The former South Africa spinner talks about a performance from history he'd like to have against his name
I wish I could have Saqlain Mushtaq's ten-for against India from that Chennai Test in my resumé.
I was amazed at how he got the ball to turn towards first slip to a right-hander. "Doosra" wasn't even a popular word at the time. It was all about wristspinners and googlies, but here he invented a delivery with a legitimate action. So he is a pioneer in a true sense, someone I have a lot of respect for. At that moment, I thought Saqlain was an absolute genius.
I watched a few videos of that Test and I was like "What the hell did he do?" To come up with that kind of a performance against the Indians, who are great players of spin traditionally, made it even more mind-boggling. They had Tendulkar, Dravid, Azharuddin, Ganguly - all of whom went on to become greats.
The delivery that stood out for me was the doosra to Tendulkar. India needed something like 17 and were cruising. It seemed like the game was done. To firstly bowl a doosra to someone batting majestically on 130-odd, get it to land in that perfect length, and then get extra turn and bounce to have him slicing to mid-off was pure magic. I've imagined doing the same on my many tours to India but couldn't even get close. Watching Saqlain, and speaking with him a bit during my time in England, and the experience I gained from bowling in the subcontinent, have now opened my eyes to how I can coach the younger generation in South Africa, mainly to overcome the challenges of playing in those conditions.
I couldn't watch the game live because we didn't have ESPN. It was only after the 1999 World Cup that we started to see a lot of live cricket from across the world. It was during a highlights show that this performance caught my eye.
I have met Saqlain a few times, when I was playing on the county circuit, and he has shared some secrets. I even managed to bowl the doosra once or twice, but I realised it takes a lot of confidence to bowl it in a competitive game. That's an art. It speaks volumes of his skill and mental capacity.
When he first started bowling the doosra, video analysis was nowhere near what it is today, so you had to gauge what he was doing real time and carry that experience from one game to the next. You could analyse all day long but until you faced him, understood the kind of fields he was placing, where he was landing it, the line of attack, it was particularly hard, especially because no one had ever tried attempting something like that before.
For me, the doosra and Saqlain will forever be synonymous of each other. In my next life, if I'm a cricketer, I'd like to be born as Saqlain Mushtaq. (laughs)
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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