saeed_anwar_1-compressed
Caricature- Vasim Maner

Saeed Anwar was known more in the one-day arena than in Test cricket around the world. This was as much due to his holding the record for the highest individual score (194 not out) for 13 years as some notable performances in the World Cup. While his record in ODI cricket is undoubtedly outstanding, it is his understated Test record that had a major affect on Pakistan’s cricket history.

While he is his country’s third-highest impact batsman in their ODI history (after Inzamam-ul-Haq and Javed Miandad), in Test cricket he is their fourth-highest impact batsman (after Younis Khan , Inzamam and Misbah-ul-Haq). Of course, he played lesser Tests (55) than the three higher impact than him, but his contribution was still very significant.

It did not begin quite so well.

November 1990: Pakistan vs West Indies, Second Test, Faisalabad: A 22-year-old southpaw makes his Test debut. He lasts seven minutes at the crease in the first innings before he falls to Curtly Ambrose and four minutes in the second before Ian Bishop sends him packing. He begins his career with a pair.

Saeed Anwar did not play Test cricket for Pakistan for more than three years.

February 1994: Pakistan vs New Zealand, Second Test, Wellington: Anwar had failed in his comeback Test (in the series opener in Auckland) but since Pakistan had won, he was not dropped. Finally, the faith of the selectors and the captain (Saleem Malik) pays off as Anwar scores an incandescent 169 with his team at 36 for 2 at one stage in reply to their opposition’s 175. Pakistan win by an innings, the series is sealed, and a new Pakistani star has been spotted.

For the next few years, Anwar’s contribution to Pakistani Test cricket would make them a difficult team to overcome.

PAKISTANI LEGEND

Anwar isn’t just the fourth-highest Test batsman for Pakistan in their history.

He is the seventh-highest impact Asian Test batsman, after Younis Khan, Inzamam, Kumar Sangakkara, Misbah-ul-Haq, Rahul Dravid and Mahela Jayawardene. Higher impact than Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar and Miandad for starters-all of whom have a higher batting average than him.

Anwar’s batting average of 45.5 is misleading as so many of these numbers are. Anwar has the highest Runs Tally Impact not only for Pakistan but for any batsman from Asia – that is a remarkable achievement. It means that no Asian batsman has scored a higher proportion of runs (in the respective matches played by the batsman) than Anwar.

Immediately after his successful comeback, Anwar was again on national duty for the tour of Sri Lanka:

August, 1994: Sri Lanka vs Pakistan, First Test, Colombo: Anwar’s 94 and 136 give his side a massive 301-run victory over hosts Sri Lanka. Pakistan go on to win the third Test at Kandy and take the series 2-0.

Anwar was showing glimpses of being a potentially great opener for Pakistan.

It wasn’t long before he showcased the most important quality in any batsman- his ability to perform in big-match situations.

September, 1994: Pakistan vs Australia, First Test, Karachi: Australia had the second-best win-loss ratio in Test cricket (tied with Pakistan) after the West Indies in the previous three years. They were a formidable unit mixed with experienced players and young talent.

Australia post 337 in the first innings. Anwar opening the innings, hits a fluent 85 off just 124 balls, putting together 90 for the first wicket with Aamir Sohail. However, after his dismissal, Pakistan collapse from 153 for 1 to 256 all out. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis restrict Australia to 232 in the second innings. Pakistan are set a formidable 314. Anwar and Sohail put together 45 for the opening wicket before Pakistan lose two quick wickets and are reduced to 64 for 2. Anwar then steers the ship with Saleem Malik taking the score to 148 before the latter departs. Anwar finally departs for 77- the fifth Pakistani wicket to fall with the score at 174. The hosts are in trouble at 236 for 8 before some heroics from Inzamam-ul-Haq and Rashid Latif seal an improbable and thrilling one-wicket win.

Anwar is the highest scorer in both innings for Pakistan.

The second and third Test ended in draws. Pakistan won the series. Anwar was the highest impact batsman of the series. It was his first series-defining ( SD ) performance.

