Anwar: From the willow to mosque

Published on Aug 22, 2003 09:05 PM IST

Saeed Anwar, once the toast of cricket fans around the world as he opened Pakistan's innings in swashbuckling style, is now a full-time Islamic preacher.

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PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Karachi

Saeed Anwar, once the toast of cricket fans around the world as he opened Pakistan's innings in swashbuckling style, is now a full-time Islamic preacher.

It has made him a better person and he has no regrets about retiring from the game, maintains Anwar, who hung up the willow last week.

"After retirement there is only one aim in my life and that is to follow Allah's path and to prepare for the Day of Judgment," The Friday Times quoted him as saying.

"I am a different Saeed Anwar, and to me the material world is meaningless. It's very difficult to abandon fame, money and one's fans but I am over it. It doesn't matter to me if people will not ask me for my autograph (any more)."

In the same breath, however, Anwar - who now sports a flowing beard - maintained that he would always be ready to help out youngsters looking for a career in cricket.

The man is still hugely popular -- as the turnout during a sermon he delivered at the Sonheri mosque here indicated.

"Even by normal standards, the crowd gathered at the mosque was big. The crowd was in rapt attention.

"While most were obviously there to listen to the him, quite a few also wanted to get a glimpse of the face they had only seen on TV and at stadiums," the newspaper said.

The 34-year-old Anwar became a devout Muslim two years ago after the death of his daughter Bismah. He, however, continued playing and last turned out for Pakistan at the World Cup in South Africa earlier this year.

Since then he had been ignored by the selectors, which prompted him to quit first class cricket.

Quite naturally, the clergy has lauded Anwar's move.

"It's a good omen to have our heroes follow Islamic teachings," commented Maulana Mushtaq, prayer leader at the Sonehri mosque.

"At least, the world would know now that we don't only produce playboys," he added, alluding to Anwar's first captain Imran Khan, who led a rather colourful life off the field during his playing days.

Imran is now a member of the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament.

As for Imran Khan, he had this to say: "I see nothing unusual in Anwar's transformation. People sometimes change and discover god."

In all this, Anwar hasn't forgotten the game that gave him so much - the 194 he scored against India at Chennai is a world record for one-day internationals.

"Whenever someone calls me for cricket, I will be there. I would love to transfer my talents to youngsters so that they can serve the country," he told The Friday Times.

"People say that becoming religious had affected my form. That's not true. I never come late for practice and performed better than any Pakistani batsman in the World Cup.

"The transformation doesn't mean I am going to quit the game. I am not distracted," he insisted.

Born in Karachi on September 6, 1968, Anwar made his Test debut against the West Indies at Faisalabad in 1990-91 and played his last Test against Bangladesh at Multan in 2001-02.

His debut in the shorter version was against the West Indies at Perth in 1988-89 and his last game was against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo during World Cup 2003 in February-March.

A left-hand bat and a left-hand slow orthodox bowler, Anwar was Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1997.

He played 55 Tests, scoring 4,052 runs in 91 innings with a top score of 188 and twice remained not out.

His record in one-day internationals, however, was far more impressive as he notched up 8,823 runs in 247 matches, with a highest score of 194 and remaining not out on 19 occasions for an average of 39.21.

He bowled 40.2 overs in one-dayers, taking six wickets for 191 runs at an average of 31.83.

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