2 decades. He is such a hero never accepts defeat and always want Pakistan to win. He usex to play mind game in cricket. Great Imran akram waqar anwar inzy Miandad saqlain Akhtar is the Pakistan golden era of cricket. We miss them all. As a Indian I am die hard fan of them but now a days it's really boring to watch Pakistan matches specially odi. Pcb is not giving proper chance to razzaq. He is good all rounder. Now a days pcb debut player at the age of 28 and 30. Mostly players think of retirement at the age of 32. No teenagers or early 20 age players in team. This is the difference between bcci and pcb. Love to watch Pakistan india match. Hope it happens.

  • POSTED BY Amyn on | September 20, 2015, 12:28 GMT

    He made my dad (at that time more than 55 years old) literally jumping on his bed, like a 5 year old child celebrating, when he saw Javed hit that sixer off the last ball of Chetan Sharma over. My dad died in 1988. Thank you Javed for bringing happiness into my dad's live.

  • POSTED BY raj on | September 20, 2015, 6:12 GMT

    I can think of only one cricketer who had all the qualities but was better than miandad on and off the field. MSD.

  • POSTED BY B on | September 20, 2015, 3:02 GMT

    I remember BBC Sports covering "Me-and-Dad" in 1974 when he hit 300+ in a local match in Pakistan and then in 1976, traveling through Kashmir and Punjab, listening to radio commentary of his debut century against NZ and then a sublime 200+ in the final Test. He was the atypical Karachi street fighter. If one wanted to pick any playing XI, you had to ensure Miandad was on your team and never in your opposition. To me, Miandad and Imran Khan represented the best 1-2 combination ever from the Indian sub-continent. There never has been a player like him out of the Indian system - talent, guts, a never-say-die attitude, all combined with a cockiness to show the opposition what poor players they were, and Indians were often his soft targets.

  • POSTED BY Asif on | September 19, 2015, 16:42 GMT

    A wonderful article on the wily Miandad, one of the shrewdest and finest cricketers ever to have played the game.

  • POSTED BY Saif on | September 19, 2015, 5:24 GMT

    The brainiest cricketer of all times - that's how I remember him...

  • POSTED BY haroon on | September 19, 2015, 4:45 GMT

    Such a nice article. It illustrate his personality. Yes Javed was a true fighter and street smart cricketer. But i saw his other face, when he broke down to tears about on going situation of his city (Karachi) in a comedy show. I was amused to see that how sensitive he is inside. But he is always advocating good cricketing terms with India despite of his rivalry.

  • POSTED BY Alex on | September 19, 2015, 4:25 GMT

    I used to think pakistani players in 1990s play well only against india because of all the religion issue. But after seeing all players after 1990s , it is just that during that time was GOLDEN YEAR of pakistan. I still remember when india play pakistan against akram team , we all know wicket will fall in a bunch in first over. Also end overs of ODI they were unplayable with those banana yorkers. Fast forward we have not found any bowlers can do that what akram & co did. Javed mianded was street fighter. India had dhoni but dhoni was Mr. Cool. More polished javed mianded and refined with same determination. Both were super great in getting singles. When india play pakistan it was singles is the issue. Pakistani batsman always find gaps and occasional big hits with super bowling to back them up. Indians were physically weak and unathletic except kapildev. Only players from delhi were athletic and strong. Pakistanis were physically intimidating to indians physically and mannerism.

  • POSTED BY Harsh on | September 19, 2015, 4:12 GMT

    Javed was like an architect,soldier and surgeon rolled into one.It was revelation witnessing Javed avert a crisis .He did not posess the majestic grace of Zaheer Abbas or Majid Khan or the technical correctness of Hanif Mohammad but he created more impact on game than any of them.At times he was greater thorn in the flesh to opponents than even Viv Richards or Sunil Gavaskar,literally niggling the best of bowlers.

  • POSTED BY Ali on | September 18, 2015, 3:56 GMT

    A wonderful piece. Really did kindle old memories of Miandad, that greatest of fighters.

  • POSTED BY m on | September 18, 2015, 0:14 GMT

    Oh yes no one will ever beat the Competitiveness of Great Javed and man with steel in his head. IF he was Aus or Eng player he would have easily beat any of their greats . You had to live the that time to understand the value of Javed for Pak and Asian cricket. Javed represented the typical street boy from Pakistan when he batting , bowling and fielding, as Pak boy want to win and give it your 100000%. He was ideal for every one even though their were others like Imran at that time .... a once the Great VIV Richard said that if i have to choose some one else to Bat for My life i will choose Javed and remember their were other playing at that time sunny, tony grg mike getting , graham gooch ect . But he chose him ...

  • POSTED BY Ashok on | September 16, 2015, 5:47 GMT

    Can't honestly claim to remember Miandad well. By the time I started following the game in the mid 90s he was well past his prime. Nevertheless, I can still remember the awe in which the elders at my place held him. I always used to hear them say "its not over until Miandad is around". Surely, he was the greatest batsman Pakistan ever had.

  • POSTED BY Bhanu on | September 4, 2015, 12:25 GMT

    I am sure this is one of the finest articles that I have ever read on Miandad.... Yes, he was very competitive and even during the twilight of his career he used to really inspire the team with his aggressive mindset. The Kiran More's incident was the most funniest that I had ever seen him. But, now the so called NEXT generation cricketers have only meaningless aggression!!!

  • POSTED BY DOCTOR BAMBOO on | September 2, 2015, 10:55 GMT

    Smiling at the mention of Dilip Sardesai or Sardee-man and Miandad in the same article . Both took crucial series defining centuries of us In Trinidad .