GOLDEN PERIOD

Saeed Anwar was the third-highest impact batsman in the world (after Steve Waugh and Brian Lara) between January 1, 1996 and December 31, 2000 – a period of five years (min. 35 Tests).

Conventional statistics place him at number 12 when it came to aggregate runs and in the sixth position in order of batting averages.

Pakistan tour of England, 1996

First Test, Lord’s: Pakistan are in early trouble at 12 for 2 in the first innings. Anwar puts together 130 with Inzamam for the third wicket. Pakistan register 340. Younis and Ata-ur-Rehman bowl out England for 285. Anwar cracks a brisk 88 in the second innings partnering with Sohail to put on 136 for the opening wicket.

Pakistan declare at 352 for 5 setting England 408. The hosts collapse from 168 for 1 to 243 all out. Pakistan win by 164 runs.

The second Test ends in a draw.

Third Test, Leeds: John Crawley’s hundred helps England post 326 in the first innings. Anwar puts together a century stand for the opening wicket with Sohail, then a 133-run stand with Ijaz Ahmed for the second-wicket and finally a 95-run stand with Inzamam for the third before being dismissed for 176. Pakistan amass 521. Mushtaq Ahmed picks up six wickets in the second innings to clean up England for 242. Pakistan knock off the 48 runs with nine wickets in hand.

Anwar is the highest impact player of the match (though the Man-of-the-Match award is given to Mushtaq Ahmed) and once again the highest impact batsman of the tour.

November, 1996: Pakistan vs New Zealand, Second Test, Rawalpindi: New Zealand had beaten the hosts in the opening Test in Lahore. In the second and final Test at Rawalpindi, Mushtaq Ahmed and Mohammad Zahid restricts them to 249 in the first innings. Despite the fall of an early wicket, Anwar puts together a splendid double-century stand with Ijaz Ahmed as Pakistan post 430 in the first innings. The debutant Mohammad Zahid picks up seven in the second innings to skittle out New Zealand for 168 handing the home team an innings-and-13-run victory.

Anwar was once again the highest impact batsman of the series. He again demonstrated his ability to score a high proportion of runs on the big occasion- this was his second SD .

INTERNATIONAL STANDING

Anwar is amongst the thirty highest impact batsmen of all-time in Test cricket. The fact that he played just 55 Tests is a disadvantage to him as he does not get the benefits of Longevity as some of the other batsmen. But, to his credit, he is still higher impact than the likes of Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd, Steve Waugh, Graham Gooch apart from the great names from Asia stated before.

Besides Anwar’s propensity to score a high proportion of runs (as mentioned above), he also had two series-defining performances in just 55 Tests – a very good matches/ SD ratio, exemplifying his big match ability.

Pakistan tour of South Africa, 1998

Second Test, Durban: After a draw at the Wanderers, the focus has shifted to Kingsmead in Durban. Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock make early inroads with Pakistan losing wickets at the score of 35, 37, 70 and 82. Anwar stands firm at one end and makes a respectable 43. A sensational century by Azhar Mahmood helps the visitors post 259. Shoaib Akhtar picks up a fifer to restrict South Africa to 231. Anwar and Sohail then come together to put up a century opening-wicket stand. Anwar smashes 118 in a total of 226. The second-highest score in the innings is 36. South Africa, set 255, fall short by 30 runs as Mushtaq Ahmed picks up six wickets.

It was a historic win for Pakistan- their first Test win in South Africa. However, South Africa won the third Test at Port Elizabeth to draw level the series. Saeed Anwar carried on performing at this level.

Pakistan tour of Zimbabwe, 1998, Second Test, Harare: Chasing 192 in the second innings against perhaps the best Zimbabwe unit in their history, Anwar hits 65 (highest score of the innings) even as wickets keep tumbling from the other end. Pakistan scrape through by 3 wickets and with it win the series.

