The confessions of Mr Controversy
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The confessions of Mr Controversy

Think of Javed Miandad. What do you see? A man in cricket-armour kangaroo-hopping around Kiran More.

india Updated: Jun 12, 2003 14:08 IST

Think of Javed Miandad. What do you see? A man in cricket-armour kangaroo-hopping around a bemused Kiran More. Or, a man whacking Chetan Sharma over the fence for a match-winning six, off the last ball of the game. Some cheek. But that's Miandad. A man most Indians love to hate, but also love to pay to see.

Miandad is one of the characters of the game, and without him and his kind, this sport would not have been half of what it is.

Thankfully, a colourful person like Miandad does not need pictures to tell his tale. So you can easily ignore the pedestrian pictures as you go about reading the inimitable Miandad's autobiography, 344 pages from the life of one of the best players, and distinct characters of the game. The content is rich in insight into the man and the game.

With Saad Shafqat as co-author, Miandad recounts his life on and off the field, from the early days to the time he retired, and then took over a coach of the Pakistan side. For cricket buffs, this one is a must, though literary hair-splitters may have a few things to say about the quality of the language.

The plus with this book is that you can begin reading it from anywhere. Each chapter deals with a different aspect and there is no threat of losing track if you head straight for the chapter that appeals to you most.

And many, like this correspondent, would turn immediately to Chapter 19, Mr Controversy.

This game would not have been half as enchanting had it not been for people like Javed Miandad. Off late, characters are few and far between in cricket, and for Indian readers and spectators, there are none, thanks to the stringent regimen of the BCCI. Even the Pakistan Cricket Board does not particularly encourage enthusiasm, but with people like Miandad, that was never a concern.

"I suppose controversy happens when expectations are violated," the cricketer says. "In advanced cricket-playing countries like Australia and England, people expect cricketers from Third World Countries to behave in a subservient way…

"Someone like me who speaks his mind and refuses to shy away from the truth will obviously be considered in this setting," he adds.

Needless to say, enacting any controversial drama needs other characters and who better than that awesome Aussie, Dennis Lillee, to play his part.

The incident is cuts back to the first Test of the 1981-82 tour to Australia. Perth is possibly the worst place for any batsman to begin a series and on top of that, the age-old tradition of sledging, honed into a fine art by the Australians, adds to their troubles.

With Pakistan at trouble at 27 for two in the second innings, Miandad set off for a run and collided with bowler Lillee, "as he had stepped back at the last minute to block my path." The batsman pushed him out of the way and reached the crease.

Lillee, Miandad writes, kicked him on the pads and swore as he went back to his run-up. "Almost in reflex, I turned around and threatened him with my bat."

The Australian media had a field day with the incident and Miandad was made the villain of the plot. The batsman is convinced that Lillee's action was prompted by the fact the visitors were "only from Pakistan". "Had I been the captain of England, I wonder if idea of retaliating with a kick on the pads would even have entered Dennis's mind."

That is not all. The 1979-80 tour had seen Miandad run out Rodney Hogg, and again he was termed the villain, on the premises that Hogg had not been attempting a run.

There are other incidents, including the one when Miandad chased a stone-throwing spectator in Colombo during the 1985-86 series and of course, the notorious slugfest between England skipper Mike Gatting and umpire Shakoor Rana in Faisalabad in 1987-88.

Miandad makes no bones about the sense of racial superiority that the English and Australian players carried to Pakistan. Beginning from the accommodation provided to visiting sides in Pakistan, compared to the pathetic boarding facilities in England for Asian teams, players' attitudes towards the Pakistanis is also discussed.

Miandad recounts an incident when a youngster, seeking autographs from Graham Dilley and Philip DeFreitas, followed them to their room in Karachi. They slammed the door on the poor fellow, and he sustained multiple fractures on his fingers.

Miandad's interactions with the suave Dilip Doshi are cricketing folklore and they too get a mention here. The essence of the incongruity of an argument between two such varied characters has to be read to be fully appreciated.

There is also and incongruous recollection of Abdul Qadir and Curtly Ambrose involved in a scrap on board an aircraft!

Series between India and Pakistan also get a full chapter, and straightaway, Miandad takes on the umpires, and the barrage of LBW decisions inflicted on him here. He states that during his career, he as a 20 per cent ratio of LBW decisions against him, which jumped to 60 per cent in India.

But while being candid about this, Miandad also has a lot of praise for the hospitality and friendliness of the Indian players as well as the spectators.

The book also looks at the notorious players' revolt in 1982, when almost all the big guns of the game refused to play under Miandad's captaincy. While he does not say this in so many words, the distinct divides in Pakistani cricket and society had a lot to do with this revolt.

Also, Miandad recollects the 1987 World Cup, which Pakistan missed out on, and the 1992 edition, which they claimed. A chapter on Sharjah immortalises that last-ball six and also, in one sense, Chetan Sharma.

One chapter is devoted to Miandad's relation with Imran Khan. Imran was also a part of the players' revolt of 1982, and Miandad claims it was he who suggested the Pathan's name for captaincy to the PCB. Imran, in turn, left Miandad hanging at 280 not out against India in Hyderabad, Sind, in the 1982-83 series, denying him a triple century.

While the chapters throw light on a lot of things, one gets a feeling that several things have been left unsaid. Even Javed Miandad does not want to touch topics like match-fixing.

The best thing about the book is the refreshing simplicity of the language, as well as the candid nature of Miandad's claims. While almost all the incidents that are explained are only from his angle, considering that this is an autobiography, that is par for the course.

Javed Miandad, and a series of other cricketers from Pakistan, have been heroes in India as well. For the man to open his soul and, we presume, honestly try to share his life, the hits and misses, triumphs and disappointments, should do down well here. This book is not about cricket, it is about a man who added so much spice, and excitement, to the game.

First Published: Jun 11, 2003 09:39 IST