Australia tour of Pakistan, 1998, First Test, Rawalpindi: Pakistan keep losing wickets at regular intervals as Stuart McGill showcases his best – wickets are lost at 13, 18, 35, 50, 81, 140, 147. But Anwar stands firm at one end. He puts together a splendid 120-run stand for the ninth-wicket with Mushtaq Ahmed, who scores just 26. Anwar smashes 145 out of a Pakistan first innings total of 269. The next highest innings score is 39. Pakistan go on to lose by an innings.

Anwar also cracked a 126 in the first innings of the second Test at Peshawar. He was Pakistan’s highest impact batsman of the series.

It is no coincidence that between 1st January, 1996 and 31st December, 1998, when Anwar was amongst the highest impact batsmen in the world in Test cricket,  Pakistan were arguably the best Test team in the world- they had the best win/loss ratio in the format during this period.

Pakistan also did splendidly well away from home during this period- winning against England and Zimbabwe and drawing with South Africa and Sri Lanka- Anwar was their premier batsman on all these foreign tours.

Anwar was adjudged one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1997.

GREAT OPENING BATSMAN

In the last 50 years, the lowest scoring decade in Test cricket was the 1990s. It had to do partly with the quality of bowling around the world and with more result-oriented pitches. In that environment, against attacks that comprised of the likes of McGrath, Donald, Pollock, Ambrose, Walsh, Wasim, Waqar, Caddick, Cork and others, Anwar was the highest impact opening batsman of the era only after David Boon and amongst the highest New Ball Impact (measuring the ability of a batsman to play out the new ball) batsmen along with Mark Taylor and Gary Kirsten.

Forget just that era, Anwar is amongst the highest New Ball Impact batsman in cricket history (Geoff Boycott, Matthew Hayden, Alastair Cook, Mark Taylor and Saeed Anwar, all have the same New Ball Impact but Anwar has played the least number of Tests amongst them).

Overall, he is amongst the ten-highest impact opening batsmen in Test history, and a higher impact opener than the likes of Gavaskar and Sehwag, both of whom have a higher batting average.

HIGHEST IMPACT PERFORMANCE

Anwar had a disappointing start in India in early 1999- in the famous Test series that was drawn 1-1. He was desperate to make amends.

Opening Test, Asian Test Championship, India vs Pakistan, Kolkata, 1999: Srinath’s five-for helped India bowl out Pakistan for 185. Akhtar and Akram made sure India did not take a significant first innings lead restricting them to 223. Pakistan was only slightly behind. Saeed Anwar, (who had scored a duck in the first innings) then produced a classic- an epic 188 off just 259 deliveries as he carried his bat through the innings to produce the highest impact batting performance of his career. Pakistan scored 316. The next best score in the innings was Yousuf Youhana’s 56. India, who were set 279, fell short by 46 runs.

Pakistan went on to win the Asian Test Championship beating Sri Lanka by an innings in the final.

Once again, Anwar’s forte of scoring a big proportion of his team’s runs while opening the innings and forging partnerships was amply showcased.

Anwar continued delivering closer to the new millennium as well. He made 61 and 119 (out of 281) against Australia at the Gabba. 74 out of 199 against Sri Lanka at Peshawar. 123 against Sri Lanka at Galle to register a heavy innings defeat and a series win.

Asian Test Championship, 2001/02, Pakistan vs Bangladesh, Multan:

Anwar scored 101 (he was among 5 centurions) and Danish Kaneria got 12 wickets as Pakistan routed Bangladesh by an innings.

The Pakistani players did not celebrate this victory. Anwar had lost his little daughter due to a prolonged illness that very day.

He never returned to play Test cricket for Pakistan. So, a batsman who began his Test career with a pair ended it with a century.

‘Saeed’ in Persian means ‘fortunate’. Ironically, as is the nature of this beast, a major personal tragedy led to a premature retirement and an unfortunate end for a world-beating batsman who looked like he had a lot more left in him.

 

 

Nikhil Narain/ Jaideep Varma

NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.